Sometimes it takes years to see fruit from the seeds we sow. For the teachers at In His Image, patience is one of the most important assets, both in daily interactions with the students and as they look at the growth and development in each child year after year.
Koti came to the center at 12 years old. His parents were at the end of their rope because of his violence and inability to stay still, focus, and follow directions due to autism. He was struggling with constant anger and would hit, kick, and fight every time he didn’t get his way. His father, a very hands-on, involved dad, brought him to In His Image alone. The teachers wouldn’t meet his mother for years. In His Image was these parents’ last chance for any hope before giving in to complete despair.
This voices from around the world comes to you from the director of In His Image.
I was at a meeting when a pastor asked me about my family. As I shared about both my children, as well as the special needs of my family, his response was “How does your other child feel about the special needs child?” I was pleasantly surprised. It was a question hardly anyone ever puts to me.
The sibling of a special needs child is somehow expected to be really understanding. When mothers are busy caring for the needs of their sibling, they are expected to gently wait, to help out, to tend to them. They have to be forever understanding, and are not even allowed the liberty of having a routine sibling rivalry. Because their siblings needs are ‘more’, they often feel guilty for wanting attention too. We expect the siblings to have perfect love–kind, gentle, never jealous–but they too are children with needs and wishes. I know a child who used to get into trouble if he asked for his favorite food to be made, but when the special needs child asked for it, it was done immediately. He was expected to always understand why he would always stand second place to his sibling. Little did the family realise that the child was getting resentful of his sibling.
Each member of the family is impacted by the disability of a child in the home. Each member may react in a different way. When we as parents are devastated, hearing that our child is different, we generally do not think about the other child who is also devastated by it. His/her life will be changed forever. Even as we struggle to cope with a special needs diagnosis, parents must consider our other children, who may not know how to react, may not understand what is going on, and may sometimes even blame themselves.
Priyanka is kind of a firecracker. She has strong opinions, big emotions and loud laughter. She is one of the Indian participants of this year’s International Artist Residency put on by The Create Commission. As the artists and resident mentors live together for two and a half weeks, they learn about and create art in response to a chosen social issue.
The theme that the 8 Indian and 7 international artists were working around this year was “Human Dignity: The Many Faces of Abundance.” The residency started out with an intense half-day visit to one of the biggest landfills in the city. An experience to engage all the senses, the group navigated through the enormous, smelly garbage-mountains while hungry black birds circled the air above their head. They got to see what life and work is like for rag pickers, and had a chance to interact with them and learn about their dreams and struggles. The Create Commission partnered with a small NGO that works with this vulnerable community and fights for their rights. With their help, the artists were able to visit the community several times during the residency and learn about the lowest caste of India, the untouchables.
For some crazy reason my latest relaxation reading has been biographies written by women about their lives in some of the more difficult nations in the world. Just in case anyone’s wondering, it’s not great relaxation reading. On the plus side it does burn off lots of calories as I go speed walking to burn off my frustration.
One of the latest books that I read was “I am Nujood, aged 10 and divorced.” I remember vaguely hearing about this on the news when it happened. As was traditional in her area, Nujood’s family arranged for her to marry an older man. Whilst he promised not to consummate the relationship until she had reached puberty, the moment they got back to his village he became incredibly violent and raped her multiple times a day, justifying it as his right as a husband.
This year, God has been teaching and reminding the Reconciled World team to depend on Him no matter our circumstances. Over and over again, we’ve heard our program directors say that they are being reminded to depend on God and that He is faithful.
Take Create Commission, for instance. It has been a season of dynamic change for the team. Anthony and his family arrived in 2015, and have been doing the hard work of transitioning to a new culture and city. At the same time, Anthony has stepped in to teach workshops and develop curriculum. The founder and director of Create Commission began a leave of absence to pursue an MFA in visual art. Another member of the team has stepped up to provide leadership over the next two years. He says, “Stepping into this role is good and stretching at the same time. [I’m learning about] depending on God and abiding in Him. He is all we need–be it wisdom, direction, clarity, provision…everything.”