by Richard Stephens on October 30, 2017
Salubeni Leni Moves About on One Leg
It was Sunday morning and we were a long way from Lilongwe. In fact, we were closer to the Zambian border than the capital of Malawi. Our journey had taken us toward Zambia on M-12, and then 16 kilometers north along an exhausting, teeth jarring, pothole packed, dirt road to the Dzama church service. We were among the first to arrive in the only motorized vehicle, but as though our car had set off some sort of community alarm the congregation began to fill the building. By the time the service started more than 200 people filled about half of the new structure.
As I finished speaking to the congregation I walked to the right side of the audience to find a seat. A distinguished looking gentleman smiled at me and I decided to sit next to him. He somehow seemed to stand out in the crowd, even with only one leg. Perhaps his distinguished appearance, a look that seemed to say, “Here is a special person,” or “This is a person I would like to know better,” or even, “Wish I had more time to get to know this person.”
I later learned, from the tribal chief in the area, that Salubeni Leni was the key person responsible for the establishment of this congregation in 1980. “He is hard working, well respected and does a lot for the community,” the chief said about Salubeni.
A Short Meeting
We asked him if we could visit with him. “Yes,” he said in very good English. It was evident he was both surprised, and pleased to be sorted out of the crowd by the visitors from America. We went outside and sat down on the ground. Wilson started taking notes.
“How did this happen,” I asked, pointing to his knee and the empty place below it.
“It was just last October,” he began. “I got a small cut on my leg. As I did not have any medication, nor did they have anything at the nearest hospital to help me so it got an infection. The doctor did a bad job treating it, and I had to go back and they amputated my leg as you see it.” I sensed no animosity in his voice through had it been me I would have been bitter and resentful. For him it was just a statement of fact.
He looked at me with a big smile, as though describing a good experience, and then he continued, “I get around with my crutches, but they hurt my arms and it becomes very difficult to go very far.”
Mobility for You
Then we explained why were we wanted to talk with him. Wilson told him we had a mobility unit in our southern warehouse, and he would bring it to him the following week. Salubeni smiled, and then laughed as though trying to gain the time to grasp what had just been said. He turned and in very good English, said to me, “You are my brother.” I thought for a minute about the TV commercial of a number of years ago; One boy carrying another on his back, then looking toward the camera and saying, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”