Every Wednesday I have the privilege to take a group of my fellow crew mates to one of my favorite places here in Congo, the Handicapped Tailors workplace. I’m sure you’re curious to know who these handicapped tailors are, right? Well, let me tell you! They are my friends. They each have unique disabilities. Some can’t walk due to deformities they were born with and are confined to wheelchairs or they’re forced to walk with their hands or use a cane. Some are deaf. Others have disabilities that I can’t physically see. And the mamas bring their babies to work with them because they have no one to help take care of them.
This organization, Handicapped Tailors was started to save people such as my friends, from begging on the streets. Due to their disabilities they are limited in the jobs they can work. The majority of jobs here in Africa are manual labor jobs and sadly, these beautiful people are unable to work those jobs. So they are brought in from begging on the street and taught how to tailor. This way they can work and earn an income in spite of what we all call their ‘disabilities’.
These people, my friends, are so beautiful! Most would think they would be discouraged or embarrassed by their situations, but that is not the case. These people are completely comfortable and content with who they are. They are strong. They are more concerned with how people perceive them than they are with the deformities they were born with. They are confident in who they are and they only desire for others to see them for the people they are, for their hearts. They are no different than anyone else and that’s how they want to be treated. They support each other in a way I’ve never seen before. They love each other just as they are. There is no judgement when you are with my friends. They simply love the way all of us should love.
After the first time I met these people I wondered what in the world could I possibly do to better their lives. What could I do to make an impact and a difference in their lives? I still haven’t figured that one out so I go there and I love them. I talk with them, laugh with them, pray with them and give them lots of hugs and high fives. We take beautiful things such as necklaces, bracelets and pictures for them to make for themselves. They spend all their time making beautiful things for other people so we want to give them the opportunity to make beautiful things for themselves. Every week I go back I will see them wearing whatever it was we made the week before.
At times I have felt as though my time there is pointless and insignificant, but recently, Jesus has shown me that’s not true. Just like our patients on board the ship, because of the unfortunate ailments they were born with they aren’t treated like human beings and if they are loved, they are loved from a distance. I get the honor of loving them up close. I get to hug them, laugh with them and hold their hands. I get to show them the love of Jesus which isn’t love they’ve experienced from other people. It’s amazing!