Olivia and Mercy

  • March 19, 2013
  • #8057

What is it like to have a disability in Africa? For Olivia, it meant being rejected by people in her town. Listen to the story of how lives were changed through Wheels for the World.

Olivia and Mercy

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with a story about mercy.

Actually, Mercy is a grandmother who lives in Ghana, West Africa; that’s her name, and Grandma Mercy takes care of six-year-old Olivia who has a disability. I’d like you to see a photo of Grandma Mercy and her granddaughter on my radio page because you would understand; their faces reveal that their lives are not easy. When Olivia was born, her mother abandoned her because of her disability. Olivia is now being raised by her Grandma Mercy in a tiny African village, but it’s a harsh life they lead, filled with rejection, stigma and so much shame. Grandma Mercy came to our wheelchair distribution and told us:

“In our community people don’t get close to Olivia. They don’t allow their children to play with her. They are afraid she has a bad spirit, or that they will catch her condition.”

So, Olivia lives behind closed doors, where only Grandma has the courage to love her.

Oh, does that break my heart. There is so much fear, so much ignorance in the world when it comes to a disability. I remember when I served on the Disability Advisory Committee under Condoleezza Rice at the U.S. State Department; I was heartbroken at the state department reports that came out assessing the needs of children with disabilities around the world. In developing nations, most of them are just relegated to dark back bedrooms, away from people — people who, for the most part, believe that a child with Down syndrome has been cursed by a local witch doctor or a little girl like Olivia, paralyzed from polio, is possessed by an evil spirit.

That is why I'm so grateful for what Joni and Friends does through Wheels for the World. For we do more than deliver wheelchairs to needy children like Olivia: we give the Gospel and disability ministry training villages, helping everyone to see the truth behind Jesus’ words in John chapter 9 that this didn’t happen because of an evil spirit or sin; no, this disability happened that God might receive glory.

And I tell you what, when we fitted little Olivia to her junior-sized wheelchair, oh my goodness, you just have to go to my radio page today to see her smile. Grandma Mercy, when she saw this wheelchair, broke down and cried and said:

“You have restored our faith and hope. You have given Olivia a chance to enter life in our village. When people see Olivia in our community now, they will see that God has not abandoned her. Instead, they will see that He has favored her with this gift from you. Our hearts are filled with joy!”

Wow, what a powerful statement; talk about God receiving glory. And when it comes to disabled children around the world like Olivia, the Gospel of Matthew tells us, “It is not the will of your Father that one of these little ones should perish!” Friend, people with disabilities are so hungry for the Good News, that we have to share it! And right now, this week and next, we have two Wheels for the World teams reaching out to kids with disabilities in Haiti and in Thailand. Right now, we are out there giving the Good News of Jesus and training churches to embrace these kids — not turn them away because of social stigma or fear or pity.

So join me in praying for boys and girls with disabilities like Olivia. You and I need to take the love of Christ where the kingdom is the weakest, where the world is bleeding out of control. So pray for the success of the Gospel this week among the disabled in Thailand and in Haiti. Oh, and don’t forget to visit my radio page today at joniandfriends.org to see a before-and-after photograph of Grandma Mercy and her granddaughter, Olivia.

© Joni and Friends 

 

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