THE SACRAMENT OF WEAKNESS or POWER? THE CHALLENGE

Last week a fifteen year old boy, a student at Mary Rice Centre for the disabled in Kibera, Peter Akoyo, died in his home from an epileptic seizure just the day after participating in the crazy Olympics with the other children. All visitors had noticed how he was a big brother to the smaller, more handicapped children and was always ready to attend to their toiletry needs. His dream to start a vocational training course tragically remained unfulfilled.

So what does the life of an intellectually disabled child have to tell us? What do we say about the significance of all the handicapped children at the Mary Rice Centre in Kibera run by Christian Brothers? What can we learn from the children who for years had remained hidden from view, perhaps because of the shame attached to parents or children or both, for suffering from a weakness inherited at birth?

 A quite remarkable Catholic man, John Vanier, who founded communities of ‘normal’ and  ‘disabled’ people living together says that even more than  having  compassion for the needy, we are called to enter into friendship.

Vanier and Edmund Rice, founder of the Christian Brothers and father of Mary Rice, insist that to love people is not first of all to do things for them but to reveal something to them. It is to reveal that they have a value, that they are beautiful and precious. This incredible spiritual insight suggests that we can only do this by first recognising the weakness and helplessness within ourselves.

In order to know our compassionate God, we learn how to be weak ourselves. Edmund and Vanier insist that it is the poor who can minister to us and help us to accept our poverty. Both tell us that we must necessarily move beyond the effort to “do good”, and move to a place of humility where we can allow the poor and disabled to do good to us.

They invite us to walk with the needy and especially the disabled as friends, as companions because we need them. We need them so that like Jesus we suffer the pain of others’ suffering and are moved to discover our reserves of compassion.  To live in our need of the ‘weak’ is to know deep communion with God and the world.

Edmund and Vanier remind us gently that it’s the people with disabilities who are changing the rest of us. In a gathering at of the disabled at Mary Rice Centre there is a presence of God, a gentleness, a peacefulness, a kindness. This is a little place in the kingdom of God. There’s joy. There’s happiness. There’s prayerfulness, as a group of visiting Australians found out, when one of the Mary Rice children anointed them and gave them a blessing, a moving experience indeed.

St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians says that those parts of the body that are the weakest and the least presentable are necessary to the body and should be honored. This means that we need people with disabilities to be the church. No one, poor or disabled, can remain separate. Pope Francis wants a poor church for the poor, a church that is bruised, hurting and dirty” because it is out on the streets.” Do you recognise that this was what Jesus of Nazareth was?!

Edmund Rice, a wealthy business man before founding the Brothers,was transformed by the weakness of his disabled child, Mary. He discovered reserves of compassion that led him to commit his life totally to the transformation of the deprived, abused street children of his day, to reveal their goodness to themselves. All of us live in a culture that believes we are transformed by power. And the tension between weakness and power is in us all.

So, where do you want to find the living Christ – in the weakness of the little ones, the poor, simple children, the intellectually disabled or the ever conflictual, power seeking political leaders? Where are you finding your way to the poor, vulnerable Jesus of Nazareth? What a paradoxical God- one found in weakness not power!  Does this image of God attract you?

by PETER COLE

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Life shared with Peter Akoyo at Mary Rice Centre

It was with deep sadness that the Mary Rice Centre community learnt of the passing of much loved student Peter Akoyo. His earthly journey has ended suddenly and he has now embarked on the soul’s new journey which is the reality for every human being. .

Peter joined Mary Rice Centre in 2011 on the request of his father who in turn offered his services to the centre as a security guard under PADA security firm. Peter successfully went through assessments as required to determine his eligibility to benefit from the available centre’s services and was admitted.peter akoyo

Before joining the Centre he could experience frequent convulsions due to his epileptic condition. Through the dedicated effort of Ann Wanjugu (teacher), James Nayere (occupational therapist) and myself who was by then the centre’s coordinator, Peter was able to go through basic social skills training and to access medication which effectively helped manage his condition. After sometime at the centre, Peter began to demonstrate immense improvement in his interactive skills, self care activities and he developed a great sense of self confidence. This was a great joy for all involved in his care.

peter akoyo1

Peter was a respectful, cheerful, receptive, industrious and friendly young man. His friendliness was clearly visible in the way he would welcome visitors, his fellow students as well staff to the centre. It is because of his hard work and ability to learn that the Mary Rice Centre under the new management of Gerald Mgalula managed to secure him a place at St Kizito Vocation Training Centre where until his passing he was undertaking carpentry training.

We are grieved, but consoled that Peter went to sleep that night because his body had served its purpose, his soul had done what it came to do, learned what it came to learn, and then was free to leave. May his soul rest in peace until we meet again in eternity.


His Journeys Just Begun

Don’t think of him as gone away his journey’s just begun, life holds so many facets this earth is only one.

Just think of him as resting from the sorrows and the tears in a place of warmth and comfort where there are no days and years.

Think how he must be wishing that we could know today

How nothing but our sadness can really pass away.

And think of him as living in the hearts of those he touched… for nothing loved is ever lost and he was loved so much.

John Paul Oluoch

FARE WELL THEE, PETER

It is with great sorrows that we announce the death of Peter Akoyo,  21 , who has been  a pupil at Mary Rice  Centre  for the last five years. Peter succumbed to an epileptic seizure on the night of August 8, 2014 at his father’s house in Shillanga village in Kibera slums, Nairobi.

Peter was present at the Centre on Wednesday when we closed for the August holiday; he appeared strong and healthy, with no sign of illness. During the day Peter stayed with the children at the Centre and engaged in the Crazy Olympic Games where he looked very vibrant and happy as he played with pupils, staff and parents.peter akoyo
Peter  suffered from epilepsy from birth, and he has been on drugs since then. When he joined the Centre, he used to get drugs from a nearby Health Centre which works closely with the Mary Rice Centre.

Peter was equally embraced and loved by both the pupils and staff who came to nickname him the “Big Brother” since he was the oldest pupil and was always ready to give a helping hand to other pupils who had more special needs than his.

Peter was accepted to join Marianne Vocational Centre for the Physically and Mentally Handicapped which is 50 kilometers from Nairobi.

Peter will be laid to rest in his ancestral home in Kakamega County, western Kenya later this month.

Eternal rest grant unto him oh Lord and may perpetual rest shine upon him. May the soul of Peter Akoyo rest in peace through the mercy of God, Amen.