“I was diagnosed with Waardenburg Syndrome at 1 year old, which causes my deafness. I also have blue eyes and white hair,” said Divina Pitalbo. In addition to her deafness, she uses crutches when walking and relies on only one hand.
“When Divina was almost three years old, she crossed the street without realizing a slow-moving school van was honking to warn her. Being deaf, she was hit by the van and hospitalized,” said Erlinda Pitalbo, Divina’s mother. “Because of the injuries, a doctor suggested surgery, but it carried a risk of leaving her in a vegetative state. It became harder for her to walk as she grew up. At the age of 13, we decided to use crutches.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 6 people globally live with a significant disability, which may include dementia, blindness, loss of a limb, or paralysis. On Dec. 3, 2023, nations around the world will observe the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, instituted by the United Nations in 1992 to “promote an understanding of disability issues.”
The WHO explains that “health inequities arise from unfair conditions faced by persons with disabilities, including stigma, discrimination, poverty, exclusion from education and employment, and barriers faced in the health system itself.”
“Sadly, the neglect of disabled persons is nothing new,” said Seth Nono, spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Western Visayas. “The Bible reveals that, even thousands of years ago, those with disabilities were exploited and abused. But, out of love for these disadvantaged ones, God made it illegal to mistreat them. What is more, he encouraged his people to act compassionately. True worshippers of God today strive to do the same.”
The global education work of Jehovah’s Witnesses highlights the Bible’s message of hope for a future when disabilities will be no more.
“In paradise, my disabilities will be gone. Thinking about God’s promises give me hope and comfort,” said Divina, who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “In 2011, I started studying the Bible. I learned about God’s promise found in Revelation 21:4 which says that ‘pain will be no more.’ Even up to this day, I can still happily remember how it touched my heart.”
More than just preaching about a better future, Jehovah’s Witnesses also offer practical suggestions on how to endure successfully with disabilities now. Visitors to jw.org, their official website, can consult a vast library of resources in a section titled “Coping with Disabilities.” Among other information, it contains numerous online articles and videos featuring persons who have found purpose in life despite being disabled. For example, In the video “Living by Touch”, James, who was born deaf and later went blind, expressed, “Finding out who my Creator is, and that I can have a relationship with him, gave my life a sense of purpose. I feel like I’ve gained much more than I ever lost.”
Divina added, “I love the article “Living with Chronic Illness: Can the Bible Help?’ and the music video ‘You Will See!’ They remind me to turn to Jehovah through prayer during tough times, knowing he listens and helps. The music video is special as it encourages staying positive amid challenges and patiently awaiting hope for Paradise Earth.”
The public is invited to visit jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses. All content is free, and no registration is required.