by Joy Casey
It was a Monday when we visited a brand-new church plant nestled in the deep countryside of Ethiopia. We were astonished so many people came to the church to welcome us on a weekday. We couldn’t help but join the clapping to the beat of a drum and return the smiles of the delighted village people who only recently found forgiveness and freedom through Jesus.
Their church was newly constructed, food had been provided to them during the devastating drought and village children are being taught to read.
But among the throng of happy celebrants the face of a silent, young woman stood in sharp contrast to people around her. She had a look of defeat – a face that reflected a bitter story.
Safiya’s father had many wives and children, but through tragedy and sickness most of them died. All that was left was one of his younger wives, their baby and this daughter who was crippled. Safiya could only move if someone carried her. We never learned what caused the paralysis of her legs, but her disability, coupled with the demise of most of her siblings and her mother, was etched in the sadness of her demeaner.
Jason Barta was moved to provide her with a wheelchair, and one month later Abebe, our Country Representative, was pleased to deliver the chair to her. The chair doubles as a commode and will revolutionize Safiya’s daily living. She will no longer have to wait for someone to carry her when she wants to leave her hut. Much of the struggle she and her caretakers have had with hygiene will be relieved.
The response of the village to this wheelchair was overwhelming gratitude and rejoicing. In a tribal society, when one member is blessed, they all feel blessed, and her Muslim neighbors unabashedly expressed admiration for the Christians’ provision. Abebe said the people shouted and danced and blessed him over and over for this amazing gift.
In anticipation of the wheelchair, a ramp was built to the church so she could wheel in and out.
We don’t know where this young woman is spiritually. Her father and stepmother are recent converts from a blend of witchcraft and Islam and have found peace through their new-found Savior, Jesus. Our missionary has prayed for Safiya’s healing and her father said he has noticed her strength has improved. The whole church is positive they will see a miracle. We, too, hope this will happen.
We know God’s hand is on this family and especially Safiya. When Joy travels back to this village in April, she will bring Safiya a solar charged audio bible in her tribal language and hopefully spend some time with her. Until then, we pray God will heal her heart and joy will replace sadness, victory in Jesus will replace defeat, and a life filled with purpose will replace a bitter story with no hope of a happy ending.