Hearts & Hope spends a lot of time sharing our successes on social media. We want our sponsors, donors and friends to know they are making a difference in Uganda and we want them to be a part of celebrating some of the good work being done.
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
There is no doubt that sponsoring a child through Hearts & Hope is a wonderful thing. Giving a child the opportunity to attend school – a child who otherwise might not ever have that chance. Developing a relationship with a child on the other side of the world. Letting them know you care for them and pray for them. Sending them small gifts in a sponsorship packet to show you are thinking about them. It’s all wonderful use of resources – your time, your money, and your love.
Our goal is for a sponsored student to move through primary and secondary or vocational school, maybe even university, and be able to support themselves and their family. To have a better life than the world has planned for them. And when that happens, it is glorious! We have seen it. Students who are now teaching in our Hearts & Hope schools or working on the Hearts & Hope staff. Students who are about to graduate and enter the medical field or the world of finance in Uganda. So much promise, because someone cared enough to be their sponsor.
But a program such as this isn’t without its painful moments. And our family recently experienced just that.
We have sponsored Matia in the village of Kamuli for almost 5 years. Last year, he was in P6 – the equivalent of 6th grade in the US. He had dreams of becoming a pilot someday and Mark and I were excited to be a part of helping him achieve that goal!
The Primary Sponsorship Coordinator sends updates on students to the US staff each month. Last month, we were saddened to hear that Matia had left the Hearts & Hope school in Kamuli. It happens sometimes – families move and kids either have to leave school completely or attend a different school. Or sometimes parents need students to remain at home – to help provide for the family or to care for younger siblings while the parents work. What a difficult decision for a parent to make! But our sponsorship of Matia ended.
Over the past 5 years, I have spent hours with him. I’ve met his family. I even received a live chicken as a gift from his mother! His pictures litter the side of our refrigerator and his most recent photo is in a frame in our family room. It’s hard to believe there won’t be any more photos; no more signs of him growing up.
We are sad but will always pray for Matia and his family. We pray that he does become a pilot and marries a sweet young lady someday and has a family of his own. We pray that he knows he is loved and that he always has food when he is hungry.
We will be assigned a new child to sponsor in Kamuli. There are always kids who need sponsorship and we are happy someone else will be given the opportunity to get a quality education at a Hearts & Hope school. We will love this child and support them, just like we did Matia. Their picture will be added to the refrigerator and we will gather items for their packet. But there will always be room in our hearts for both.
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.