Sometimes, though, there are sad stories. Information that hurts. Reports we receive that shake us to our core. We hear things that make us question "why?" But always, there are answers that come, even if they aren't always they answers we want. The following is my personal account of such a story:
During our most recent trip to Uganda, we were privileged to be a part of a huge celebration - the school dedication in Ishongororo. The day was full of joy, celebration, and the promise of a brighter future for so many families. A school where kids can receive a quality education is a life-changing addition to a community. This school is going to give that opportunity to kids who might not otherwise be able to go to ANY school. At Ishongororo Lutheran Primary School, they will receive an education where they will also hear about Jesus. It is a beautiful gift to the area!
During the celebratory speeches and entertainment, I was pulled away by Violet, our good friend and associate in Uganda. She explained that a woman had shown up with a very sick child and was asking if she could meet with me so that I could pray for her son who was ill. We went to an area outside the crowd to learn more about this family.
Violet did her best to translate (there is a different dialect in this area that she was not as familiar with) and explained that the boy was HIV-positive and was having complications. It was clear to see he was in trouble; his ankles and chest were swollen and his breathing was shallow and rapid. His gaze was cloudy and the whites of his eyes were yellowed. The mother had no money to go to a clinic and most likely, the boy would not receive treatment there, even if they could afford transport.
We talked with Justus, the Hearts & Hope Project Coordinator in the southwest region, about finding someone to take the boy and his mother to a hospital. I found Pastor Dan, from Immanuel Lutheran in Brookfield, to share the story with him, since they partner with the congregation connected to this school. We agreed that the worship leader in the congregation would take funds donated by Hearts & Hope and Immanuel to get the boy to the hospital.
I held the boy's hand and prayed for him and his family. I struggled with what exactly to pray for. Healing? Comfort? Good doctors? A smooth ride to the hospital? Food for the family? I almost didn't know where to start. So many needs for one small boy. But I trusted God knew the needs and so I prayed for all those thing, plus comfort for the mother as she worried about her son, much like any mother would.
We gave some funds to Justus to provide for transport and one night in the local clinic for diagnosis. We promised to follow up in the coming days.
He later confirmed that the boy was admitted and tests were run. Fluid had built up on the boy's lungs and he was given medication; we were never told what type. Pastor Dan provided some more funds before he left to continue treatment for the boy.
We heard nothing more until two weeks after our return. Justus had gone to visit the family and found the worst news - the boy had passed away.
My heart was broken. That's not the way this story was supposed to end. He needed help and we thought we had given it. But he was simply too weak to defeat all the horrific things that were ravaging his little body.
I thought about his mother - how devastated she must be. As much as my heart hurt, how much more pain was she feeling? Not only was she living in extreme poverty where she couldn't provide any basic necessities for her family, but now she must deal with all the agony and heartache of losing a child.
Late last week, I received some more news from Justus. The family had contacted him and asked to meet with Benson, the local Lutheran pastor. Pastor Benson made several visits to the family and they asked to join the Lutheran church. Today, they were all baptized. A happy ending? Not entirely but there is much rejoicing knowing that this family knows more about how much Jesus loves them and that He will never leave them - even in the darkest times.
And so, it's another story from Hearts & Hope. Not the one I expected to share, but it IS the story. I am thankful that God's kingdom grew by 5 today. Please join me in continuing to pray for the family as they mourn the loss of a child and grow in their faith. And thanks for listening to the Hearts & Hope stories - all of them.
Hearts & Hope for Uganda