Galina* was born with an illness called Spina bifida, in a village in Central Asia. She has eight brothers and sisters and because of her disability, she has only had a little education.
Hidden from neighbours
Until she was ten years old, Galina stayed at home. Her parents were ashamed of her and never allowed their friends and neighbours to see her. Her mother often hit her because Gailina could not control the things her body did. This made her think that her disability was all her fault, that she must have done something wrong. She felt bad about herself. She spent the next four years in hospital. When she was 14 she went to a special home for disabled people. She liked it better there because she was with others who had disabilities. She did not feel different from everyone else. But when she went back to live at home, she realised just how different she was from all her brothers and sisters. She was so unhappy that she tried to kill herself. But she did not succeed. Soon after this, she left home and went to a big city. She found work there in a factory.
When Galina was working in the city, a group of Christians visited her. They told her about Jesus Christ who loves all people, even those who are disabled. She was not interested because when she was a child she was taught another religion. But the Christians did not stop seeing her. She was still their friend, even if she did not want to hear what they said. For eight years she saw how these Christians lived and how much they cared for her. They loved her just as she was.
Then she began to realise that their friend, Jesus Christ, loved her so much that he died to take the punishment for her wrong doing. It was Jesus' love that her friends had shown her for all those years. She asked Jesus to change her life and fill her with his love, joy and peace. She found a new friend in Jesus. Galina does not feel rejected any more. Now she is not afraid of the future. She feels accepted and loved by God. Her relationship with her parents has changed too. They started to see how much she had changed and how life became better for her.
One time when she went to see her parents, her mother asked Galina to forgive her for the many times she beat her when she was a child. Now her parents show love to her, something she had never known at home before this. Jesus has changed Galina's life. She is filled with joy and is now helping other disabled women who are very poor and do not have crutches or wheelchairs. Many, like Galina when she was a child, cannot go out of their own homes. She understands how disabled people feel and the troubles they have. God has given her a special job to do.
Something to think about
You may not be disabled like Galina, but many people are 'disabled' in other ways. You may have been hurt or used badly as a child. You may not have had the education you hoped for. You may not be able to do the things you want because your family is poor, or one or both of your parents died when you were young. There are many reasons why you might think badly about yourself. What did Galina find out that made all the difference to her life?
* Galina is not her real name.
Spina bifida is an illness which happens when a baby is growing inside its mother's womb. The bones in the back (the spine) do not grow properly so they do not protect the spinal cord (the nerves which send feelings and messages from the brain to other parts of the body). A baby born with Spina bifida may not be able to feel some parts of its body. This means he/she may not be able to walk properly or do other things that a well person can do.
How to help people with a physical disability: www.soon.org.uk/disability