There is an African adage that says, “When a blind man is happy he gives money to his child to buy kerosene for his lamp.” And in Matthew 15:14, the Lord Jesus Christ gave an analogy, implying that if a blind man leads another blind man, both shall fall into the ditch.
Lately, I’ve been chewing on these two proverbs, one given by One who does not merely have the wisdom of God, but who Himself is the wisdom of God; and another given down generation upon generation as a people’s treasured idiom. From these, I’ve learned a lifetime lesson.
As He does on many occasions, Jesus in Mathew 15:14 was using a physical illustration to make a spiritual point. The blind leader in His parable probably represents a false religious teacher, while the blind follower represents anyone who allows the false teacher to lead them. However, the blind man in the African proverb represents a wise man who even, though could not benefit from the light of a lamp, gives money to his son to buy kerosene and light the lamp for the child’s benefit. Take the example of education. How many poor fathers in Africa, and around the world for instance, who toil on their farms all day to raise school fees for their children? They literally sacrifice their joy and comfort to afford the same for their children, even though they may never live to reap the fruits of their labor.
As a leader, these two proverbs are sobering to me. Jesus warns me to seek sight before I can give sight to others. The African blind man teaches me to do what I can to empower others, especially the young generation, even though their empowerment may not directly benefit me. And I couldn’t help but think about one lady I recently met who almost perfectly fits this explanation.
Margareth Maganga: Empowering the Blind
Margareth Maganga is a 27 year old Tanzanian lawyer, who despite her blindness, is empowering blind children in her country to have vision – to be the best they can be. I met Ms. Maganga at a leadership training course in which both of us were fellows. At first sight, it didn’t appear to me that she was visually impaired. The confident gait in her strides did not tell otherwise. She wore a serene smile. And there was this becoming bundle of curly hair that caressed her burly shoulder. In fact, I didn’t take notice of anything that called for ‘special attention,’ save for her extravagant beauty; until she missed a step in my presence, in broad daylight, which made me take a second look at her.
Then, for the first time in a week, I noticed a camouflaged struggle in her pace. I realized that, tacked behind her dark golden glasses, are a pair of short eyes. Yet, she doesn’t cause a scene about it. I could not help but admire her composure. She made me want to find out her story, which she allowed me to share with the world.
Ms. Maganga’s story is one of an epic journey of hopeful hope; of courageous courage; and of faithful faith. Of course she was not born blind. She simply grew up naturally whole, going to school or church, and doing all the things children do as they grow up. She had dreams like any other child. She wanted to become an air hostess–a dream that was never to be, thanks to a devastating attack on her sight at the age of 18, which left her blind.
On the dreadful day, Margareth had just returned from a church youth conference in Taiwan. While she was in Taiwan, she felt sick, and went to the hospital with a terrible migraine. The doctor said she was anemic and needed an urgent blood transfusion. However, she could not undergo the process because she was travelling back home to Tanzania the following day.
She returned home to Musoma (Northwest Tanzania), where she was born, dragging along like her traveler’s bag, suffering the same terrible headache. The following morning, her mother took her to a local hospital. She was immediately referred to Muhimbili, the national hospital in Dar es Salaam, where she went through some medical examination and was allowed to go home, but advised to return to the hospital the following day. Her mother took her to rest in a hotel room to await the following day’s second trip to Muhimbili.
She went to bed as usual, the headache still hanging on her like a dark gloomy cloud. Being a Christian family, her parents took the time to pray and ask relatives and friends to pray with them. The following morning, her mother came to awake her for she had slept in a little longer than usual. It was already 8:00 a.m. when she heard a knock on the door. She lazily lifted her head off the pillow and wondered who could be knocking at her door when it was still dark. Her mother called out, asking why she was not up yet.
“But mum it’s still dark!” She wondered.
“What do you mean dark?” Her mother retorted, storming into the room since it was not locked. “It’s already 8:00 a.m., please wake up, my daughter, we must get to hospital now in order to beat the queue,” she pleaded.
But it was still dark! She could not see a thing! And just like that, Margareth Maganga, had simply gone blind! She tried to open her eyes wider, but it was in vain. Without warning, she had gone blind. She rubbed her eyes sore, but that, too, did not help.
Her mother broke down. She could not take it in, watching helplessly as her daughter struggled to regain her sight. She was crying. The two were crying. It was too painful to bear. Margareth was astounded. She didn’t know what to do, wondering what happened with her eyes. She was devastated. The mother led her by the hand downstairs to where her dad was waiting. He too was extremely perplexed to see his daughter led by the hand. It never occurred to him that the headache could turn out to be so devastating on her daughter.
However, Margareth’s parents were wise enough to turn to God–the source of all solace.
“They cried to God like babies,” Margreth quips, smiling broadly. “And am so thankful they did,” she adds.
When doctors at Muhimbili could not salvage the situation, Margreth’s parents turned to a private eye clinic owned by a British doctor, in Dar es Salaam, who finally shed some light to the answers-seeking truth-thirsty parents. “There was high blood pressure in the brain causing optic nerves to swell,” the doctor explained. He advised that Margareth should be flown to the United States of America for urgent specialized treatment.
By the grace of God, she regained her sight partially after a successful operation at the University of Massachusetts Hospital and returned home.
“It was a miracle; nothing else,” Margareth says. “God sent friends and relatives who supported us sacrificially. In fact one person paid my hospital bill in Dar es Salaam before I was flown to America, and to date we don’t know who it was,” she adds.
Five months after the operation, another miracle happened. She successfully applied and joined the Leeds University in the United Kingdom to study Law. And she has since graduated, having successfully completed her Law degree course.
Margereth says what happened to her, and the miraculous way God moved in her life, was a wakeup call. She says her experience may have hindered her physical eyes, but her spiritual eyes received more vision. She has indeed recently founded the Margareth Maganga Hope for the Blind foundation to help visually impaired children to access education and pursue their dreams. She says she could never have done this if she had not gone through the ordeal of losing her eyesight.
Her foundation is currently supporting 17 children at the Mwisenge School of the blind. The foundation supports the school with equipment and renovation of classrooms and other basics, such as uniforms for the children. Her long-term plan is to build a social extra-curricular center for the visually impaired children to enjoy other recreational and sporting activities.
Another miracle added to Ms Maganga’s life is that she has penned and published an autobiography depicting her fight against blindness. She says the proceeds from the book go towards supporting the social activities of her foundation. She is appealing to people and institutions of good will to support her foundation to reach out to many other visually impaired children in Tanzania and beyond, to give them an opportunity to access education, and be the best they can be in life.