I walk through the dry, dusty, cactus-fence lined shortcut back home and the phrase enters my mind on its own and seems to begin playing a gentle repeat in the back of my mind, “This happened so that the power of God could be seen…”
As it plays, the imagery of the story from one of the gospels – I’m not sure which gospel exactly off the top of my head – begins to take shape in my mind. In response to a disability, the disciples asked their teacher not what the reason was, but instead immediately asked who was at fault for the blindness in this man they were passing.
The zig-zag path opens up to the makeshift soccer field in front of our gate and I imagine a similar setting with a bright sun, uneven brown earth, and dusty feet as Jesus lovingly turned to answer his disciples (lovingly because that is his very character, no matter the question thrown his way)…he redirects the thinking that their culture ingrained and responds that “This happened so that the power of God could be seen”. And my heart skips a beat as the gravity of the phrase in my head hits me, the Spirit working to help me gain perspective in my day. I happened to be walking away from the home where Westhalineda – with her sweet smile, ‘dadada’ talking, and clubfeet – is living currently. In the middle of attempting to fundraise (see: share on social media and pray hard) for surgeries for this little one – I’ve been all over in faith. Not wanting to have the problem in the first place, excited to search for help for a physical need and show why we are here, thrilled at God providing a connection to The Red Thread Promise, nervous as I accepted the need to fundraise in the middle of my own fundraising efforts for monthly support, humbled by others sharing her story, sure that God was in it as she was placed near me, doubting the money would come in, doubting I heard God right, doubting I should be involved at all, frustrated that it had to me that He uses, blown away and excited that I get to be a part of how He uses people, and finally humbly blown away as money came in last minute for Wes and her needs to get her first surgery in January. I’m not sure I covered it all, but you get it – lots of ups and downs in this girl as she has arrived on the ground again.
And after all of these emotions and my faith barely clinging on, and God coming through in his flawless faithfulness, he whispers this phrase and story into my mind. After an afternoon of sitting with women as we make conversation about life in Cabaret, waving at Wes as she babbles, and requests for ‘fotos’ as I navigate relationships with the dozen people in a home that I am new to visit in – I am reminded that He is working. Not only is He working – the Spirit guided me to a story where there was a literal miracle on a disability from birth used as Jesus walked the earth as well as even since then as it is written down in the gospels to grow faith and understanding in God in us and all around the world. I think of Wes as she grows, of her mother through each step, of the community that always knows every detail of everyone’s life, of the family that Wes used to live with as well as the family she now resides with….God, that’s a lot of people watching. That’s a lot of people who can be affected by what you will do with the modern miracle of surgery, networking between NGOs, financial provision, and every other detail that will come along in this story. I was ready to tear up, honestly, the more I thought of how He works. That was last week.
Today, I googled where exactly this story was and then cracked opened my Bible to John 9, using the bulkier version with study notes on the bottom so I could better understand the context of this man born with a disability and how Jesus came in and said that it was all so that God could work through the situation. And as I read, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I stopped to pray for Westhalineda’s teenage mother, for the community, for Wes as she grows up to walk normally and eventually move past ‘dadada’ to real conversation that I pray is saturated with talk of our Father. I finished the story, surprised as I was reminded at how long it is and how many details there are, and fell to pray this story over what God is doing as Wes was also born with a disability.
I’ve gotta share with you (from John 9, NLT):
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”
Like Wes, this man was simply born with this disability. The whole community defined him by his blindness as I see the community defines Wes by her inability to develop correctly, and deeply imbedded beliefs in a culture led to assumptions for the ‘why’ – but, typical to how God works, Jesus came with a counter-cultural answer.
3 “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. 4 We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. 5 But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”
I don’t want to pretend that I can interpret every part of this scripture right here, but after responding that the reason was for God’s power to be seen – I see Jesus reminding us of the urgency of the gospel. An urgency I often forget, one that tugged my emotions as I opened the story for myself and saw it wasn’t just God working but that we must remember we are on this earth with an urgent mission we are a part of – sent to Wes, her mother, her community, the home she lives in and more.
6 Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. 7 He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!
While Wes won’t be healed by mud – can we just praise God for the modern miracle of medicine, surgery, and knowledge of charitable doctors like Dr. Bheki who will take her case on? For what I see as His divine hand in connecting us to The Red Thread Promise and the ability to be healed?
8 His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!”
But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”
10 They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?”
I read this and see a community that watches each member with a keen eye, notices what happens, and asks how it happened. This community way of life is exactly how Bercy runs – a natural way that the gospel and what God has done can be spread through conversation if only we have the Spirit’s boldness throughout the day.
I’m cutting it off here, but the historical account goes on to teach on all kinds of things: the sad irony of the willing spiritual blindness of the religious leaders, the parents of the blind man staying fearful of social consequences and clinging to the world despite the miracle God performed on their own child (this reminds and urges me to pray for Westhalineda’s mother), and my favorite part – the spiritual response of the once-blind man as he points to action clearly done by the Lord in His life and in verse 38, he responds to Jesus that he believes – and the account from the disciple Jesus loved says that He worshipped Jesus. This loaded story ended with me praying hard for Wes – Lord that this girl who may not even remember the surgery and healing afterwards would fall head over heels for her Saviour and turn her joy to joyful praise and worship of You!
I’m so excited for what God is doing. I’m praying hard for what God is doing. And you would be a wonderful addition to the story as you pray for what God is doing as well, as He uses what is seen as a disability so that the power of God can be seen. Praise God that He didn’t stop being actively involved in the lives of those needing healed when his physical presence in Jesus stopped walking the dusty roads of the earth. And thank YOU for the part many of you have played in praying, sharing Westhalineda’s story, putting up with constant social media posts, and financially sacrificing for surgeries that will literally affect her entire life.
*The Red Thread Promise update: Wes is fully funded for her first surgery and thankfully can therefore schedule to start this process in January! Her second surgery is also almost fully funded, with only $500 to go before all money needed is raised! Her x-rays are ready to go and her mother is ready to be involved and get the process started as Wes gets closer by the day to being two years old this spring. Original post by The Red Thread Promise is here.