Marion’s Story: The Wholistic Transformation of a Disabled Women in Sierra Leone

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Marion got polio as a young girl that left her crippled. When her parents talked about the number of children they had, they excluded her. They told her she would never amount to anything and there were no other people with a disability like hers in the village, so she thought she was not human.

At a young age Marion and a friend ran away to Makeni to find a new life. Her friend ended up abandoning her and she was left homeless. Marion begged in the streets, and found a different place to sleep every night. Then she heard about Women of Hope and some of the people she begged with invited her to go with them to a Women of Hope meeting. She discovered that she was not alone, that there were many women who had disabilities like hers.

Marion made friends through Women of Hope, and learned to make greeting cards and sell them through the Fair Trade Initiative. Now she has a house, and she pays the rent herself because her income is larger than her husband’s. Marion was selected by her peers to be trained as a Community Health Evangelist (CHE). In the eight-month training she learned basic community development principles, disease prevention, disability awareness and about her identity in Christ.

Marion’s Thoughts on CHE Training….
The training helped me because it taught me about God. I did not know who God was and that is why I thought I was not a human being, because I didn’t understand that God is a good Creator and made me this way for a purpose. Now I understand that the sickness that crippled me is just a sickness; it wasn’t God cursing me and telling me that I am worthless. I understand that sickness happens, but it doesn’t mean that I am a bad person.

I used to never wash or take care of myself. I neglected my body because I didn’t believe I was worth anything. If you had met me then, you wouldn’t have wanted to sit here and talk to me because I smelled and I was dirty. I learned that I should think better of myself and of other people and not cause trouble. I used to cause trouble because I didn’t care. It used to be that nothing mattered because I wasn’t worth anything anyway. Now I respect others and they show respect back to me.

I never knew that when you come out of the latrine you should wash your hands and I was always sick. Now I will never leave the latrine without washing my hands. I will never touch food if coming from the toilet without washing my hands first. Because I didn’t know about God and how God felt about me, I didn’t take care for myself. I was so dirty that no one would ever think to eat my food. Now I cook for the neighbors and they eat it and are grateful. Before they wouldn’t touch it because I was so dirty they thought they would be contaminated by my food. All of these are changes I have learned from CHE training.

Now I talk to “walkafut” (her term for people without disabilities) and they listen to me. Originally they thought that if your feet were damaged, your brain must also be damaged. Now they stand there and gape at me because I am articulate and know what I am talking about. I am surprising people all the time because I have sense and they thought I didn’t have sense.

My prayer now is that God will give WOH leaders the strength to continue even though it is hard, because the things I am learning are so important and are changing my life and the lives of people around me. I want to learn more. What I am learning I am sharing with other people, and I do not want to give up even though it is hard. I was once in a bad condition and very depressed. I used to pray, “God please take my life”. Now I pray that God will give me longer life so I can serve him and help others.

My real parents died, and I was given over to step-parents. It was hard. Marion started to cry, but through the tears she concluded: God has rescued me because He is my Father.

Transformation

God always transforms from the inside out. His work begins in our hearts and works itself out in our lives. He works in us before he works through us.

As followers of Jesus, we have all experienced the transforming power of God at work in us – that quiet work of the Holy Spirit convicting us of wrongdoing, cleansing our hearts, shaping our character, changing our attitudes, and influencing our actions. We also look forward to a time when our lives and communities are completely transformed in the new heaven and the new earth. Biblical transformation is that quiet work of the Holy Spirit, and it is the loud-sounding of the trumpet at the return of our Lord Jesus: shutting up evil and establishing righteousness, justice, and peace for all eternity.

Jesus taught us to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-11). Transformation is God’s kingdom work. This transformation is a process and an ideal, a present experience and a future hope, a means and an end, a struggle and a victory. God is at work in us and through us today, and he will bring what he has started to completion when the Lord Jesus returns in all his glory.

Fifth Annual North American CHE Network Meeting

We are excited to announce that registration for the fifth annual North American CHE Network Meeting in Louisville, KY on November 6-7, 2013 is open. Network members gather to exchange ideas, encourage and work together to achieve our goals of strengthening our ministries and the expansion of the CHE movement.

Our format will be new this year. We will spend the first day in three working groups aimed at answering the following questions:

  • How can we use CHE to make Public Health a major mission strategy?
  • How can we use Public Health Professionals to strengthen CHE programs?
  • How can GCN members serve each other and still meet organizational goals?
  • What kinds of things keep missionaries from serving each other?
  • What defines whether a community is a CHE community?
  • What prevents organizations with mature CHE programs from serving as mentors to organizations younger in CHE usage?
  • What are the underlying perceptions of disability in your area?
  • How can we mainstream disability in our CHE programs globally?
  • What are the pros & cons of disability-specific vs. disability-integrated programs?
  • How is a wholistic approach key to success in the transformation of people with disabilities?

Please send other questions you would like to suggest for discussion to info@chenetwork.org.

We are praying that the answers will lead to the following outputs:

  • A plan for facilitating internships for public health students in active CHE programs within the network.
  • A plan for introducing CHE as mission strategy through courses offered in Christian Colleges and Universities.
  • A plan for publishing the results of CHE programs in academic journals.
  • Develop a disability-specific worldview assessment tool that could universally be utilized to determine the underlying values informing disability perceptions
  • Develop a customizable strategy for integrating people with disabilities into CHE programs worldwide
  • A commitment among organizational leaders using CHE methodology to be dedicated to the building of God’s kingdom even if their organization does not receive credit or recognition.
  • Clear strategy for unity among CHE practitioners in the field without favoritism or judgment.
  • Commitments among the organizations present to serve as examples and advocates of unity among GCN members in making disciples of Jesus using the CHE strategy.

We will come together on the second day to share our answers and to pray.

No Sacred Secular Divide

Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

Discovering the secrets of God’s universe is sacred work and the glory of kings. Discoveries that build a nation also glorify God who concealed those truths in His creation for us to explore, discover, understand, use, teach, and celebrate. Every discovery that benefits humanity is a revelation of the glory of God.

Wholistic or Holistic?

I came to the conviction long ago that my ministry should be obedient to both the great commission and the great commandment. I joined the (w)holistic ministry camp. Two decades later, I still don’t know how to spell what I am. My spell checker rejects the spelling “wholistic”. (Technically, “wholistic” is not in the dictionary and is not an alternative spelling of the word “holistic”). On the other hand, many of my colleagues argue that “holistic” is closely identified with alternative medicine or eastern religion and is therefore inappropriate as a description of Christian ministry.

Now I am planning a (w)holistic ministry conference and have to face the question of how to spell the word head on. What do we name the conference? Do we name it the “International Holistic Ministry Conference” or the “International Wholistic Ministry Conference”?

Some of us spell the word with a “w”, and some without a “w”. Some of us use different words altogether, such as “integral” or “integrated”. Whatever word we use, we are united in the pursuit of loving God with all our being, loving all people selflessly, and reproducing disciples of Jesus around the globe.

With that as our united mission, let me invite you to join us at the first International Wholistic Ministry Conference facilitated by the Global CHE Network in Phoenix, Arizona, January 9-11, 2013. For more information, visit http://wholisticmissions.com/.