he nurses cared for him for five years. He bled a lot at his birth as his umbilical cord was not treated and he suffered severe brain and bodily damage. The nurses could not find a place that would care for him and just kept him in the ward.
In 1997 a house opened its doors in Harare with the express aim of welcoming mentally disabled people and offering them as near a normal home as possible. The people who run l’Arche, as it is called – the Ark of Noah, a place of refuge and hope – want to create a ‘family’ for people who have been abandoned for one reason or another or whose own family just cannot cope.
The aim is not just to provide the basics of life – food, shelter, medical care, etc, – but to create a place where the handicapped can develop their own unique gifts. So everyone at l’Arche shares in the buying, gardening, candle making, cooking, washing and cleaning, etc. Gradually the handicapped people discover friendship and security and they begin to open up and to blossom. They begin to share their gifts and can have a profound effect on those who come to live with them.
In the all night pungwe for Moses speaker after speaker spoke of the effect of this little boy on their lives. He could not speak or do anything for himself but he related to people in a powerful way. People spoke of how they came to l’Arche a bit sad that all they could find was a job with these handicapped people. Some felt angry and frustrated and the pay was little. But gradually over time if they learnt to stop and take time in relating to Moses something amazing would happen.
It was obvious he had no interest in those who passed by and said, ‘Hi Mosi! Uri bho?’ And moved on. They just got a vacant stare. But if someone stopped, and tried to ‘learn his language,’ gradually their lives were touched. Moses taught us a lot about relating to people and in doing so he taught us about relating to Jesus. This ‘useless’ little guy did a great deal in his 14 years!
L’Arche was founded in France in 1964 by Jean Vanier, a French Canadian who had been in the navy and had also taught philosophy in Toronto. He was 35 and despite what he had already achieved in life he knew he was called to more. Now 77, he often speaks of how he found what he searched for with two disabled people, Raphael and Philippe, in the village of Trosly, 100 km north of Paris. He welcomed them into a little house he had bought. Over time others joined him and new communities were formed.
Today, 42 years later, there are some 120 communities of l’Arche worldwide (www.larche.org). Jean travels a good deal and has been to Zimbabwe four times in the past twenty five years. In his talks he has often mentioned Moses and in the World Youth Day in Canada in 2002 before thousands of young people he gave the full story. Yesterday we buried an international star.
We have just buried Moses. Actually it was the second time he was buried. The first time was in 1992 in a forest near Chinhoyi. His unknown mother must have panicked on the day of his birth and half buried him in a remote spot. A passer by heard his cries and took him to Chinhoyi hospital where t