Learning to walk with the Lord

Rebecca Rempel | Zambia

Yande is nine years old. Like many nine year olds she enjoys playing with her friends and siblings. She loves school and enjoys learning new things and playing games. When she smiles her whole face lights up and she often gets a case of the giggles. But unlike many nine year olds, Yande only learnt to walk a year ago. 

At two years of age when it was clear that Yande was not developing as she should, her mother handed her to Yande’s aunt and left. In the African context, that made the aunt Yande’s mother.

“The aunt of Yande has more children, but how God amazes you, you can’t differentiate between them and Yande. They are just brothers and sisters,” said Peter Chilla, head of Bethesda Mercy Ministries.

Never officially diagnosed, Yande did not have much sensation from the waist down. To go short distances she crawled, using her arms to drag the rest of her body along. The tops of her feet and knees were constantly covered in sores from scraping against the ground. For longer distances, such as going to school, her mother or siblings carried her on their backs. Her mother worried what would happen when Yande grew too big for her to carry. 

Connected to Bethesda Mercy Ministries since the time of its conception in 2009, Yande was one of the first children in the Nakoli community to benefit from the ministry. 

Bethesda Mercy Ministries vision is to equip and empower people with disabilities and to bring God’s hope and truth through different ministries such as a skills training programme for women, and a school for disabled children. 

Learning to walk

Through continued physiotherapy, Yande was able to gain some feeling in her lower body, such as knowing when she had to go the bathroom and moving her legs. She also had surgery to correct a minor case of clubfoot. 

At home and school, Yande used a wheelchair to get around but was not strong enough to push it on her own. The wheelchair could only be used in these places because the paths in the community were too narrow or muddy to maneuver the chair. 

A physiotherapist had splints made, but they failed to offer Yande enough support to walk and she quickly outgrew them. 

Daleen Schutte, an occupational therapist from South Africa, was able to make a contact in Lusaka to make moulds for new splints that would work better for Yande. Reaching from ankle to thigh, the new splints have a hinge at the knee to make bending possible. 

“She really clicked fast on how to use the splints,” said Daleen. “At first her balance was a bit poor, but she got the hang of it very quickly.” 

Making adjustments to a pair of crutches already at Bethesda, Yande continued to make rapid progress. 

“Yande was very impressed with her ‘new legs’ and immediately said to me ‘no more wheelchair’ when I gave her the crutches,” remembered Daleen. “From day one she was willing to try her new legs and determined to make it work.” 

At first she needed assistance walking to and from school, and going to the bathroom, but as her confidence and strength gradually increased so did her mobility. 

A testimony to the crowds

Yande’s ability to walk has impacted more than just her.

Her mother constantly praises God for helping Yande. Having never dreamt that Yande would one day walk, she thought her daughter would go through life being rejected and scorned by the community. 

“I don’t think her mother really realized why I wanted the splints,” Daleen said. “She did not think Yande would ever walk and did not look like she believed me when I told her the splints and crutches would make this possible. She was really amazed when Yande got her crutches for the first time and actually walked.” 

Yande has also been a testimony to the community. The mentally and physically disabled are generally looked down upon in Zambia. They may be hidden out of view, abandoned, or treated poorly. For Nakoli to see Yande walking around, happy and smart, is something they were not expecting. 

“The (people) in the community watch her,” said Peter. “They have seen her since childhood when she was just crawling. Every time she passes you’ll find someone watching Yande walk. We praise God for the confidence that she has to walk through the community even though people are staring at her. (She’s) a surprise to the community.” 

At the annual Love Africa Conference in Kabwe, Yande stood in front of hundreds of people and praised God for what He had done in her life. 

“I was sitting there crying,” Peter admitted. “I never expected Yande could speak to a crowd of people; giving testimony to how she was born and how she had been helped to walk. It was really touching. I said ‘really, this is transformation.’ That was a milestone moving forward in the life of Yande.”

Published: Wednesday, 12 October 2016
Credit: Rebecca Rempel
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flag-zm Zambia and Lake Tanganyika

Zambia is a landlocked country that is exceptionally peaceful, considering that it is surrounded by countries which have experienced major political struggles. Zambia has been declared an official Christian nation with 87 percent of its people proclaiming to be Christian. However, the number of immigrants from the Middle East and Asia has increased in recent years, and more people now proclaim themselves to be either Muslim or Hindu. When the OM Zambia leaders saw the spiritual desolation and the inroads other religious groups were making around Lake Tanganyika, the first OM team was sent to the area in 2005, establishing their base in the harbour town of Mpulungu. The team was called the ‘Good News II’, after the vision of Dr. David Livingstone.

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