Gary Shavey, Director of Development for Special Hope, travelled to Lusaka January 25-Feb 24. Read below as he shares some of the impactful stories from his time there.

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Behold, I received a command to bless: he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it. He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob, nor has he seen trouble in Israel. The LORD their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them.” – Numbers 23:19-21

These verses were shared by one of the mothers during our circle time while I visited the Community Care Center (CCC) in Mtendere compound. These verses brought a mother hope.  What a perspective! I learned many things during my visit in Lusaka. I have numerous stories to share, but this story of this mother really does capture a lot about what Special Hope Network does. The story here gives an amazing view of the impact that you, the supporters and partners of Special Hope, are having with the people in Zambia. You are changing lives in Zambia.

In January and February Special Hope updates the files of all the families attending the Community Care Centers. I had the privilege of helping Special Hope with this task. What an honor to meet so many families. I was helping by conducting surveys of basic information. Thandi, the mother who shared the Numbers verse, shared her story during our meeting. She has a 4-year-old son with cerebral palsy. Thandi relayed to me she does not have a place to stay. Her husband kicked her and her son out of their home due to the son having an intellectual disability (intellectual disabilities have a stigma). In Zambian culture a ‘place to stay’ is a home where someone is providing for you. She and her son stay in a small place without a husband and without a father. She does not have a car and she does not have money for transportation. Her son does not walk. She walks an hour with her son on her back to get to the Special Hope CCC.

Thandi (with child on her back) at the Community Care Center with other families.

As I continued dialoguing with Thandi, I asked her some follow up questions. Is there anyone who provides support for you? Is there anyone that helps you diagnose and understand your child? Do you get any encouragement as a mother? Is there any place you are understood and have people to cry with? After each of these questions she answered “no.” 

Thandi then looks around the room and says “Here is where I find support. Only here at Special Hope. This is where I am understood and have support.”

There is a short devotional during each session to encourage these hard-working mothers and caretakers. These devotions help point them to Jesus. Thandi explained to me she learned these verses at Special Hope. She went on to explain that these verses continue to bring her confidence. Thandi realizes she is not alone, God is not deterred by her circumstances in living or with her son. She has regained perspective on what she is to do as a mother who loves and cares for her son. The Lord their God is with them, and the shout of a King is among them.

There is theory and there is reality. During my time in Zambia I gained a view of real life. The work being done in Zambia though your support is truly bringing hope and revealing God’s glory. This is not just empowerment, this is not just social work with those with intellectual disabilities. The work being done is redemptive and restorative. A mother realizing she is not alone. The hope that there is purpose in the midst of her circumstances. God is real and His love endures.

– Gary Shavey

Gary and Special Hope Network Co-Founders Eric and Holly Nelson and Family.