This won’t be an easy post to read. It’s even harder to write.
Jeff and I walked from the church…
through crowds of cute…
beside and across streams flowing with more waste than water…
through the narrow passages of the Katwe slum…
to Sarah’s house. Last door on the right.
Home for this family of five is a five feet square concrete box. Sarah sat on the floor with her back against the wall, a little one named Ezra sleeping pantless beside her. An old blue metal toolbox served as a makeshift love seat for Dirisa and me.
He’s eleven and one of the 256 kids receiving nutrition, education, healthcare and the gospel through Compassion child development center UG561 – or Full Gospel Nsambya Church as it’s known in the neighborhood. This is how Compassion International successfully releases children from poverty in twenty-six countries around the world.
But it’s not working all that well for this family. Theirs is not a success story.
After her third child was born, Sarah’s husband abandoned her.
There was rent to pay, food to buy, sick kids to care for. Public schooling for one child would cost a third of the average slum income. But she had no income, so she turned to the church a short walk away — to Compassion.
After Dirisa was accepted into the Compassion program, things were looking up for Sarah’s family. But Compassion didn’t take care of all her needs – choosing to partner with Sarah in raising her children, not create dependence. Sarah needed to do her part to support her family.
So Sarah created a business selling merchandise on the streets. But her roadside concessions were just a cover for her prostitution. She sold herself night after night as her boys slept alone back home. One night, men robbed the house while Sarah was working, stealing mattresses and bedding and food provided by Compassion.
Sarah’s business was shutdown by the authorities, her merchandise confiscated, her financial investment lost. Pregnant with a fourth child. Her body infected with HIV.
Compassion provided her with ARVs, medicine to prevent the virus from infecting her unborn child. Ezra entered the world healthy but Sarah, not knowing how she could feed another little one, wanted “to leave him in the bushes.” Then she heard about an American who would buy her baby and put him up for adoption in the U.S. Compassion intervened, promising to enroll Ezra in their programs too. She would not have to raise him alone.
Meanwhile, Dirisa was kicked out of school after school for cutting class. He joined a neighborhood gang that sold drugs and stole from the community. “The gangs take the small ones when they are brave,” a Compassion worker said. “Then they are lost.”
This month Sarah says she can’t pay her rent. Soon she’ll be booted from her home. And it isn’t the first time.
$38 buys a child the opportunity to succeed. But there are choices to be made.
God placed Adam and Eve in abundance, walked and talked with them daily, fed them, met their every need. But then they chose…
And we still choose.
Given every opportunity, we get to choose.
A boy given books and food and faith and medicine gets to choose the kind of man he will become.
A mother given four children, a home, and so much support gets to choose the kind of mother she will be.
A blog reader with $38 gets to choose what kind of person they will be.
Sarah and Dirisa are choosing better lately. She’s enrolled in Compassion-created parenting classes. A social worker visits her home regularly to pray with her and give her wise counsel. She taking her HIV medicine every day and has stopped selling her body. Compassion found a school that would be patient with Dirisa, find a way to get him interested in learning – and he is. Mom proudly spread his schoolwork out on the floor for us to see. And because of all the hours he spends at school and the Compassion center, Dirisa doesn’t have time for the gang anymore.
These are small improvements. Theirs is not a success story yet. But there are still a lot of choices to be made.
Choose to give a child choices. Sponsor a child.
Don’t forget about all the great stories, pictures and videos from Uganda over at Emily’s, Jeff’s, Joy’s and Myquillyn’s. They’re tired in every way and wondering sometimes if anyone’s out there reading along so a kind word from you would sure help a lot. Thanks.