CHAPTER and also in form of songs. My

CHAPTER 4

THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION

This chapter will
present the community’s journey towards confronting their daily experiences in
the light of the gospel, in search of the will of God in their daily encounters
with the aim of establishing a kingdom where every person feels appreciated and
empowered to live fully. According to (Killen, 2006), faith reflection helps
the community to discern the presence of God in the social events and movement
of our time. We acquire knowledge from our faith and other traditional
religions to help us realize, understand and appreciate the plan of God in our
lives.

In my interaction with
the beneficiaries of the project, I realized that they had a day set apart
specifically for faith sharing. This was done every morning of every second and
last Saturdays of every month. This program involved all the beneficiaries and
the support staff of the project. However, during the interaction with several
beneficiaries and the staff within the project, I realized that there was a gap
in this program. The faith sharing was basically based on reading one or two
verses from the Bible where after one designated member would give a summary of
the reading and then close with a pray.

4.2
Community’s movement towards insight

It was a good
opportunity and experience to implement what I had learnt during the Delta one
and two which involved participatory methods by getting people share their
experiences in different ways.  Since the
community had already been exposed to praying together and this having been the
order of the day in the project, it was easy to get the community together for
this 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 get
in touch with Him.  As commented by
Bauden (2002), God in the African society was seen as the creator, provider,
and protector, was worshiped in various ways. Among this included, variety of
prayers such as petitions, thanksgiving and also in form of songs.

My greatest challenge
in conducting this section was on how to get the participants share their reflection
from the reading. Little by little, they begun to gain confidence to share
their reflection where despite the humor that arose from some of the
reflection, they were enriching and this motivated the participants to fully
participant in the process.  I made use
of codes especially narratives relating to the experiences of the participants
and the topic under study.

Steps on how I
journeyed with the community in the reflection of the word of God linking it to
the current reality is explained in details in the following paragraph. I
carried out this process by the help of seven participants that is three
parents of children with DD, three support staff of the project and the project
manager.

4.2.1
Setting the environment and inviting the Lord

In Africa, song plays a
significant role in any given community. It is believed that people can
communicate to God through singing hence, it’s a way of inviting God. In
setting the environment and inviting the Lord into the theological reflection,
we used song as a strategy to invite the Lord into our presence.

4.2.2
Listening to different experiences

This section begun by I,
sharing my experience having been brought up as a disabled child and the
challenges my family underwent through and how they journeyed through the
situation by the help of both formal and informal structures to walk through
the process of accepting the situation. My sharing of the experience acted as a
good starting point as it opened door for each individual to share his/her
experience.  After a few moments of
silent, one woman shared her experience on how she was struck
by lightning when she was seven months pregnant which resulted to
complication during the birth hence resulted to her giving birth to crippled,
deaf and dumb daughter. She narrated how some of her friends and relatives
reacted towards the situation of her daughter, however, she appreciated the
support of her husband who journeyed with her toward accepting and adjusting to
the situation. Her husband also added how his family members and friends
pressured him to divorce his wife. This was because they believed that the
birth of a disabled child was a sign of bad omen to the family especially in
situations where the child with DD was considered the first born in that
family.

The founder of the
project also shared her experience on how her family was neglected in the
community. She added that when her father could not withstand the shame and
isolations by the community, he decided to abandon the family. However, she
became a source of consolation and hope to her mother when she showed her
ability to help in some of the house chores. Sometimes her mother would blame
herself as the course of her daughter’s disability and sometimes would consider
herself as cursed by God. The sharing’s raised a lot of emotions and reactions
among people but in one way or the other, it helped these parents to realized
that they are not the only ones in the situation as some sharing’s were so
painful and touching.

4.2.3
Listening to God

Having
listened to different reactions, feelings and the perceived contributors of the
various challenges faced by the parents, I invited the group to a brief moments
of reflective silent. This was to help the group feel the presence of God in
the situations and what He feels about the situations. After a prolonged
moments of silence, I invited the group to listen attentively to the word of
God.

We
used a reading from the book of John 9:2-4. This verse was meant to help the
parents and caregivers to understand that it was not by their choice or the
choice of the child to have a DD. We applied the seven step Gospel sharing
method for everyone to actively participate. We reflected on the gospel from John
9:2-4

Rabbi, his disciples asked
him, “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his
parents’ 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. We
must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night
is coming, and then no one can work.

This verse was read in English and Kiswahili. This made it
easy for the group to understand the reading, reflect on it and raise their
insights. I allowed the group one week of reflection over the reading.

In the next meeting with the group, I gave
opportunity for the participants to share their insights. Several parents
realized that it was not necessary to continue blaming themselves for the
situations they are in, rather, to perceive it as God’s call to care for this
children. They also perceived the situation as a path for the mighty deeds of
the Lord.

One
parent commented that children are blessing from God despite their situation
and He has plans for everything that happens under the sun. She commented that
if only the parents could stop blaming themselves for the situation and
consider it as the will of God, then they will see the need of valuing their
children. One man lamented for having blamed his wife for the birth of their
mentally challenged daughter. He also urged the parents especially men to
perceive situations in their families as that that needs the support from both
parties rather than just living it to their wives.

One social worker was touched by the last part of the verse “we
must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night
is coming, and then no one can work.” This moved him to find meaning in whatever
support he was giving to this parents. He pleaded with all the staff of the
project to carry out their responsibilities with passion having in mind that a
time 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 to
accomplish a certain mission. It was out of this lengthy discussion that the
group saw the need to improve in the life of their families and fight the
stress that affects them both at individual level and family level.

The insights mentioned and shared by individuals led the
group into the next step for planning on what they can do to improve on their
lives both at individual and family level. The insight section was ended by an
intercessory prayer where the group called for God’s guidance and intervention
through the planning process.

4.2.5
Planning with firmness and love

The sharing was rich
and a good number of the participants felt that they had a responsibility in
ensuring good and stress-free lives at all levels. The parents being the
starting point to this intervention by first changing their own perception
about their child’s DD and themselves before educating the community on the
reality about DD rather than the myths that surrounds families and individuals
with disability. This marked the of reflection process due to limitation of
time hence the planning process was suspended till the next meeting.

The next meeting started
by defining the problem. Ignorance
was identified strongly by most of the respondents as a key factor in
accelerating stress both at individual level and family level. The group
proposed creating awareness through educating individual and families on facts
about PWDD and introducing disability programs in different institutions
schools being the immediate starting point.  Together, we brainstormed on several possible
ways to create awareness. Among many suggestions that were mentioned, we
settled on three which included setting good relationship with local schools so
that the community could give talks about a child with DD. The objective of
this action was to help the students, teachers and other staff of the school to
understand facts about this children and also admit them in school since most
schools did not admit children with any form of DD. The second action was to
have home visit by some of the staff in the project to families of the
beneficiaries’ at least twice a month to educate them on disability related
concerns. This was also an opportunity for the project to carry out evaluation
on the impacts of its service by considering the progress of their
beneficiaries. The final suggestion was to empower this parents economically,
especially women as they were the most affected. This was to be done through
equipping them with skills on how to start up, run and ensure sustainability of
their business. The project volunteered to help them acquire fund from MFI and
other women empowerment projects and also join the SACCOs.

By the time I left, we
had conducted several theological reflection. My greatest achievement was the
ability of the participants to carry out faith reflection by themselves and
their commitment to their action process. Due to time factor, we only managed
to reach twenty schools in the area which is almost a half our target but the
participants promised to accomplish our action plans.

4.3
Ministerial Reflection

As I went through the
faith sharing, I had an opportunity to reflect deeply on my call to serve the
community especially this group that I journeyed with. During my interaction
with them, I realized how rich this group was. From my experience with this
group, I have always deliberated in my heart how much they could do if they
were given equal opportunity and conducive environment where every individual
feels empowered and respected in the society.

4.3.1
Catholic Social Teaching (CST)

CST is based on human
dignity and respect for all human kind. In their key principles, they all
emphasizes on inclusion of all human, rich or poor on the development process
and collaboration and sharing of responsibilities. In link to the CST, two principles
of CST emerged, principle of participation and principle of solidarity.

4.3.1.1
Principle of solidarity

These principle
declares that we should be our brother’s and sister’s keeper despite our
nationality, race, status or political differences.  Solidarity in this case means loving our
neighbors, working as a team and journeying together for the success of every
individual and for the common good. This principle impact on the lives of
parents 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 poor
strengthens them and can also transform their lives.

4.3.1.2
Principle of Participation

This
is a principle that stresses that every person has the right and duty to freely
and actively participate in determining a just and fair society. It also emphasizes
in involving all people to take part in the decision making especially on
matters that directly or indirectly affect their lives. In the contemporary
society, 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 Paul
II, 1987).  This principle encourage
participation of the less fortunate in the society in all aspect of development.

4.4
Researcher’s insight

            My journey with
parents with children with disability was a great moment of learning and a
turn-around moment in my life. The group sharing of experience was so
empowering not only to the researcher but also to the participants. The sharing
of the gospel and reflecting on it gave us a way forward on how to respond to
the challenges we face in relation to parenting PWD.

            After the sharing of experiences and understanding on how
the society perceived PWD, their families and associates, theological
reflection acted as a new beginning to parents of PWD to see their children’s
and their own situation at a different angle. It was also a moment for the
researcher to help the people recognize the presence of Yahweh in their
situation.

The researcher was
inspired by the fact that the parents were committed to going deeper in their
journey of life and not only looking at the negative aspect of life but also
its positive side. Their improvement on perception about life was showed in
their ability to build a sense of hope, trust and confidence in the God. The
researcher was motivated to continue working with those perceived as weak in
the society by the fact that the parents challenged and encouraged each other
to be committed in this journey of transforming their lives and that of their
children with disability as well as their families.

CONCLUSION

After listening from
the sharing of the parents and the reflection from the reading, the parents
were committed to ensuring better life not only for their families but also to
transform the perception of the society on PWD. Linking their determination to
that of the blind man, they were able to plan with firmness on the way forward
towards achieving their desires.