Tossed to and fro by deep potholes that litter the thick red dirt. Crammed into a small car with dozens of maintenance tags dangling from the left blinker. Pungent wafts of cow manure interrupted by drafty winds threatening to usher in rain. Giggles and stares accompanied by loud screams.
If you’ve joined Solomon Rop to deliver wheelchairs into the villages scattered throughout Bomet County, this is a familiar scene.
Solomon is one of Tenwek’s six physical therapists. Monday to Thursday, he sees patients in the clinic and throughout the hospital wards. On Fridays, the Special Needs Clinic sets up shop in the PT wing and welcomes physically disabled children to receive treatment and love (at no cost to these patients, thanks to the Faith Fund).
The Special Needs Clinic expands beyond Tenwek’s brick and mortar on Friday afternoons and Solomon, along with his technician Weldon, loads up his tiny Toyota and delivers wheelchairs to kids living in the most remote and forgotten corners of Bomet County.
In Kenyan culture, having a disabled child is a shameful curse. Historically, children with special needs are forgotten, abandoned, killed. Solomon is a leader in the movement to change the rhetoric and stigma associated with parenting a child with special needs.
“This mother has done nothing wrong!” preaches Solomon.
We are in the southernmost lip of Bomet County, nearly to Kaboson. Mercy is 22 years old. She has cerebral palsy. Weldon has just assembled a wheelchair and gently settled Mercy into the seat.
Can you imagine? 22 years old with CP and never owned a wheelchair. No money. No vehicle. No access to health care. No options. Mercy’s story represents one of too many.
It seems like the entire village has gathered to witness this miracle. Curious sets of velvet brown eyes are intently watching me every direction I turn. Maybe this is what Jesus felt like when hoards of crowds followed him onto the hillside.
“God loves this child very much. Mercy is a blessing from God.” Just like Jesus, Solomon uses the opportunity to witness God’s deep love to the large crowd.
Jesus passed out bread and fish. I place a mini Snickers candy bar into tiny sticky hands.
One of the villagers starts singing. A song of praise. A song of joy. Everyone joins in, harmonizing their voices and hands and feet to the beat (or maybe not-so-much to the beat 😉 ).
Solomon devotes his life to this ministry, sacrificing himself in every way. His time, his car, his clinical skills, his love, attention and care.
Solomon has a neighbor named Sharon. Sharon has a son with special needs. About 7 months ago, Solomon found out that Sharon’s husband was trying to kill her, and the son too. He invited Sharon and her two kids to live with his family until she could find safety and stability. I talked to Sharon last week. She’s still living with Solomon.
Over the mountains and through the woods, last Friday we delivered 3 other wheelchairs in addition to the one for Mercy. We followed bumpy roads until we hit a dead end, then got out of the car and carried the wheelchairs by foot (or by motorbike).
Joan is 16 years old, also with cerebral palsy. Emmanuel is 12, suffering from spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Esther is 92, with an amputated leg – each of them received a wheelchair!
Many of you fund this ministry. I know it’s near and dear to Christ’s heart. He says so in the book of Matthew.
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
Hope. An average Friday afternoon turned into a hope-filled celebration. A disgraced family given a hope-filled blessing. A disabled child given hope-filled mobility. An exhausted mother with tired arms given hope-filled reprieve.
A wheelchair? You can buy for $350. But hope for a dignified future? Truly priceless.
There are still intense challenges. Solomon’s one-man ministry cannot sustain the need. I’m convinced his car is going to give up one of these days. Tenwek has a shortage of Beeline wheelchairs (which are specialty chairs needed for positioning children who have no trunk support). Sometimes Solomon takes a wheelchair very far and it doesn’t properly fit the child.
The needs are great. The struggle continues.
But we are hopeful that God is making all things new, one precious special child at a time.
Mercy. Emmanuel. Joan. Esther.
Thank you for being part of their story.
Tenwek is currently in desperate need of Beeline wheelchairs. If you would like to give, click here.
If you would like to watch a 4 minute video about the Special Needs Clinic, click here.