CHARLES CHISALA writes
THE Midlands Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church has launched a programme aimed at addressing the needs of members living with disabilities.
Conference director for family life and people with special needs Abitana Hachamba says the conference, whose headquarters is in Kabwe, will ensure that by end of this year every congregation has a fully-fledged department to take care of members with disabilities.
Pastor Hachamba said the church had realised that members with special needs had not been receiving the care and attention they deserved.
He was speaking last Saturday during a special Sabbath service for people with special needs at Emasdale SDA Church in Lusaka.
“As a church we have not done much for our brothers and sisters who have special needs. In the church we have people who are unable to speak, we have those who are deaf, those who are blind and those who are lame but we have not made efforts to meet their needs,” Pastor Hachamba said.
“Each one of us can also become disabled any time and we will need other people’s support. So, treat your brother or sister who has a special need with respect and compassion,” Pastor Hachamba said.
He read a story from 2 Samuel 9 of the Bible about Jonathan, the best friend of King David, whose son, Mephibosheth, was lame in both feet.
King David showed Mephibosheth the kindness of God and ordered that he would be eating at his table for the rest of his live for the sake of his friend Jonathan.
And during the sensitisation meeting for church leaders from various mission districts within and outside Lusaka in the afternoon Pastor Hachamba said the Midlands Conference would direct every congregation to identify members who were ready to work in the department for people with special needs.
It would also direct district pastors to submit names of all members with special needs, members who are trained in handling and teaching those with special needs and mobilise funds for programmes under the department.
Pastor Hachamba said the church would hold a big Sabbath and a camp meeting for people with special needs.
A church elder from Chazanga identified as a Mr Mwansa, who is disabled, described how he had suffered discrimination in the church as a result of his condition.
Elder Mwansa said he had been sidelined from leadership roles several times as a result of his disability until the church later saw his abilities and elected him as church elder.
And a teacher for children with special needs Helen Shikele encouraged mothers with children who had disabilities not to keep or hide them at home but take them to special schools where specialist teachers like her would be able to handle them and help them to develop.
Ms Shikele said she has a child who is blind, deaf and dumb and has developed a special sign language which the two use to communicate.
Human rights activist Lilian Mundia urged the church to come up with programmes in which people with special needs could participate so that they felt that they were part of the church.
Another activist, Denis Kanyamuna appealed to members to show love to fellow members with disabilities.