As many of you may remember, I had the opportunity to intern with One4Another for about 6 months back in 2015. I am so grateful that God has led me back to Jinja for a second time. It has been so refreshing to be back in Uganda again and I have especially loved being able to reconnect with many beautiful faces I have missed so dearly.
The following story is just one of many personal examples of the way in which God has been beautifully shaping and equipping me for His Kingdom during the time I have spent serving here in Southern Uganda.
It only took a second; a second for a small spark to cause a kerosene lamp to catch aflame. It only took a second; for the cotton dress of 5 year old, Gift, to burst into flame….and it only took a second to cause third degree burns all across little Gift’s neck, chest, arms and back.
Now, 5 months later, after an extensive surgery to remobilize her right arm and countless hours of treatment to heal her aching wounds, Gift now shows signs of restored life.
Regularly, Gift and her family members travel a significant distance via both taxi-van and motorcycle taxi to the St. James Orthopaedic Clinic to receive treatment. The first day that I met little Gift, she arrived with her mother, who had her infant son tied tightly to her back. Gift held an obvious deadness in her eyes, knowing that she was about to have her wounds dressed once again…a process that often involves applying antibiotics to the wounds. Gifts petite body remained stiff from both fear and the many bandages that seemed to swallow her upper body.
As a nurse began removing the old gauze, she wailed in discomfort, clearly traumatized by her past experiences and current stinging pain. Her mother, who had now begun to move closer to the bed where Gift lay, left her son (who I had now been informed was called Elia) sitting helplessly on the bed beside them. As the mother approached, I slowly moved closer to the baby…..partially so that I could make space for Gift to feel comforted by her mom, and partially because the 1 year old was moving dangerously close to the edge of the tall medical bed.
As I walked over to Elia, I suddenly noticed that his lips were quivering and his body was shaking. The baby was staring rather ‘deer in the headlights‘ at his sister’s bleeding wounds. Tears welled up in his innocent, dark eyes. Despite the unpleasantly soggy cloth wrapped loosely around his groin, I picked him up and turned his little round head the opposite direction of his older sister.
My coworker also noticed the baby’s sadness and slowly leaned over to me. He whispered ‘the brother sees Gift crying and feels sorry for her…it’s like they have a connection.’ I responded, ‘Yes, that is true…..he doesn’t even understand what is happening, yet he sees that his sister in pain, so he cries for her.’
It was only as the little man sorrowfully set his head upon my shoulder, that it dawned on me: this baby…this one and a half year old INFANT…. had just taught me an important life lesson.
Sometimes, I really cannot understand why God has led me to Uganda. More broadly, I often feel lost and unsure about the plans He has for my life; or even why certain life complications seem to stand in the way of living out my calling as a child of Christ. Yet, I bear a strong sense of compassion for the injustices in the world. Agony and abuse that has come from the brokenness in this sinful world has always been a heavy weight on my heart. Much like this young child compassionately cried for his sister, I don’t know why there is so much pain in the world or why I feel so called to act upon these injustices, but what I do know is that I want to weep and lament alongside those who are pain. And I SHOULD. We all should.
I looked down again at baby Elia’s loving face as he remained in that somber, tearful state: lips quivering, eyebrows furrowed. His sadness only subsided when his older sister was finished with her bandage changes. I sent both of them home with lots of hugs and ‘sweeties.’
After the procedure was finished, Gift’s mother smiled and thanked us. As I look back on this situation, I’ve now realized that I really owe Gift’s family a much greater ‘thank you’ than they gave to me. Gift’s bravery and her brother’s tender soul touched my heart. The experience has reminded me that even though God’s calling for me may seem difficult or confusing at times, this complicated life journey that I am trekking is a gift from God. I may not always totally understand all of the details, but it is important that I continue to mourn alongside those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.