Lesotho Evangelical Church in Southern Africa (LECSA) has embarked on the mission of including people with disabilities and making “The church of All for All” which also includes making its buildings and materials user-friendly to people with disabilities.
The office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) specifically looks into issues of Special Education in the entire church. Moreover the LECSA Synod assigned Rev. A.L. Motsamai of Maseru LECSA to work closely with Mrs. Phae, the Coordinator of JPIC and the specialist in special education, to oversee the issue of integration of people with disabilities in the Church.
The office of JPIC held several meetings with Ministers and Evangelists about the importance of integrating people with disabilities. The two people mentioned hitherto attended a workshop in Pretoria in 2017 on disability and the church. On their return tremendous change took place in some of the LECSA churches. For example, in Qhomane LECSA a ramp was built to enable the Minister with physical disability get to the pulpit. In addition, the same minister was assisted to accept the state of disability which he had acquired late in his ministry.
The introduction of this concept (integration of people with disabilities in the church) changed the mindset of the people in LECSA church when previously they thought disability was a burden to the church.
In Maseru LECSA members of the church with hearing impairment took the initiative of interpreting the church service for the deaf community. The organization of the National Association of the Deaf in Lesotho (NADL) made an agreement to provide an interpreter one Sunday of each month to interpret church service for the deaf. Several meetings were held to make this service a success. The committee members of NADL even made an offer to train two ministers in sign language.
In addition to creating awareness on the inclusion of people with disabilities in the church, to make it a “Church of All for ALL,” people with disabilities asked to take part in a church service at Qoaling LECSA, where they were welcomed with open arms, introduced to the church members, and participated in the service and reading of the Bible. Mrs. Mabataung Khetsi, the President of the organization of the blind named Lesotho National League of the Visually Impaired Persons (LNLVIP), read the bible in braille. The reading was done so well and people wondered how she could read so fluently using her fingers. The Minister’s sermon was done based on the reading of the bible and everybody marveled.
After the sermon people with disabilities were given chance to share their experiences. The first speaker, who was a blind person, indicated that some Visually Impaired People are members of the LECSA church but they are not catered for in terms of buildings and accessible materials, such as hymnals bibles and other reading materials which are neither in braille nor large print. As a result they miss church services. Worst of all, some children who are blind are deprived from attending Sunday schools because their parents refuse to let them when they come to church, for fear that they will be bullied. So the plea is that the church and its materials should be user-friendly to the blind and the partially sighted.
A person with physical disability was also given a chance to air his views. He indicated that people get physical disabilities in different ways. Some are born with physical disability while others acquire the disability. It is especially heart breaking if you acquired the disability, like having car accident, and you no longer have access church services. He specified that people with physical disability have similar thinking and reasoning power like any other person, yet they are deprived from taking part in church activities that should be open to all.
He said many children are deprived from attending school and church due to their disability, so he explained the importance of allowing children to attend Sunday schools and traditional schools because their presence in those institutions is important to the church and the country at large.
Lastly, the president, Mrs. Khetsi, told the congregation that LNLVIP are making a plea to LECSA church to include people with disabilities, to make the services, materials and buildings more accessible. She also hammered on the unacceptable names used for people with disabilities. She lastly thanked the Minister who allowed them to come and create awareness and promised to bring the Doctor they are working with in visual impairment next time so that he could examine the congregation free of charge to prevent blindness.