Not My Story

{this is an excerpt from the journal I kept while in Uganda; June 2015}


Today was so not about me or my team. We were told the plan was to go visit, and take supplies to a very impoverished family with special needs children. That description does not fit the heartbreak I felt and the desperation I sensed the moment we got out of our car. This is only a portion of this family’s story that I am able to write from what I witnessed this day. I wish that I knew the whole thing, yet at the same time, I don’t. Because if I did, I know it would rip me to pieces. But it deserves to be known. They deserve to tell their story, and have someone value what they’ve been through. One day, one of the children brought to Okoa, hopefully all six, will be able to rise up with hope in Jesus and tell their story. For now I will share what I know, and what Jesus has already done.

We arrived at their home with basically no back story. The family lives in a recently built house, but it’s completely void of belongings or anything that would make it resemble a home. When I walked in, there were two small children sitting on the floor, one noticeably older, although not much bigger. The mother and father were also very thin, and they all seemed a little overwhelmed by the group we brought with us, not to mention the crowd that was gathering in their front yard. White people in nice vans is not an everyday sight, especially not at this destitute family’s home. While Kintu (Okoa Refuge’s social worker) and the village chairman signed papers with the parents (accountability to ensure appropriate use of the aid they were about to receive) I had a few moments to take in my surroundings. Another NGO had built their house, but that’s essentially all they had. I was looking at two benches for furniture, and two very malnourished children on the floor. The older one has beautiful eyes that were curiously taking in the unexpected scene unfolding around him. But there was still an obvious lack in his beautiful eyes – lack of hope, lack of health, lack of mental acuteness. I soon came to find out that this small, naked boy scooting and crawling his way around the room was approximately 14 years old. I inhaled sharply when these words were quietly spoken by the missionary standing next to me – because this child couldn’t weigh more than 40lbs. The same missionary continued to inform me that the oldest child had just recently passed away at the young age of 16 because of a case of severe malnutrition, similar to the one right before my eyes. Also, there were 3 other children** that were not present. Such a large family, such extreme need.

IMG_2383{me trying to be a fly on the wall and observe the signing of the papers}

We made our way through the rooms of the house to clean them out, and what we saw – or rather the lack of what we saw – wasn’t computing in my stupid, westernized brain. This wasn’t even the first time I have witnessed poverty such as this, I was supposed to be prepared to understand this situation. But somehow, it broke me in a new way. I am thankful for this brokenness, though, for it’s absence would concern me. What we were affronted with was intense. A room full of feces – animal and human – and the knowledge that a sickly teenager lived their last days lying on the floor. A broken bed with a deteriorating mattress. No sign of food or a way to prepare it, and the fear of thinking about how long it had been since they ate. All of these things overwhelmed me; I remember forcing down the tears and trying to breathe through the tightening of my throat. Thoughts of frustration, confusion, sadness, hopelessness and anger at God were racing in my mind. I struggled to stay focused on the moment, and re-address those emotions later on.  We bathed the children, and put clean clothes on them. Who knows how long it had been since they had been clean, since they had soap and clothes? We needed to tell them there was Hope, and that it would last much longer than we would be at their house that day.

Kintu gathered them all together in the yard to give a member of our team the opportunity to share Jesus. The neighbors that were there also sat and listened to what we had to say, and they asked for prayer when given the opportunity. The Holy Spirit moved and we were able to pray over every person. We saw lots of healing – emotional, spiritual and physical. During this time, the children were seated against the house taking advantage of a stripe of shade. We walked over to them, and I had the translator explain that I was going to pray over them. While I was pleading with God on their behalf, with my eyes full of tears I looked at their faces. Their stone-still faces. I can still see the hopelessness they held in their eyes . . .

all of the children after being bathed and dressed in their new clothes. {all of the children after being bathed and dressed in their new clothes}

While all this was happening the oldest daughter returned home, holding her infant child. A teenager, she had been raped which resulted in this child. Unfortunately in a place like this, girls in this kind of situation are often targets for sexual abuse, then left to deal with the consequences in their already difficult situation. When she came and sat down I could feel how overwhelmed and exhausted she was. But the Holy Spirit allowed me to feel the Father’s compassionate heart for her and the child. When I sit at home and ask God to show me His heart, I never seem to remember that He may use a scenario like this one to do it. Sometimes I don’t even know if I can say that God is trying to “teach” me something by putting me through this kind of experience. I just know that I am broken. Again. And dramatically reminded that without Jesus, I have nothing. But with Him, somehow I have so much. I don’t have any reason why I took such care to remember the details of this day and write them down. Except that maybe it’s just like I said before, this family has a story and it deserves to be told. Not to receive pity, but to receive value as people that exist on this earth, to glorify Jesus because He is at work in their lives. Agnes, Maria, Joseph, Paul, their sister and her baby deserve to have a story; a story written by Jesus, and read by many through the ways they live their lives and pursue their dreams.

**Three of the six children came back to Okoa with us to stay temporarily, to attend school and give the parents more time to adequately care for the others.


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