Recently our medical team visited a remote site where there were a large number of intellectually disabled adults (around 10 per cent of the population). The journey by bus took us about seven hours. Our bus wound its way up pine tree covered mountains and through back roads without any dividing lines to indicate the direction of traffic, and there were no rest rooms along the way. The whole area is rich in minerals so the landscape is dotted with mining sites and is dry and yellow.Most of the people living in this area are minority peoples who profess to be Buddhists. On the first day of Lunar New Year, according to their local custom, both the young and the old head to their temples to pray for blessings for the coming year. (The Han, the main people group in China, traditionally visit their families on this day.)
Most of the intellectually disabled adults are between the ages of 30 – 50. It seemed that the disability developed as a result of a lack of iodine in their water. The deficiency was only discovered when many children over a period of time had developed the disability. Families with a disabled person often suffer from poverty. We were very touched that the locals candidly shared their challenges with us. It is easier to put on a brave face than to let others see your vulnerabilities and ask for help.
We decided to run a social club for the intellectually disabled in addition to the surgical screening service (which was our primary purpose for coming to the area). About 19 adults came with their carers (mom/dad/sister/auntie etc). Most patients could only speak their minority languages. In spite of the language barrier, we learned from some of the carers that their patients were extremely touchy and others were known to be a flight risk. Even though the patients were all a little scared and their carers serious-looking when we started, we had a happy time that day.
We also ran a workshop for the carers to give them some relief and share general nutritional knowledge. Many were old grannies (their disabled children are 50+ years old). One of the local staff members acted as an interpreter and we saw lovely bonding between the older and younger women as they shared their knowledge and experiences. The men were more stoic. It was hard for them to verbalize how having a disabled child had affected them, but even they seemed to come away walking straighter and less burdened. Please pray for these aging carers.
When we debriefed with the local staff, they asked for more help with providing care to this group. How can we help bring love and hope to this land and these families? Our team is praying for wisdom and for people to head up the work here. Will you join us in praying for the right people to settle long-term into the work here?
Will you pray for China?
Pray for aging carers as they seek to look after their disabled children. Pray they will find the help they need.
Pray for the right people to lead medical work in this area to bless the community in the long-term.