The pungent stench of urine assaulted Norita’s senses even before she stepped into the dimly lit room. The shocking scene appalled her.
“I saw children huddled together in freezing cold rooms, urine soaked pajamas, and matchstick thin,” Norita remembers.
“Children older than two years were tied into metal cribs too small for them. Children covered in vomit and feces. Children screaming and moaning in pain. Children left unattended and totally uncared for. Children who, according to the orphanage director, didn’t feel anything, ‘because they are handicapped’.”
Of the 400 children at the orphanage, most were disabled. A surprising 95% actually had families, but their mothers and fathers abandoned them due to economic hardship, despair or shame. Cultural and religious beliefs labeled the children as “cursed by God”. In spite of the dreadful conditions, the orphanage had a waiting list of 3,000 families with children who suffer from disabilities to get in.
To have a visible disability in Turkey is shameful. “You won’t see these people on the street unless they are gypsy beggars,” says Norita. Estimates say that 15-17% of the total population has a disability. With 73 million living in Turkey, the numbers are daunting. “But never more so,” Norita continues, “than when you have looked in on the hellhole where they have been warehoused in conditions worse than farm animals.”
Norita was deeply grieved. Her glimpse into the life of disabled children in Turkey instilled a burning desire to bring change.
In prayer one night, Norita was overcome with a feeling of abject loneliness and desolation. “I began to sob. I hurt so much,” she says. “Then, in my mind’s eye, I saw the children in the wards, and it was as if I were feeling and experiencing what they felt. I became one of them. But soon I understood that God was speaking to me. These sobs, these cries, were birthed out of the broken heart of my Heavenly Father.”
After several minutes of deep crying, the desolate sensation passed. Norita had a vision. “I saw a large grassy area with trees and animals and smiling children sitting there. There were adults there, too, whom I identified as parents and caregivers. All were sitting together in little groups enjoying the sunshine and the fresh breeze.”
“You are to do this,” Norita sensed God saying. “Nothing is impossible. Just trust me.” The Kardelen ministry was born.
Working together with a local church, her husband’s wheelchair production business, and volunteers from churches in America and Europe, Norita formed a team to serve in Jesus’ name the poorest and most rejected of society.
Since 1998, compassionate support from friends like you has provided visitation, training, medicine, wheelchairs, relational support and love-filled social events for disabled children and their families. Kardelen’s “love in action” approach shares the love of Jesus Christ in practical ways that provide safety, comfort and in-home care to children in need.