Disabled people in Liberia, many of them maimed during the country’s decade-long civil war, are finding hope and building new lives through Christian outreach programs. The Bible Society of Liberia is providing thousands of Bibles for them.
Each week, a group of men gather together on a sandy field in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city, to play football. But this is no ordinary football match. Most of the players only have one leg and move around the pitch on crutches. Those who have two legs are missing an arm. But they all have one purpose in mind – to have a good game of football and enjoy each other’s company.
Not long ago, these men weren’t playing football or doing anything much. Like many other disabled Liberians, they were on street corners or in market places, trying to earn a living by begging. Very few disabled people can find work and most disabled children don’t get to attend school.
Visible reminders of brutal conflict
About 16% of the population is physically disabled, with a significant proportion of them maimed during the war. As Liberia rebuilds itself and puts its violent past behind it, they are one of the most visible reminders of the brutal conflict. Although the government, local charities and NGOs offer some assistance, there are so many people with disabilities that not all are able to access this help. Those that can only have their very basic physical needs met.
But last year the Bible Society of Liberia began working with the churches and a national charity for the disabled called The Group of 77 to offer emotional and spiritual support to these hurting people. Church volunteers have been trained as counsellors and the Bible Society has provided 10,000 Bibles for free distribution.
“We are already seeing how much this kind of support means to disabled people,” notes Bible Society Program Officer Moses Prowd. “They are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as many are now engaged in productive activities. They are playing sport and learning new skills, and some have also set up advocacy groups to help advance the cause of the disabled in terms of employment and education.
Given them confidence
“By reading God’s Word and discussing it with counsellors, they are learning that they do have great value in God’s eyes, and this has given them the confidence to start rebuilding their lives. Many who were lonely and marginalised are now practising Christians and are part of church life.
“One young man, Alfred Kollie, lost one of his legs during the war and thought his life was over. But he is now studying computer science and is an evangelist in a local church. He has been a real inspiration to his friends and other disabled people.
“It is our prayer that many more people with disabilities will come to know of God’s love for them and that this knowledge will transform their lives.”