At Ujiachilie, a group from St. Joseph parish in Nairobi that welcomes disabled children and young adults, every day one discovers our dependence on our Lord.
In Swahili, “Ujiachilie” means “let yourself be loved” (“lasciati fare” in Italian). This is the name given to the group I have been following for several years now here in Nairobi, a group comprised of physically disabled children, teenagers and their mothers. The name intends to be an invitation to discover God’s gratuitous, merciful love for each one of us, a love which “even clothes the lilies of the fields.” And thanks to this discovery, for us too the time spent with our Ujiachilie friends is always surprisingly rich with provocations and graces.
We get together twice a week to spend a few hours together at St. Joseph parish in the neighborhood called Kahawa Sukari. We pray together, play together, share experiences and challenges; we color, we do small tasks and various activities left to the creativity of the volunteers who collaborate with us. Physical therapy is available for those children who may need it. The most precious moment is when we get to welcome and greet our kids while one after another is helped to get off the bus. The smile which spreads across each of their faces tells of the joy in recognizing one is loved and awaited. It is beautiful to discover that our hands can be those with which the Lord takes care of those he entrusts to us! We desire to offer them specifically this: the possibility of knowing something about the love that Jesus has for each one of them, and that we are precious in His eyes even when we seem inadequate in the eyes of the world.
D. is a 25-year-old young man who had suffered with a hemiparesis since birth which impedes his use of his hand and causes trembling. A change occurred in him that struck me very much. He met our group for the first time last year, nearly by accident. He had arrived to us hoping for financial support which we couldn’t offer him. Despite his initial disappointment, he accepted our invitation to participate in Ujiachilie. In time, he has grown to sincerely love our weekly meetings and he has begun to follow with more and more freedom and availability the proposals made to him, and is putting his creativity into play. He started to invite friends and neighbors so that they could meet us and join him in participating in our friendship. When he arrives to us, he presents his friends to us and he takes care of them with the same enthusiasm with which he had insistently invited us to get to know his family. It is a sign that Ujiachilie had in time become his home, the place in which he discovered himself as the object of an attention and an esteem which exceeded the expectations of any economic benefit.
Being with these children, I discover even more the face of the Lord for me, his claim and his promise to my life. This happens, for example, through the gladness and gratitude of J., an 18-year-old boy affected by a severe paresis. Through the great vivacity and the trusting abandon with which he lives his total dependence on those who care for him, the Lord invites me to live poverty as total dependence upon Him as J. does, and with his same certainly and simplicity.