**You may double-click on any photo to enlarge
34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:34-40 NRSV
Every time I read this scripture or hear someone else read it, I am moved, but not with same emotions every time. Sometimes, I experience guilt whereby I recognize I do not see the face of Jesus in all those whom I meet. Other times, I have walked past or looked through people who have needed food, encouragement or prayer, but I did not give them my time or concern. Perhaps I have judged someone who has needed my acceptance and love. Most often, I am humbled when I witness God’s Spirit at work in people serving one another with love. I am filled with hope because I feel the Lord is encouraging me to live out my life this way. It is this example of hope and love that I wish to share with you in this article.
Mike and I have written other articles about Tidzalerana Club for people living with disabilities including the following ones: (http://pccweb.ca/mikeanddebbieburns/2011/09/23/kairos%E2%80%94god%E2%80%99s-time/, http://pccweb.ca/mikeanddebbieburns/2011/10/28/tidzalerana-club-and-shelter/, http://pccweb.ca/mikeanddebbieburns/2011/12/20/tidzalerana-club-christmas-party-tuesday-december-6-2011/). One of these articles includes some of the verses from the Matthew 25scripture above.
Since January 2010, Presbyterian World Service and Development (PWS&D) has been providing funds to Tidzalerana Club, through Blantyre Synod Health and Development Commission (BSHDC). These funds assist with various expenses including transportation to medical appointments, necessary equipment and a weekly healthy snack. Most of our writing has focused on the work or activities that occur with or for the Tidzalerana Club members and/or caregivers. I now wish to share with you service that Tidzalerana Club Members are providing for others.
As a result of their disability, most of Tidzalerana Club’s adult members have been unable to earn their own income. PWS&D’s funds are also used to provide training and materials for income generating activities (IGA). They are able to learn skills and are given a few materials to enable them to start earning a small income, which increases their self-esteem and their family’s resources. Each week, some women are given yarn to knit items for sale and/or donation. One way that the knitters at Tidzalerana Club serve God and their community is to knit warm sweaters for infants. In Malawi’s cold season, which is generally mid-June to mid-August, nighttime lows can be 6 to 8 degrees Celsius. For those of you who have windows, insulation, internal heating and warm flooring, this does not seem very cold. Many Malawians, however, have none of these luxuries, so these temperatures can be deadly cold, especially for newborn babies and other vulnerable people. These sweaters protect the infants from the cold and in many cases keep them alive.
Linda Inglis, a former missionary to Malawi, through the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC), devoted her heart and hands to Tidzalerana Club since its inception in 1980. Every July, Linda took a number of these Tidzalerana Club knitters to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), Malawi’s largest government hospital in Blantyre. They spend a few hours visiting newborns and their mothers/guardians and giving them a few warm baby sweaters. July 2012 was the first time I had the privilege of taking on this role. The sense of joy that both the providers and recipients expressed was beautiful to watch. Women, who had felt weighed down over the years by their disabilities and the stigma they often face, have been empowered to use their God-given gifts to provide for the needs of others. Their role normally as a service recipient, being among “the least of these”, was transformed into a role of being a service provider, giving themselves and their resources to “the least of these” of God’s children.
In my previous article, http://pccweb.ca/mikeanddebbieburns/2012/08/06/debbies-position-at-bshdc-part-6-womens-self-help-groups/ I wrote about BSHDC’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs). I am also excited to note that through BSHDC, 3 SHGs have also been formed among Tidzalerana Club’s female members and caregivers. A number of loans have already been issued, which is greatly improving the financial and social conditions for the women involved.
I give thanks to God for Linda Inglis and all other people who have supported Tidzalerana Club over the years through prayers, time and money. I am grateful to PWS&D who has recognized the great work and changed lives through Tidzalerana Club and have stepped forward to provide funds for it. I am humbled by the work, courage, faith and love of its members, caregivers and volunteers.
If you wish to learn more about PWS&D, its programs, the countries they work in and its staffing, you may go to http://presbyterian.ca/pwsd/about/. If you wish to learn how to make a donation to PWS&D, please follow the following link http://presbyterian.ca/pwsd/donate/. To find out more about PWS&D’s Gifts of Change Program “Empower People With Disabilities” and how to support it, go to http://presbyterian.ca/pwsd/empower-people-with-disabilities/.