Mchesi SDA Church through its Communication and Education Departments recently conducted a program under the theme "Making the Difference" with an aim of bringing awareness to its members about people with special needs. The program was a direct response to a call from Adventist Possibility Ministry of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
April, 25 was set aside as a special awareness day that SDA members worldwide should appreciate the challenges people with special needs face and be aware that they too have possibilities of 'making the difference' within the communities they live given the necessary help and opportunity.
The program featured professionals like health, Cultural Heritage and teaching professionals and asked them to individually give their views on how they feel is the public's general perspective on people with special needs.
Addressing the congregation, Yunos Kamba who is a lecturer by profession, bemoaned the kind of behavior that marginalizes people with special needs
He said as Christians, we have mistreated these groups of people in one way or the other we have looked upon them with contempt and underrated their capabilities.
He added that sometimes we just pass judgement on them just because of their conditions without actually giving them opportunity to express themselves.
Kamba then gave an example of one special need student who he interacted with, whom he and others at first had some reservations about his academic capabilities. But later after realising that he was very passionate to pursue a certain course he assisted him and offered a program in which he did well in his studies
"We should look at the people with special needs with a level eye as God does with all of His creation. I thank God for opening my eyes and mind to see the need and help and unknowingly, this made a difference to the life of the young man," he pointed out.
Concurring with Yunos Kamba, Elder Alam Mhone who was chairing the program shared a story in which a caregiver was helping an elderly person, A widow feeding a homeless person, a person with mental illness writes uplifting poems that encourage others and a blind person leading a camp. The story revealed that everyone can make a difference and contributing positively to the society.
He also shared a story of a blind pastor in Zimbabwe who baptised him and is multi-talented. He can sing well, compose nice songs and can preach as well.
"We can see that the opposite is happening so this should be an eye opener to us and give these people a chance so that we can appreciate their talents," he said.
Elder Khalani Makunje, a journalist by profession, added that in his line of work, he has witnessed a lot of misconceptions and harassments that society holds towards people with special needs. Makunje cited an example of how people living with albinism, the blind and the deaf are perceived by society as not useful. He said that most of the times these people are treated as second class citizens and people take advantage of their needs and exploit them. He then implored the church members to be reminded by the program and change their mindset towards people with special needs.
Biwi district pastor Earnest Khonje also shared touching biblical references. He made references from Mark 10:46-52 and Mark 7:31-37 respectively, where Jesus Christ did something to the needs of two men; one blind and the other deaf with speech impediment. In the first case Jesus asked the blind Bartimaeus what he would like Him (Jesus) to do for him. "When reaching out to people with special needs, we must take our time and give them chance to decide what kind of help they need. We should not just by looking at their challenges then help them according to our assumptions. Let them make decisions, let them choose how they would like to be assisted,” added Pastor Khonje.
Pastor Khonje then added that the blind man could have asked Jesus to make him rich, build him a house or buy him some clothing, Jesus was aware of his needs but He asked him on what He can do for him, to which Bartimaeus responded that he wanted to receive his sight.
In the other story the pastor brought to light the kindness and compassion that the friends of the deaf man with speech impairment showed.
He said sometimes we may not have the capacity to help those in need but at least we can lead them to where they can find help like what the men did to their friend by just leading him to Jesus who offered the necessary help.
He added that through the deaf man's friends Jesus made a difference in the life of the deaf man.
"Everyone can do something for the Lord and make the difference in someone's life so I am sure that after this program all of us will be able to reach out to people with special needs and do something for them and make that difference! This should be our prayer to God to help us achieve this," said pastor Khonje.
Reported by Benjamin Lopanda