Kenya (MNN) – Margaret Njuguna began housing unwanted children with disabilities four years ago. Today, En-Gedi, a ministry partner of Set Free Ministries, has grown as a result of her work. But this ministry isn’t just about caring for children. It’s about challenging a deeply entrenched belief system that devalues those with disabilities.
Njuguna knew that God wanted someone to help these people who had been denied basic rights. As we shared previously, many children born with disabilities are hidden away or even left out to die from exposure or wild animal attacks.
When Njuguna decided to do something about it, she didn’t have to look far for children to help.
“I just went to the local government offices and I found that many people are reported for leaving their disabled children out to die and hiding them and denying them enough food,” she says.
And God brought her children who were at the greatest risk—children who were unable even to survive by begging in the cities.
“God led me to children who didn’t talk, who didn’t walk. And most of them would die before anybody knows that there’s a child like that,” she says.
Njuguna says her motivation for helping these children comes from John 10:16:
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (ESV)
“As Christians, we are called to be shepherds in this world. Jesus has given us a responsibility to care for our own. And He has others who don’t look like us, they will not be able to walk like us or to talk like us, they don’t have the opportunities. Some have very twisted bodies. They all belong to Him.”
This is the message she shares with church leaders who can also be swayed by the stigma surrounding people with disabilities. Each life on this earth belongs to God, regardless of their status or condition here on earth.
And, especially through their actions, this is what the team at En-Gedi teaches parents, too.
“Some of the family members of the children that I have would never want to be close to those children. They looked at them as something not right, like it’s a bad omen, … there’s a curse in the family, or they didn’t want to even to hold the children.”
At En-Gedi, Njuguna and her team are helping children understand that they have value, and they’re working on changing the attitudes of the parents, as well. Now, some families are even coming to help feed their children or volunteer to help at the facility for a day.
“And as much as they’re not ready to take their children back, we have seen they are building love and that is a big goal that they will see it’s God in the lives of these kids.”
There’s one community where they’ve seen a lot of attitudes change for the better. Eight children at En-Gedi come from this community.
“It’s a community that has no use for a child who will not be able to do much for themselves. I have gone back into the village with their children to visit and for the first time in that community, I have seen men hold their children. And men never [hold] children in that community. And they will hold them lovingly.”
It’s been encouraging to see this love bloom among families, and also to see that parents are no longer afraid of their children at home.
One of the girls at En-Gedi was sent there after her mother tried to kill her. She was rescued by her father and oldest sister. But slowly, God has been working in this mother’s heart.
Njuguna says, “Twice now she has gone home during school holidays when the siblings are home from school. And she has very well been accepted and she stays home for two weeks or three weeks and then comes back when the schools open and her siblings go back.
“And they are no longer afraid that the mother will do anything bad because I’ve had several sessions with the mother and she has kind of changed her attitude towards this girl.”
But despite these wins in attitude changes, there is still a long way to go. Njuguna understands that it’s likely impossible to replace the belief system of the adult generation altogether. That’s why she is also addressing the issue with younger generations, as well. Next time, we’ll take a look at how she is doing that.