“Treasures in Jars of Clay” is one of the projects at New Hope Uganda, working with children and young people with special needs and disabilities.
Many people see these children as worthless and useless, a burden on their families, their bodies affected by cerebral palsy, brain and spinal injuries, genetic disorders, and other difficulties. But in the eyes of our heavenly Father, they are all precious and valuable treasures, uniquely created in his image, fearfully and wonderfully made by him.
A fighting spirit
Despite the brokenness and frailty of their physical bodies, hindered by pain deformity and disease, God has given these youngsters a fighting spirit. There are many remarkable stories as God reveals his glory and power through them. Some have contagious smiles and laughs that exude joy and light up a room. Several are gentle and caring, wanting to help and serve others despite their own limitations. During praise and worship, one girl with a beautiful voice leads the singing. The faces of others light up as they hear the voices of those around them worshipping God.
“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Life for these children isn’t easy though. Some can’t move by themselves, needing a wheelchair to move from A to B, and are totally dependent for all their needs. Others are able to walk in a fashion, but each step takes effort and determination. Out in the community, other children are teased and taken advantage of because of their learning difficulties.
The Treasures class
Six children with disabilities live in one of the family groups at New Hope Uganda. Another 15 children live with their families, and join the Treasures school class each day. Other children and families in the wider community are supported through monthly group-sessions and home visits. Many of these children are in desperate need of therapy, equipment and help in order to reach their God-given potential. God is enabling me to use my skills as a physiotherapist to help them – by doing stretches and exercises, getting them well-supported in wheelchairs, comfortably positioned during the day and night, and helping their parents and carers to do these things too. Each week, with the help of a translator I also share God’s Word with the Treasures class through simple multi-sensory Bible stories.
It is encouraging to see children making progress: as one learns to hold her head up, another begins to interact with his peers, one girl learns to crawl, and another takes her first steps. These small steps of progress are significant, and we rejoice and are thankful to God for the things he enables each child to achieve.
Power in weakness
It is hard, however, to see children who aren’t making progress: to helplessly watch one boy gradually regress and lose skills and abilities and to see children struggling every day with pain, reflux, fits and other medical problems.
In weakness and helplessness, God shows the sufficiency of his grace, and his presence, provision and power. As the Lord said to Paul, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12: 9)
Sometimes he graciously and miraculously provides equipment that can help specific children. Other times it’s through the presence of a visiting doctor who can advise and help with the children’s complex medical needs. When a child finishes their fight here on earth, God’s peace fills and surrounds those of us left behind.
Suffering is difficult to experience and also hard to observe. Both experiencing and observing exposes our helplessness, making us depend on God and lean on him for strength. Through it God reveals his faithfulness and more of his love, grace and glory. Suffering makes our future hope more precious – that glorious day when sufferings cease, when brokenness is a thing of the past, and when, with new resurrection bodies, we and his “treasures” will be home forever. But, for now, there are many of these “treasures” in need of our prayers, both in Uganda, and much closer to home too.