Scott Reichenbach, president of Hope Walks, recently visited Ethiopia. This is the first of three posts reflecting on what he saw there.
We visited a clinic 1100km from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. We met 14 families there on a Thursday morning in January. In this hospital, St. Marys, the clubfoot clinic is divided into two rooms. In one room there are two families who are still in the clubfoot treatment process. They are stoic, yet scared. One mother and grandma were alternating between holding a three-week-old baby with casts on both legs. They were both visibly concerned. What does the future hold for their precious newborn who was born with clubfoot?
Children with disabilities face so many challenges. The culture often blames the mother. She must have sinned or done something wrong, or maybe she was cursed. Families often ask, “Why? Why was my child born with clubfoot?” I’m reminded of the gospel passage in John 9, where the disciples ask Jesus why a man was born blind—was it his own sin, or the sin of his parents? Jesus’ answer is just as true now as it was then:
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me.” John 9:3-4
In the other room were 12 families, moms and dads and kids. One father of five brought his two-and-a-half year old, who is running and playing like toddlers do. There are children of varying ages, some wearing clubfoot braces and others holding them. These are parents with smiles, parents with hope. These are the families whose children’s feet have been corrected; they are now in the bracing stage. Yes, there is an air of uncertainty in the gathering because of the visiting Americans in the clinic that day, but overall, there is a sense of healing, hope, and gratitude.
They and their children were like the families in the other room—some just a few months ago, others several years ago. Now, these families are living proof that clubfoot was not their fault. Clubfoot happens, and it can be corrected. Life can be ‘normal’ for their child, who can grow up like every other kid in this town, running, playing, going to school and living life without disability.
I sit back and look at the numbers and realize there are thousands more children like these out in the small towns and villages. There are families living with shame and guilt, with children growing up with the disability of clubfoot.
They don’t need to be living that way. They can be living with hope and freedom, but they don’t know that treatment is available. This story is repeated around the world in most ‘poor’ countries—the low- and middle-income countries where clubfoot so often goes untreated.
The challenge is real. We must do the work of the One who sent us, bringing healing and the gospel to those who need it. How do we find those who are passionate about this, people who are willing to sit with us and think, pray, and act? Will you join us? Scroll down to the Mailing List form below to let us know you’ll stand with us in the effort to end clubfoot as a lifetime disability.