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Even without arms or legs, art is her expression of love



Minda Cox, born without arms and legs, works on a watercolor portrait. Cox is a native of India but was eventually adopted and is now a student at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo.

BOLIVAR, Mo. (BP) — In 1988, a baby named Swapna was born without arms or legs in India, a country where women with disabilities have little control over their lives.

That same year, Cathy Cox took a trip to India.

Cox previously had read in a newsletter from a children’s home about a 7-month-old girl abandoned at birth. She called a social worker friend in India who knew of Swapna through an adoption agency in Bangalore called Ashraya’s.

“I saw her on her cot in her room,” Cox recounted. “She smiled at me at first, then burst into tears when I came near.”

Twenty-two months later Swapna arrived in the United States. She had been given a new name, Minda Catherine Deenaz Cox, partly named after her Indian social worker. Although Cathy Cox previously had adopted four other children, Minda is the one child named after her mother. Minda is her most visibly disabled child.

Cox began homeschooling Minda, teaching her to take care of herself despite her missing limbs. Before long it became clear the girl had a special gift.

“She started coloring by holding a marker in between her shoulder and chin at a young age. Then I found some art in her backpack when she was in the fourth grade,” Cox said.

Now 20, she still has that gift and passion. “I cannot run ... but my artwork can do all that,” Minda said.

As a non-degree student at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., Minda and her art teacher, Emily Frost, put on art exhibits. One of her recent exhibits was called “The Spirit of Watercolor.” Although Minda works from her electric wheelchair, she has discovered that art is an act of freedom.

“Freedom is a gift not to be abused,” Minda said. “I try to make beauty and truth visible to the eye as well as the heart. It is also an act of worship, no matter how small, and therefore it should show us what God is really like and what God sees when He looks at us.”

Last December Minda and Cox, along with Frost, took a trip to India where she visited her biological family. The family knew she had been adopted but had not seen her since they left her at an orphanage when they couldn’t take care of her.

It was something that Minda had been dreaming of her entire life. She was led to Kolekebailu, a village in the Udupi district where her father, Shankar Shetty, was a shop owner.

With deep gratitude, Kalavathi, Minda’s Indian mother, held Cox close and tearfully said, “I never thought I would see her. I might have given birth to her. You gave her life.”

“Art has always been my passion, although it has only been within the last three years that I have had a teacher who believed that I could paint despite my disability,” Minda said. “Everything I want to do and cannot do with my body, art does for me and in me.”

Emily Crutcher writes for The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.