CHAPTER 4THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONThis chapter willpresent the community’s journey towards confronting their daily experiences inthe light of the gospel, in search of the will of God in their daily encounterswith the aim of establishing a kingdom where every person feels appreciated andempowered to live fully. According to (Killen, 2006), faith reflection helpsthe community to discern the presence of God in the social events and movementof our time. We acquire knowledge from our faith and other traditionalreligions to help us realize, understand and appreciate the plan of God in ourlives.

In my interaction withthe beneficiaries of the project, I realized that they had a day set apartspecifically for faith sharing. This was done every morning of every second andlast Saturdays of every month. This program involved all the beneficiaries andthe support staff of the project. However, during the interaction with severalbeneficiaries and the staff within the project, I realized that there was a gapin this program. The faith sharing was basically based on reading one or twoverses from the Bible where after one designated member would give a summary ofthe reading and then close with a pray.4.

2Community’s movement towards insightIt was a goodopportunity and experience to implement what I had learnt during the Delta oneand two which involved participatory methods by getting people share theirexperiences in different ways.  Since thecommunity had already been exposed to praying together and this having been theorder of the day in the project, it was easy to get the community together forthis sharing. As it is believed in the African society that God is the creator,provide and sustainer of life, there were several ways in which one could getin touch with Him.  As commented byBauden (2002), God in the African society was seen as the creator, provider,and protector, was worshiped in various ways. Among this included, variety ofprayers such as petitions, thanksgiving and also in form of songs.My greatest challengein conducting this section was on how to get the participants share their reflectionfrom the reading.

Little by little, they begun to gain confidence to sharetheir reflection where despite the humor that arose from some of thereflection, they were enriching and this motivated the participants to fullyparticipant in the process.  I made useof codes especially narratives relating to the experiences of the participantsand the topic under study.Steps on how Ijourneyed with the community in the reflection of the word of God linking it tothe current reality is explained in details in the following paragraph. Icarried out this process by the help of seven participants that is threeparents of children with DD, three support staff of the project and the projectmanager.4.

2.1Setting the environment and inviting the LordIn Africa, song plays asignificant role in any given community. It is believed that people cancommunicate to God through singing hence, it’s a way of inviting God. Insetting the environment and inviting the Lord into the theological reflection,we used song as a strategy to invite the Lord into our presence.4.2.2Listening to different experiencesThis section begun by I,sharing my experience having been brought up as a disabled child and thechallenges my family underwent through and how they journeyed through thesituation by the help of both formal and informal structures to walk throughthe process of accepting the situation. My sharing of the experience acted as agood starting point as it opened door for each individual to share his/herexperience.

 After a few moments ofsilent, one woman shared her experience on how she was struckby lightning when she was seven months pregnant which resulted tocomplication during the birth hence resulted to her giving birth to crippled,deaf and dumb daughter. She narrated how some of her friends and relativesreacted towards the situation of her daughter, however, she appreciated thesupport of her husband who journeyed with her toward accepting and adjusting tothe situation. Her husband also added how his family members and friendspressured him to divorce his wife.

This was because they believed that thebirth of a disabled child was a sign of bad omen to the family especially insituations where the child with DD was considered the first born in thatfamily. The founder of theproject also shared her experience on how her family was neglected in thecommunity. She added that when her father could not withstand the shame andisolations by the community, he decided to abandon the family. However, shebecame a source of consolation and hope to her mother when she showed herability to help in some of the house chores. Sometimes her mother would blameherself as the course of her daughter’s disability and sometimes would considerherself as cursed by God.

The sharing’s raised a lot of emotions and reactionsamong people but in one way or the other, it helped these parents to realizedthat they are not the only ones in the situation as some sharing’s were sopainful and touching.4.2.3Listening to GodHavinglistened to different reactions, feelings and the perceived contributors of thevarious challenges faced by the parents, I invited the group to a brief momentsof reflective silent. This was to help the group feel the presence of God inthe situations and what He feels about the situations.

After a prolongedmoments of silence, I invited the group to listen attentively to the word ofGod.Weused a reading from the book of John 9:2-4. This verse was meant to help theparents and caregivers to understand that it was not by their choice or thechoice of the child to have a DD. We applied the seven step Gospel sharingmethod for everyone to actively participate. We reflected on the gospel from John9:2-4Rabbi, his disciples askedhim, “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or hisparents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,”Jesus answered.

This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. Wemust quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The nightis coming, and then no one can work.This verse was read in English and Kiswahili. This made iteasy for the group to understand the reading, reflect on it and raise theirinsights. I allowed the group one week of reflection over the reading.In the next meeting with the group, I gaveopportunity for the participants to share their insights.

Several parentsrealized that it was not necessary to continue blaming themselves for thesituations they are in, rather, to perceive it as God’s call to care for thischildren. They also perceived the situation as a path for the mighty deeds ofthe Lord. Oneparent commented that children are blessing from God despite their situationand He has plans for everything that happens under the sun. She commented thatif only the parents could stop blaming themselves for the situation andconsider it as the will of God, then they will see the need of valuing theirchildren. One man lamented for having blamed his wife for the birth of theirmentally challenged daughter.

He also urged the parents especially men toperceive situations in their families as that that needs the support from bothparties rather than just living it to their wives.One social worker was touched by the last part of the verse “wemust quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The nightis coming, and then no one can work.” This moved him to find meaning in whateversupport he was giving to this parents. He pleaded with all the staff of theproject to carry out their responsibilities with passion having in mind that atime is coming when they will seek for this opportunity but it will be too late.He also urged them to always work as servants sent by their Master toaccomplish a certain mission. It was out of this lengthy discussion that thegroup saw the need to improve in the life of their families and fight thestress that affects them both at individual level and family level.The insights mentioned and shared by individuals led thegroup into the next step for planning on what they can do to improve on theirlives both at individual and family level.

The insight section was ended by anintercessory prayer where the group called for God’s guidance and interventionthrough the planning process.4.2.5Planning with firmness and loveThe sharing was richand a good number of the participants felt that they had a responsibility inensuring good and stress-free lives at all levels.

The parents being thestarting point to this intervention by first changing their own perceptionabout their child’s DD and themselves before educating the community on thereality about DD rather than the myths that surrounds families and individualswith disability. This marked the of reflection process due to limitation oftime hence the planning process was suspended till the next meeting.The next meeting startedby defining the problem. Ignorancewas identified strongly by most of the respondents as a key factor inaccelerating stress both at individual level and family level. The groupproposed creating awareness through educating individual and families on factsabout PWDD and introducing disability programs in different institutionsschools being the immediate starting point.  Together, we brainstormed on several possibleways to create awareness. Among many suggestions that were mentioned, wesettled on three which included setting good relationship with local schools sothat the community could give talks about a child with DD.

The objective ofthis action was to help the students, teachers and other staff of the school tounderstand facts about this children and also admit them in school since mostschools did not admit children with any form of DD. The second action was tohave home visit by some of the staff in the project to families of thebeneficiaries’ at least twice a month to educate them on disability relatedconcerns. This was also an opportunity for the project to carry out evaluationon the impacts of its service by considering the progress of theirbeneficiaries.

The final suggestion was to empower this parents economically,especially women as they were the most affected. This was to be done throughequipping them with skills on how to start up, run and ensure sustainability oftheir business. The project volunteered to help them acquire fund from MFI andother women empowerment projects and also join the SACCOs.By the time I left, wehad conducted several theological reflection. My greatest achievement was theability of the participants to carry out faith reflection by themselves andtheir commitment to their action process. Due to time factor, we only managedto reach twenty schools in the area which is almost a half our target but theparticipants promised to accomplish our action plans.

4.3Ministerial ReflectionAs I went through thefaith sharing, I had an opportunity to reflect deeply on my call to serve thecommunity especially this group that I journeyed with. During my interactionwith them, I realized how rich this group was. From my experience with thisgroup, I have always deliberated in my heart how much they could do if theywere given equal opportunity and conducive environment where every individualfeels empowered and respected in the society. 4.3.1Catholic Social Teaching (CST)CST is based on humandignity and respect for all human kind. In their key principles, they allemphasizes on inclusion of all human, rich or poor on the development processand collaboration and sharing of responsibilities.

In link to the CST, two principlesof CST emerged, principle of participation and principle of solidarity.4.3.1.1Principle of solidarityThese principledeclares that we should be our brother’s and sister’s keeper despite ournationality, race, status or political differences.  Solidarity in this case means loving ourneighbors, working as a team and journeying together for the success of everyindividual and for the common good.

This principle impact on the lives ofparents of children with disability and the staff of the project in the sense that when they share their experiences,they encourage each other. Solidarity with others especially the poorstrengthens them and can also transform their lives.4.

3.1.2Principle of ParticipationThisis a principle that stresses that every person has the right and duty to freelyand actively participate in determining a just and fair society. It also emphasizesin involving all people to take part in the decision making especially onmatters that directly or indirectly affect their lives. In the contemporarysociety, every person always strives at being included in the decisions making.Therefore, basing on CST, there should not be exclusion of a group of people,since all have right to move together in development process (Pope John PaulII, 1987).

  This principle encourageparticipation of the less fortunate in the society in all aspect of development.4.4Researcher’s insight            My journey withparents with children with disability was a great moment of learning and aturn-around moment in my life. The group sharing of experience was soempowering not only to the researcher but also to the participants. The sharingof the gospel and reflecting on it gave us a way forward on how to respond tothe challenges we face in relation to parenting PWD.

            After the sharing of experiences and understanding on howthe society perceived PWD, their families and associates, theologicalreflection acted as a new beginning to parents of PWD to see their children’sand their own situation at a different angle. It was also a moment for theresearcher to help the people recognize the presence of Yahweh in theirsituation.The researcher wasinspired by the fact that the parents were committed to going deeper in theirjourney of life and not only looking at the negative aspect of life but alsoits positive side. Their improvement on perception about life was showed intheir ability to build a sense of hope, trust and confidence in the God.

Theresearcher was motivated to continue working with those perceived as weak inthe society by the fact that the parents challenged and encouraged each otherto be committed in this journey of transforming their lives and that of theirchildren with disability as well as their families.CONCLUSIONAfter listening fromthe sharing of the parents and the reflection from the reading, the parentswere committed to ensuring better life not only for their families but also totransform the perception of the society on PWD. Linking their determination tothat of the blind man, they were able to plan with firmness on the way forwardtowards achieving their desires.   

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