“Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” –Mother Teresa
The sturdy Pajero bounces along the pot-hole ridden street, passing the bustling markets and onlooking zebras on our way from Eldoret to Kijabe. Five hours of driving leads us to Bethany Crippled Children’s Hospital. A sanctuary of kindness. A living testimony of love. A miracle for the desperate.
We roll into the muddy parking lot and reunite with Janet and her mom. Janet beams from her wheelchair. Cruel polio constricts her lower extremities since infancy, and our mutual tears glimmer against the Kenyan sun.
One month prior, Janet miraculously received her first wheelchair and entered school as a first grader. Learned her ABCs. To read. To write. All at 13-years-old. A doctor showed up. Paved a way for her to dream of standing and walking. Selected her for surgery. Hope restored.
And here we stand ready for tomorrow.
When tomorrow arrives, at 1:25pm I push Janet towards the operating room’s doors. Nurses swoop her in their arms and carry her beyond the barricade of doors. For the next many hours, we wait. And wait. And wait. Doctors meticulously perform soft tissue release on her hips and behind the knees and decide not to shorten the femur.
She emerges from surgery with casts plastered from her toes to hips. Somehow a smile appears on her pain-writhing face. She pulls my arm, and I kneel next to her bedside. We lean in together and she whispers, “Mungu yu mwema (God is good).” I smile. Through her young life she’s encountered more pain and difficulty than most in their lifetime, yet in the midst she’s always proclaimed this truth.
The challenges of a disability in the village define difficult, yet Janet defines joy and taught me the secret. Joy is a diamond pressing into the hard, refining the discontent, and redefining perspective. It’s inconceivable. Uncircumstantial. Proven in difficulty. Radiant yet peaceful. And deep in each crevasse of joy is the unwavering faith that God is good.
Sixteen years later and now continents apart from each other … Janet walks with braces and crutches, receives physical therapy (and a lot of love) at Living Room International, graduated from high school this past year, and just now starts vocational training for sewing.
And through it all, she shouts to a longing, broken, hurting world, “God is good.” If anyone knows, she does.
What if instead of trying to avoid pain and suffering (In case you’re new to this planet, it’s pretty inevitable!), we pressed into the hard, refined our hearts through difficulties, and excavated the secret and beauty of joy in the midst? Maybe, just maybe, it’s just the very thing our beating hearts are craving.