Her father’s people wanted to kill her because she was different
18-year-old Grace is a happy girl. Born without legs and with only one fully developed arm, nothing can stop her in this world.
Grace doesn’t see her disability as a limiting factor. Her smile is captivating and her laughter is infectious. She believes she can achieve anything she sets her mind on and her mother Birasasira, agrees with her.
When Birasasira had her daughter Grace, she was thankful to God for blessing her with a child even though she had a disability.
These two have become an unstoppable force and have powerful testimonies. Together this courageous mum and daughter have faced death threats, harrowing grief and homelessness.
Their strength and relentless faith is compelling and challenging. They look back on the last 18 years of Grace’s life and simply give thanks to God for His provision.
It is sad that Birasasira’s acceptance of her daughter Grace wasn’t shared by the wider family. When they heard of Grace’s condition, Birasasira’s in-laws were quick to reject the beautiful new-born because in their community in rural Rwanda, physical difference is viewed with suspicion.
After Grace’s birth, their rejection became more extreme.They demanded that Grace be killed because she was a bad omen that could affect the whole family. But Birasasira and her husband refused to kill their child.
The young couple vowed to do everything in their power to protect her. But as the days went by, family pressures grew. Grace’s uncles began to threaten to murder her father if he did not kill his daughter.
Birasasira suspects that what happened next was a follow through on that threat. Grace’s loving and devoted father was murdered during a break in at a neighbour’s house where he was working as a security guard.
Mourning the loss of her husband, Birasasira took the bold decision to flee from Rwanda to Uganda with Grace and her four other children. With no land and no home she began working long hours to feed her large family.
Despite having travelled across the border they still faced danger: Birasasira’s husband had family in Uganda too. They insisted that no child with Grace’s disability could belong to their line. The death threats continued.
But things suddenly changed for the relentless mother and daughter when they met Betty, a local village leader and asked for her help and protection.
Joining Betty’s family was a blessing for Grace and her whole family. Her authority provided protection and she quickly helped Grace to enrol in the local Compassion project. Grace’s sponsor was critical in easing the family’s heavy burden.
“When Grace was registered, they paid for her school fees and bought her a school uniform, wheel chair and medicine,” says Birasasira. “When she fell sick, she was admitted at Mengo Hospital and Compassion took care of all the bills. They also bought her books, a mattress, and clothes. Without Compassion, all my children would be home with me. I would not have managed to pay for their education.”
For the first time in years, Birasasira and Grace felt safe.
Grace is a thriving teenager thanks to the support she has received over the years from her mum, Betty and the team at her project.
“I used to ask myself why God created me like this. I would ask my mum, ‘Am I your child or am I not.’ She would say ‘yes’ but I would just sit there and watch other children my age play. But then one day Uncle Masaba [at the project] was preaching and he was talking about believing in ourselves. He told us God loves us. He encouraged us. I was so touched. Afterward he came and talked to me and said not to cry or be lonely. I was set free in my heart.”
Today, Grace is an eloquent and outgoing 18-year-old. She’s passionate about educating others and speaking out against disability discrimination.
One of her biggest dreams is to meet speaker, author and Compassion Ambassador Nick Vujicic.
“I used to think I was the only disabled child in the world,” she says. “But now I know God has plans for me. The reason God created me like this is to make a beautiful story.”