I recently stole away with a friend of mine for an afternoon to visit Hadiza and her center for children with special needs.
It is called “Centre de Vie Nouvelle” (“center of new life”), and it is precisely that.
We arrived at the center, at the edge of the city, on a blistering-hot day around noon. The center is actually her own house. She transformed her lovely covered porch into a place of healing.
There was a large woven plastic mat, piles of toys and several smiling children to greet us. And some chickens. And several kittens. And two dogs.
Many of you know Hadiza because I’ve written about her here on this blog, and since she worked as our househelper for a few years. This beautiful woman stepped out in faith last year to start a center for children who are disabled – and severely neglected.
She quit her regular paying job. (In this country, this is unthinkable!)
She invited a few ladies from her church to help with the ministry.
She collected toys and supplies.
Then, she bravely invited a couple of neglected, disabled children she knew from her neighborhood to spend some time with her.
Hadiza told me that she wanted the children to know that God loves them. That they are not forgotten. The reality is that families with disabled children here in Niger simply have no resources to help their kids, so they are left to fend for themselves. Hadiza knew this was happening in her neighborhood and it was bothering her enough to completely change her life
Hadiza essentially “gave up her life” – sacrifice of money, time, social prestige and physical energy – to serve these children.
And I’ve never seen her so happy!
“Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:25
It was incredibly moving for me.
I watched her hand-feed three little girls over the course of an hour, patiently scooping food into their mouths while repeating their names with phrases of affection. Her countenance and her actions literally radiated LOVE.
Many of these kids can’t use their arms and hands enough to feed themselves, and even chewing is difficult and messy. Hadiza proudly explained their stories of transformation.
One boy – who has the physical appearance of a 10-year-old – is actually 17. He is mentally retarded and cannot talk except for a few words. But – oh that smile! When we were introduced, he tilted his head awkwardly and let out a big laugh and smiled so broadly that it took up his whole face. She described that he was so dirty when they first met that other kids would run away and throw rocks at him. He couldn’t use a bathroom so he smelled and had saliva all over his face. Now, he is clean, well-dressed, healthy and so so happy.
Every one of the kids has a story somewhat like this. Transformation. Healing!
The children receive two healthy meals and a good bath every day. She and her ladies share God’s word with them in their native languages, pray for them, and give them dignity. They receive lessons in French and sing songs. The atmosphere is relaxed and joyful. Some days, there is a nurse and physical therapist who help with the children’s physical needs – giving them exercises that will help them grow physically stronger and self-sufficient.
My friend Ruth and I enjoyed lunch with the children and ladies, listening to Hadiza’s stories and marveling at the beauty of it all. We snuggled the little ones, played with puzzles and balls, and I found myself dreaming of the ripple effect of this precious little center.
Steps of faith. Costly love. Transformed families. Renewed life and hope for children without a voice in a culture that doesn’t recognize them. It is all so beautiful! I am thrilled to share it with you.
And I hope you are inspired – maybe you have a dream that might be “costly”? Remember that a “loss” is actually a win!