By: Bethany Appleton Joseph, myLIFEspeaks’ Director of Special Needs Programming
Nikol is the mother of six boys. One of her sons, Mikerdo was referred to me (back when I was one of the Directors of LIFE Academy) by another local ministry because he was struggling in school. He has a cognitive delay and needed the extra intervention that LIFE Academy could provide. We quickly accepted him and he became part of one of our special needs classes at LIFE Academy.
We learned that Mikerdo’s mom, Nikol also had some special needs as well, cognitive delay and "bipolar-ish" type behavior. We began praying that Nikol would want to be a part of Bèl Ewo, myLIFEspeaks' Biblically-based support group for parents of children with special needs. We knew that this support group could help her immensely. Nikol decided to become a part of Bèl Ewo in 2018. She was always quiet and didn’t speak much during the meetings, but she sat and listened to others and seemed to enjoy having a “family” that accepted her as she was.
Nikol lives in a different village than Neply, called Konkrab, but during the COVID shutdown, Madanm Yves (Director of Bèl Ewo) and I still went to her village to visit her and pray with her. She was one of the first members to come back to Bèl Ewo program as soon as in-person meetings started back up again after COVID.
In February, two other members of Bèl Ewo that live in the same village as Nikol, came to Madanm Yves and I and said that Nikol had gotten very sick. The next week, as a group, Bèl Ewo went to visit her. We collected groceries and money to be able to help get her to a doctor. At that time, we did not know Nikol was HIV positive, but we quickly discovered this. I took her to doctor’s appointments and got her and brought her to the clinic when needed.
Since mentally she was not able to keep track of her HIV medication (they gave her six months worth), I would go visit her each week to check on her and get her the next week of medication. When I was in America, Madanm Yves was responsible for this. Nikol slowly started to get better each time I visited and the day after I got back from America, I was so glad to see she had strength and seemed positive and her body sores were clearing up.
I continued to visit her each week and sometimes additionally throughout the week when the car was available and I could get my husband or security to go with me. Nikol said that the HIV medication made her hungry and she was not able to provide enough food for her hunger. myLIFEspeaks offered to provide food that I could deliver to her to help.
When we first started helping Nikol, Bèl Ewo was all she had. She had neighbors and family in the village, but they didn’t want to help her because of how her behavior was sometimes. After watching Bèl Ewo take care of her and help her, I began to see others in the village help when we were unable to. One of the villagers said that if we hadn’t taken that initial step to speak up for Nikol when she couldn’t speak for herself, that the others would not have stepped up either.
Two weeks ago, I got a message from one of our members from the village where Nikol lived that said Nikol took a turn for the worse and was not doing well at all. She was able to get to the hospital the next day and Bèl Ewo had plans to visit her in the hospital for our meeting the next week. That next week never came.
On April 29th, 2021, four days after being admitted to the hospital, I received a message that God called her home. Bèl Ewo was heartbroken. We are a family and one of our family members was no longer with us. We are still dealing with grief from this, but we were able to travel to the funeral and burial together as a Bèl Ewo `family. LIFE Academy and Bèl Ewo made up a third of the total attendance at Nikol’s funeral. We took 14 people from LIFE Academy and 23 people from Bèl Ewo; again showing the villagers how loved and worthy she was. I feel like that speaks volumes for myLIFEspeaks and how we support people. In her village, Nikol was considered the “least” of these, but we showed her community members that she was a child of God and deserved friends/family to support her.
We miss her immensely, but are glad that she is completely healed and not suffering anymore. The following passage makes me think of Nikol and what myLIFEspeaks and Bèl Ewo was able to do for her to prove to others that they should be doing the same.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”