Presentation By Bartum N. Kulah, MD
Guest Speaker at the International Christian Fellowship Ministries’ 2015 Diversity & Inclusion celebration
On May 24, 2015
For Liberia to overcome its dysfunctional nature, we must “Find A Need And Fill It”.
As we celebrate this Disability Sunday I ask that you all please keep my father-n-law in your prayers. He suffered a stroke 2 weeks ago and is currently at Kindred Hospital, a Long Term Acute Care facility in Atlanta.
I would like to thank Rev. Dr. William B.G.K. Harris for giving me this opportunity to say a few words to the Church. I express special thanks to Rev. Harris for being there for me and my family; and for Ministering to me.
This is my second time being asked to bring the message at International Christian Fellowship Church. In 1993, I spoke at a Youth Program, when my wife served as the Youth Minister at the time. My speech was titled “Now is the Time, or The time is now!” At the time, I spoke to a nation that was at war, and asked that we wake up and do away with our differences in order to build a better Liberia. It was based on the theme from the Bible verse Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 - “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under the sun….”
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen!
Our message today is titled:
“Find A Need and Fill It”. It is based on the following scripture readings:
I would like to lay emphasis on Verses 8 & 10
Verse 8: But the officer said, “Lord I’m not good enough for you to come into my house. Just give the order, and my servant will get well.
Verse 10: Then Jesus said to the officer, “You may go home now. Your faith has made it happen.” At once his servant was healed. (That’s Faith and Determination)
And finally Matthew 25:31-40; my daughter Jordan calls this our Christian character verse.
I would like to emphasize verses 35-40.
Verse 35: When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me.”
Verse 37: Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, “When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger, or give you clothes to wear, or visit while you were sick or in jail?”
Verse 40: The king will answer, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed (the least of these, the masses) you did it for me.” (That’s Christian character or Action, being Christ-like).
Find a need and Fill it!
The Webster dictionary Defines DISABLED as: incapacitated by illness or injury; also: physically or mentally impaired in a way that substantially limits activity especially in relation to employment or education. For example, Unum Provident Insurance Company, which was contracted by Memorial Health University Medical Center to cover its Physicians, has designated me as Totally Permanently Disabled till 2071; 100 years from my date of birth.
In the case of Liberia as a nation; an able-bodied individual or an inanimate object, let's apply this definition of Disabled: to make incapable or ineffective; especially: to deprive of moral or intellectual strength. For example, I saw a car disabled by the roadside. That lady has a spiritual disability that’s affecting her life in an adverse way. Finally, Liberia is a disabled nation as a result of a 14-year civil war. Since then the available have become eminent, because the eminent are no longer available.
What is common about disabilities is that something is dysfunctional while other parts are working or whole. For example you see individuals well dressed and physically well, but inside there are demons raging, Spiritual disability.
Disabilities can be described as Physical disabilities (paralysis, stroke); Learning disabilities (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia) and Developmental disabilities (autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, spina bifida). We all have encountered people with physical disabilities (myself), learning disabilities (dyslexia), or developmental disabilities (autism).
What do Liberians think; these people want out of life?
Well, according to an excerpt from a book “Home, Sweet Home” written by Susan L. Babin:
“People with disabilities want the same basic things out of life; a decent and comfortable place to call home, something meaningful to do during the day, some close friends with whom to share the good times, and from whom we receive support in difficult times, and the opportunity to make our own decisions about things that will affect our personal lives.”
Now that we have discussed the obvious disabilities, let’s move on and talk about the spiritual, emotional and moral disabilities; those things that hamper a nation and its people. The gossiping, the storytelling/lying, keeping trouble going, corruption, nepotism, cronyism, tribalism, classicism, selfishness, marginalization, etc.
How many of us realize that an entire nation; run exclusively by able-bodied people, can be disabled/dysfunctional?
How many of us realize that people, who are physically healthy, can be disabled spiritually?
Yes indeed it can happen!
Before we consider some of the things that have handicapped our nation; let’s consider some of the positives about Liberians as a people.
Liberians are the most kind, gracious, caring, loving, and the most hospitable people. We will take in strangers; we will feed you and house you. We in the Diaspora always come together in times of trouble and raise thousands of dollars to bury people. We have a unique culture with some positives that we must continue to uphold. However there are negatives that we as a people must let go, if we are to overcome our dysfunctional nature.
Fellow Liberians, I want to go a step further and state that disabilities can affect a nation; and a people, if they happen to be deprived of moral or intellectual strength. That’s moral disabilities (corruption and lack of ethical behavior); and intellectual disabilities in our case, a brain drain.
What do I mean by that? Well, if a nation is morally bankrupt; and has suffered a brain drain, as in the case of Liberia; then I submit to you that nation is Disabled.
A nation that has failed its poor; its sick, its hungry, its children, its prisoners, its elderly, its orphans, its disabled, its people, the masses (“the least of these”) since 1847; is a sick nation; a disabled nation, a dysfunctional nation.
Indeed a nation that is professed to be built on Christian principles; but has lived less than Christ-like (killing 250,000 of its own people in a senseless war), is a Disabled nation.
Liberia is a nation endowed with vast mineral resources, but yet it continues to beg from the International community, especially from Uncle Sam. Liberia is a nation endowed with the world’s largest deposits of iron ore, and other precious metals, as well as exotic timber, and 320 miles of pristine coastline, but its people live on less than a dollar a day; that my brothers and sisters constitutes a disabled nation.
A nation that has multiple PHDs, MDs, JurisDs from UCLA, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Oxford and MIT; but yet can’t put forth a presidential candidate that’s an alternative to a celebrity, a football player, is a Disabled nation.
A nation with all the big, big book people from yester-years and today; but has no systems, no home addresses, no credit system, no mechanized farming, has a poor educational system, a poor health-care delivery system, people are still using hand pumps and pit latrines, there is no road network, and the nation is constantly in turmoil and disorder; that indeed is a Disabled/dysfunctional nation.
Some would argue that we were a progressive nation prior to the coup, and had the coup not happened Liberia would be light years ahead. I submit you that Liberia was disabled then!
Let’s examine that for a moment.
Our MCSS was funded and conceived by USAID; our airport and seaport was built by the Americans for their use during the World Wars, JFK was built and funded by the US, our roads and railways extended from Monrovia to the mines at LAMCO and Bong Mines. We had 5,000 telephone subscribers in a nation of 2 million, 2 radio stations: ELBC and ELWA, and all the businesses were owned by a handful of those in power, along with their cronies, their friends and their family members, and some Lebanese and Indians. It was “So say one, so say all”. They ran an entire nation out of a Masonic lodge.
There was only One Party, the TWP (the Grand ole Party). Hut taxes, taxation without representation. Houses, businesses, multipurpose buildings, farms and zoos were built with government money; and then leased back to government, with proceeds going in the pockets of big-shots. Those big-shots left the building of schools and hospitals in the rural areas to the mercy of American missionaries; while they sent their children abroad to the best schools, and they visited the States and England for medical care.
My fellow Liberians, I submit to you that we had a nation then, and we have a nation now; where the powerful believe that the wealth of the nation belongs to only them, their relatives and their inner circle. That kind of nation is a selfish nation, a morally, spiritually and intellectually disabled or dysfunctional nation.
However, in the midst of all of these shortcomings, there is hope. There is hope that a new and conscious generation will rise above our moral and intellectual bankruptcy.
Yes, all is not doom and gloom. For just as the Lord Jesus defeated death, and rose again; we as a nation that claim to be founded on Christian principles, can overcome our disabilities, our shortcomings, our dysfunction, and all those things that are not Christ-like, and Liberia and its people can rise again.
In order for our nation to overcome its disabilities, dysfunctional nature and for you to overcome your disabilities; there are three principles you must apply to your day to day living.
Yes my brothers and sisters, I challenge and encourage you to utilize these three principles in order to overcome our disabilities as individuals and as a nation;
1. Through prayers, using Christ as our anchor and strength- for indeed we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
2. Through faith and determination-- like the Centurion who believed that Christ would heal his servant from a distance, “Your faith has made it happen”.
3. Through Christ-like action or Christian character- “for as much as you have done it to the least of these (our people), you have done it to Christ”.
Find A Need And fill It!
In my own life I have had to overcome a disability using those three principles. I have a physical disability as a result of a roll-over auto accident. In fact, I had to learn how to walk all over again. Although I lost the use of my left hand, somehow I was able to compensate and do things with my right hand. In all of my ordeals, I give God the glory for a strong and supportive wife, as well as my biological family, my church family, and the Liberian Community.
I had help and support both emotionally and otherwise. There was ICU care, rehab, physical and occupational therapies, advanced orthopedics, neuro-surgery, vascular surgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery, wound care, psychiatry, Pain Management, the Mayo Clinic, etc. Thank God for the United States. Only God knows where I would be, or how I would have been treated had this happened back home.
1. I had the prayers of an entire Community that sustained me (through prayers, using Christ as an anchor). Whenever it was time to remove the wound vac, wearing the Taylor spatial frame, undergoing another x-fix surgery, 30 plus surgeries, etc. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, was my go to verse.
2. I was in a wheelchair for 6 months, but I had faith and was determined to walk again, and to be a productive citizen. Through Faith and Determination like the Centurion who believed it would happen from a distance, my faith made it happen.
3. After I recovered, I took the initiative to get another degree, and get involved in the health care delivery system of Liberia. As [a] result I started consulting with people at JFK and with Physicians here in the U.S. I helped coordinate efforts to bring a burn victim to Shriners hospital in Boston. I took a Psychiatrist to Liberia. I raised funds to save an infant with an imperforate anus. (Through those Christ-like actions, I Found A Need And Filled It).
Through those actions, and my continued involvement in health care delivery in Liberia; I have been able to overcome my own adversity, while thinking about how I can make life better for others (the masses). Indeed I have been able to do all these things through the strength I received, from my faith in Christ. I was determined to overcome; I took what was meant for bad, and channeled it through my involvement (action) with those less fortunate (the least of these, the masses) in Liberia.
That brings me to the question! What are we doing to help our people in Liberia, who happen to fall in those categories of disability? For example, my mother-in-law opened a school for kids with autism, and Down syndrome called Healthpage Liberia. It happens to be the first of its kind in the entire nation since 1847. Do you really think we haven’t had kids with developmental disabilities in Liberia for the past 168 years? What did we do with these people?
Yes Liberians, if we are to overcome our disabilities/dysfunctions as a nation, then we must all get involved; Find A Need And Fill It. It is no longer the people thing; it is our thing. We should now become the missionaries and Peace Corps volunteers we encountered growing up in Liberia.
Therefore I am calling on all of us in this Church, under the sound of my voice, or reading this transcript, to find a way to overcome our disabilities; the dysfunctional ways at which we look at our brothers and sisters who are both healthy and disabled. Indeed, Liberians have not always treated each other right. We fight each other and backbite, and we discriminate for the most mundane reasons.
I encourage you to overcome whatever is holding you back from being a true Christian and start practicing the true meaning of what it means to be Christ-like. When you've done it, I encourage you to go a step further; find a way to be a true patriot, help the people in Liberia that need your help to overcome their spiritual, moral, intellectual, physical, mental and learning disabilities. Yes my brothers and sisters, I am asking you to help the nation of Liberia overcome its dysfunctional nature.
You can start a campaign to help send wheel chairs; or probably you can take a team of physical therapists, or send used crutches to Liberia. Moreover, you could help train nurses, or CNAs back home. Perhaps you could volunteer to teach in our schools or start a business, and help put our people to work. In addition, you could help teach our people about morals and ethics, which could go a long way in dealing with the issue of corruption and other vices in our society. My 10 year old son is collecting soccer cleats and balls for the poor kids of Liberia who play football (soccer) barefooted, or play with lemon or “gangah” ball (made out of latex debris). Find a cause to join; donate money or your time.
Fellow Liberians it’s a plea, and a challenge. I ask you to Find A Need And Fill It!
Matthew Chapter 8 verses 5-13 speak about Jesus healing a man of palsy or paralysis. In fact, the Bible speaks extensively about Jesus healing the sick and calls for Christians to be involved in healing the sick and catering to the disabled; the poor, the elderly, the least of these in society. As a result, most of the private hospitals in Liberia were established by missionaries. But somehow Liberia as a nation lost touch with its Christian roots. As a nation, at times our behavior has not been Christ-like at all. We have not cared for the least of these (the masses); instead, we have discriminated against each other on tribal lines, skin color (mulatto against house slaves; feeling superior to blacks that dark, or what is referred to as field slaves) - manifested as faired skin Americo-Liberians, who feel superior to the darker skinned, Up-river Americo-Liberians. The discrimination is based on how we became Liberians; whether you were repatriated by the ACS, or repatriated at sea (Congo). As a nation we have come up short, when we look at how we treat each other; how we treat the sick, the poor, the elderly, and the disabled.
We as a people tend to look down upon those with disabilities. We tend to ascribe everything to witch craft for being cursed, or say that person must have done something wrong to be like the way he/she is. For example,
"He had that accident because he's too frisky; his eyes too plentay, or he’s too arrogant. Someone swear him/witch him; bad luck followed him, it's his father/mother swear that catch him; it’s his baby ma bad luck that followed him. Enh, he in wheelchair now; we will see how he will bluff! All the bluffing finish now”, etc.
Grown men and women will attack someone and call him/her crippled or all sorts of names; only because the person expressed a political opinion different from theirs. The name calling on our radio-stations by government officials, and opposition alike must stop. It’s time for Liberians to grow up! We have to restore order in a dysfunctional nation.
As a people we tend to see outspoken people as frisky. Those who stand for truth and justice automatically become our enemy; we ostracize them.
That mindset is a handicap/disability because it hinders progress and development; it makes a nation morally and intellectually bankrupt. Thus I would say we as a nation and people are disabled because of the way We Think.
We need a paradigm shift!
Science ascribes physical disabilities to birth defects; polio, accidents, lesions in the spinal cord or brachial plexus, strokes are caused by lesions in the brain, or by thrombosis or ischemia; developmental disabilities to chromosomal abnormalities; and learning disabilities to Broca’s, Wiernickes or some area of the brain that deals with the input, storage, integration and output of information. In essence there is an explanation that has absolutely nothing to do with witchcraft.
Let’s juxtapose our thinking to those of our counterparts in the United States. They know that “life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21); so what did they do? They went from calling those with physical and mental disabilities: Crippled to handicapped or disabled; Mentally Retarded is now referred to as special needs.
The U.S. has set up a system where the disabled receive Medicare and SSI. There are training programs and jobs for the disabled; schools and workshop-training for individuals with mental disability. They have a welfare system that provides food, housing and medical cares for the poor. Their educational system is free through High School, and it provides quality education to all without regard to socio-economic status. This nation leaves no one behind. They looked after ALL of God’s people. That’s Christ-like behavior; that’s a nation that reflects its Christian principles in its policies.
What have we as Liberians done? We are still in the habit of referring to our disabled brothers and sisters as crippled. And will even use it as an insult: "look at his cripple self". Instead of ensuring that mental health is priority in a post-war nation; we have Grant Hospital (an In-patient Psychiatric facility on Duport Road that is now being used in place of Catherine Mills that no longer exists), which barely caters to our mentally ill. Most of the mentally ill are left to roam about the communities, instead of being hospitalized or treated. Our kids are fond of taunting “crazy Mary” or “crazy Susanah”.
What does that tell you about how we see each other?
Furthermore, our nation has continued to leave our disabled brothers and sisters behind. The plight of the disabled in Liberia is pathetic; they are reduced to beggars, they practically crawl on the ground, and I recall when I was in High school my classmate who was physically disabled had to climb 4 stairs with wooden crutches; there was absolutely no provisions for the disabled then, or now!
Quite recently the President of Liberia gave certain Ministries the option of employing a hand full of disabled people. There is no law that requires them to hire folks with disabilities, or to make provisions for those with disabilities. You can forget about handicap parking, or wheelchair ramps, or schools for kids with developmental delays. The Group of 77 that should cater to the disabled seems to serve no purpose other than putting money in the pockets of bureaucrats.
What does that say about us as a nation?
That brings me to the current debate in Liberia. They are trying to put forth an amendment to the constitution to designate Liberia a Christian nation. The argument is that Liberia was founded on Christian principles. Some believe it’s a means to ensure that Muslims do not get a holiday. My response to that is, Liberia has been morally Disabled/Dysfunctional since its founding, and instead of being designated a Christian nation, it should be designated a Hypocritical nation!
Now you may wonder why the son of Bishop Arthur F. Kulah saying such a thing. Well, the bible says: "Thou shalt not steal”. Yet corruption is rampant, and 13 individuals were put on the poles; shot to death for rampant corruption in the1980s. Doe and his PRC that toppled the corrupt TWP government became more corrupt than those they toppled for corruption. Taylor, who was a member of Doe’s government, was accused of corruption; he fled but later returned to unseat Doe. This time he was liberating us from corruption and tyranny, but he became more corrupt and more dictatorial. That brings me to our present government, whose leader spoke against corruption, nepotism and cronyism. Unfortunately for us, this government has been dogged by one corruption scandal after another; $800,000 “allegedly” stolen at the port, $13million meant for maternal health, disappeared and somehow “reappeared”, $5million for Ebola squandered with no head or tail. Interestingly enough, all of these leaders belong to the Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran or Episcopal Church. A hypocritical nation, a Disabled nation!
Individuals from the Diaspora have not shown anything different. We have a number of individuals using their titles, their professions, eloquence and continued references to God, as a means of manipulating our people. They claim they went to Liberia to fight corruption but only started recording folks when their hand was caught in the cookie jar. Indeed a Hypocritical nation!
The bible says "Thou shalt not kill", but ritualistic killings was common, and we killed each other for 14 years in a senseless war. The Bible says “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, but all of our “Christian” government officials and private citizens have girlfriends all over the place.
The Bible speaks of caring for the least of these (the masses), our elderly, our poor, our prisoners, our disabled, our sick, our widows, our orphan; but go and look at our prisons, look at our health care system, it is a mess; while our government officials and their family members travel to the U.S. for medical checkup, treatment or to give birth. Our educational system is a mess, while government officials either have their kids here going to school, or have all sent them here. This has always been the case since 1847. So I submit to you that Liberia should be designated a Hypocritical nation not a Christian nation. Liberia is a disabled nation that is morally bankrupt!
Therefore my brothers and sisters I challenge you to go out and help save our nation. Help our nation overcome its moral, and Spiritual Disability; its moral and intellectual bankruptcy.
I ask that you help Liberia overcome its disabilities; you can overcome yours by
1. Praying for Liberia so that we will be able to use Christ as our anchor and strength; for indeed, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”
2. That we will rely on our faith and determination like the Centurion who believed that Christ would heal his servant from a distance. Our faith can make it happen.
And finally, that we will -
3. Employ Christ-like action to serve those that are in need (the masses); “for indeed for as much as you have done it to the least of these you have done it to Christ”.
Find A Need And Fill It!
God bless you and God bless Liberia!
About The Author: Bartum N. Kulah, MD, MBA is CEO of Preferred Health Care Solutions, Atlanta, Georgia. He is a Healthcare Advocate. In 2009, he received LIHEDE’s Humanitarian Service Award for his advocacy in promoting and providing humanitarian assistance to Liberians through healthcare delivery services. Dr. Kulah lives in Grayson, Georgia with his family. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org