Teaching Others About Faith
When I was in Tanzania as a fellow, I tried to go to morning devotions at the church office as often as I could. One day a retired pastor asked that I do the reading and give the sermon the next day. At that point I was halfway through my fellowship and still struggling to get through simple conversations in Kiswahili with this man on a daily basis, and I was very nervous.
The verse I was instructed to preach on was Luke 10:21:
“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in Spirit and said, “I thank you, O Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that you have hid these things from the wise and learned and have revealed them to the little ones. Even so, Father, for so it is well pleasing in your sight.”
At that moment I thought of Jonathan. Jonathan is a young man with Down syndrome who has attended one of the Mosaic supported centers in Moshi and is now in the young adult program funded by a World Hunger Grant from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Since childhood, Jonathan has dreamed of becoming a pastor. He has a very strong faith and his relationship with God is central to his life.
In Tanzania, many families still view disability as a curse put on them as a result of sin by someone in the family. There is an incredible amount of stigma associated with it. In this context Jonathan is considered one of the “little ones” – poor, marginalized, denied education, and considered lesser than.
During the BCC Olympic Day, Pastor James Nkyia, Spiritual Director of BCC, asked Jonathan to deliver the closing prayer. To see a pastor, one of the “wise and learned,” turn over what would usually be associated with his high-status position to Jonathan showed the words of Jesus are indeed true. Anyone who sees Jonathan pray cannot help but be moved. He has a lot to teach others about faith.
In a country with as strong a religious tradition as Tanzania, working with the Church brings a moral authority that helps fight the stigma associated with disability. With BCC, Jonathan is able to practice his faith and be included as a member of the church community. He has been able to grow and develop as a whole person: mentally, physically and spiritually. And he can share his gifts with others in a way that is pleasing in God’s sight.
Meghan Hussey is a former Mosaic International Fellow. You can follow her Twitter @Meghan_Hussey.