[dropcap]I[/dropcap] caught myself grumbling about something so petty a few days ago. A wave of shame splashed on me as I remembered an inspiring gentleman called Joshua Gidado. I was blown away the first time I heard and saw pictures of him. After calling Jos, Nigeria and talking to him on the phone, I remained in awe of the goodness of God and irritated at how ungrateful I was. Here was a man in an unimaginable condition praising God for His faithfulness. I was challenged and inspired. For more than forty years, Gidado didn’t feel the simple joy of walking on his own two feet, or being able to hold something in his hands. However, he was loved by all who knew him because of three things: his deep faith in God, he was an avid reader and a proud coach of a soccer team – composed of neighborhood boys that competed in state matches. He taught himself how to read even though he couldn’t hold a book by himself. Gidado was born with a rare disease called Osteogenesis imperfecta, more commonly known as brittle bones disease. His case was so severe from birth, that the bones in his arms and legs began breaking. No matter what precautions and medical attention his family gave him, the disease became more and more severe; causing further degeneration in his bone structure. His bones shrank and broke to the point that his extremities nearly became useless, rendering him unable to walk or sit. It was only after someone came up with the idea of providing Gidado with a handcrafted wooden wagon (measuring around four feet) to get around in that Gidado started to rise above his pain and misery. With the help of his family and friends who took Gidado where he needed to go, he made the most of a very delicate situation and lived a “normal life.” From a custom-made stand on his wagon he coached a soccer team, attended church, read books and maintained a heart of gratitude. His mother and brothers worked extra hard to keep Gidado healthy throughout his over forty years of life. Despite coming down with many serious illnesses such as malaria and pneumonia, he experienced good health most of the time. Aside from his family, others chipped in to help Gidado live a more comfortable life. Students from Hillcrest School in Jos, Nigeria donated their time and effort in creating an extra room in the family’s small house in order to give him more room. Tripp Johnson, author of the touching novel “Half a Body, Giant of a Man”, wrote about his life-changing encounter with Gidado when he went on a missions visit to Nigeria. He wrote about attending a meeting for 200 Christian leaders concerning an ongoing sports program, where Gidado was one of the first to arrive. Johnson was amazed to see Gidado getting around on his wagon.
He wrote of his heart wrenching experience about seeing Gidado, limbless and deformed, for the first time. However, he was deeply touched when he experienced the love and devotion that the young teenage boys who pulled Gidado’s wagon showed towards the man. They gave him assistance and mobility, going so far as to wipe the sweat off his brow and to hold the Bible up to his eyes so that he could read it. Amazed by what he saw, Johnson immediately took it upon himself to interview Gidado about his life, and the lives of the teenage boys around him. He learned that Gidado was the head of a sports program called Joshua’s Soccer Academy, where boys, aged 8-15, are taken under his wing and taught lessons in playing soccer. Gidado had hired an able-bodied coach alongside older boys from his neighborhood to teach the younger boys about soccer. At the end of each practice, he would gather all the boys around him and teach them about the word of God. He taught them about the love and purpose that Jesus can bring into their lives. What truly impressed and touched Johnson was the fact that Gidado, in his severely handicapped state, was able to bring God’s love and light to these young men through a sport that was completely out of Gidado’s reach. He never brought it upon himself to blame God about his condition; rather, he used his uniqueness to make an even deeper impact in the lives of others and helped spread the Word of God. Johnson and a friend were able to watch a practice session between Gidado and his beloved team. After hearing a message about love and compassion from Gidado, the boys gathered around him and presented him with a new soccer ball. Even the younger boys (those too small and young to be on Gidado’s team) crowded around him and held his hands to show their love and affection for him. Through Gidado’s story, Johnson was able to let go of his own fears and doubts when it came to his missionary work. Before meeting Gidado, Johnson was scared, confused and hesitant to leave his family behind (He has three teenage children) to go to a strange land to help spread the Word of God. When he met Gidado, however, he saw that the depth of passion and love in serving others and bringing the Word of God into their lives could overcome whatever personal trials and fears a person faces. Imagine a limbless, once illiterate person being able to coach a soccer team, and read a Bible, all in the name of letting people know that God loves them, and that their lives have a purpose under His great plan. Johnson watched Gidado, sitting immobile in his wagon, speaking clearly and loudly for everyone to hear. Gidado spoke about how God’s love can bring everyone closer together, and how they can work together to make a stronger, more loving community where everyone can uplift one another and bring God’s message of love and peace to other’s lives. There, Johnson saw how a mere physical shell could never stop a truly indomitable spirit from answering the call of God. I telephoned to do a follow up on Gidado recently and was told he had passed away after a brief illness. I was devastated so say the least but grateful for the opportunity to have known a great man like him. His life was a testament to his faith – something we all should strive for. He touched the lives of all those around him. He may have only had half a body, but he was certainly a giant of a man! May his gentle and precious soul continue to rest in perfect peace. Until next time, keep counting and naming your blessings one by one.(Photos by Hilary Shirsha and Dr. Mike Blyth). May Oyairo is the Publisher and Founder of MannaXPRESS.