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24 April 2013

God of the Speechless

‘If I stay at home and care for her, we won’t eat. And if I go out to find work, who will look after her?’

A tearful mother and her only child sat on the bamboo platform outside their one-roomed shack in a village in the central plains.

At nine years old, Mie Mie should have been in school, but she was so disabled she could not even move her arms and legs, or make any sound.

The whole team felt the sense of helplessness, as the cause of her disability was unknown and unlikely to respond to physical therapy or medication. With heavy hearts we moved on, with a promise to return after a few months.

Yet He sees. He remembers. He hears speech never uttered, prayers made with no sound.

Returning a few months later, we couldn’t find Mie Mie at first. Having expected to see her on her bamboo platform, we were amazed to find her walking – unsteadily, but with purpose. Her mother came rushing across, her eyes flowing with tears. ‘I have got my daughter back,’ she exclaimed.

When I asked the staff what they had done, they shrugged and said ‘well we did some exercises, and set up some parallel bars… And we prayed for her as well’.

This time we moved on with joy – all amazed at what we had just seen. In our country, there are over a quarter of a million children with disabilities, and very few facilities where they can get help.

Over the past few years, we have been able to open a network of rehabilitation centres where disabled children and adults can receive physical therapy, wheelchairs and crutches, and help with education and job skills, as well as being linked with other people with disabilities in their area.

But big gaps remain; there are no trained speech and language therapists, no occupational therapists, no special needs teachers, and no programmes to help people with mental health problems. There are so many who cannot express their desires and needs, their hopes and dreams.

We need more who will hear the song of the speechless, who can offer voice, hope and dignity – and good news to those living in shadow.