Sunday afternoon I returned home from a four hour church service, exhausted and somewhat disturbed. I was hit by the reality of the intense spiritual warfare in Africa. But, I’ve seen God’s power here in a way that is rarely seen back home. It was a reminder that our struggle is not in the physical but in the spiritual, no matter where we are.
After some lunch and rest, I decided to ride to town with Carolina to get some water at the supermarket. Four and a half hours later we were sitting in the dark in a hospital parking lot with in a van that wouldn’t start. We ended up laughing, wondering how a quick trip to the market ended up taking so long.
Here’s the story in between: On the way to the town, Carolina asked our driver to drop us at Mbale Regional Hospital so we could visit a child there. The boy had been brought by the police to Bugobero Health Center, an hour down the road. The staff at Bugobero referred him to Mbale Regional because his case was too severe to handle there.
When we arrived at the hospital, Carolina’s friend Christine filled us in on his story. The boy’s name is Brian and his mother tried to kill him. She wrapped up something similar to rat poison inside of a piece of food and gave it to him to eat. Then, she left and went to Kenya. Brian, age 11, was found alone on the side of the road, so the police took him to the health center. He has no known family, and had been living on his own for a while after his mother left. When Christine (who works at Bugobero) found out about the boy’s situation, she identified a gentleman named Alex from a local church who offered to travel with Brian from Bugobero Health Center to Mbale Regional. (Children must have a care giver with them while in the hospital). Additionally, some of the kids at the local church got together and contributed some money toward the effort to save Brian’s life.
When we arrived at Mbale Regional, it took us a while to track down Brian. We finally found him with Alex waiting in one of the wards. Brian was in bad shape. He was obviously in terrible pain and looked extremely malnourished. We went with Alex, carrying Brian, to a separate building across the street from the hospital for some tests to find out more about his condition. Initial scans didn’t provide much information, but a blood test did confirm that he had Typhoid. Just another problem on top of whatever was going on with his stomach, which was giving him the most pain. The boy was on the verge of death, so the best thing was to take him to a private hospital so he could be monitored closely. The sad reality is that the government hospitals here are under staffed and over occupied. A private hospital is expensive, but is a better option for special cases like Brian’s.
After admitting Brian to Mount Elgon Hospital, we made sure he was settled and under a doctor’s care and then hopped in the van, exhausted and ready to go home. That’s when the van refused to start. We called our driver, Wandera who ran down to help us and quickly had us on our way. We finally made it back home feeling confident that the prayers we prayed over Brian and the care that he was receiving would give him life again.
Since Sunday, we’ve been visiting Brian to check on his progress and help provide a wash basin, food, and a change of clothes. In Ugandan hospitals, the caregiver or family member is responsible for cooking food and bathing the patients. There’s no meal service, shower rooms, or hospital gowns provided. Alex is still with Brian, patiently caring for him as one of God’s children. They barely know each other, but the bond they’ve developed over the past few days is evident.
Today more lab tests confirmed two more conditions that are contributing to his stomach pain, but each day Brian has been showing visible signs of improvement. Today, he even smiled! Looking at Brian, it’s hard not to wonder what’s going on in his mind. He knows his mother didn’t love him and didn’t want him. He knows he doesn’t have any other family to count on. He’s probably confused about all the white people who show up every day to look at him. When they discharge him from the hospital, he knows he doesn’t have anywhere to go. He has nobody to love him and care for him. At 11 years old, Brian has been through more life experience than many adults, and he’s never even spent a day in a school classroom. He told us today that he wants to go to school now. At least that’s a sign that there’s hope in his heart.
We don’t know what will happen to Brian once he is sent back to his village. All we can do is pray that when he is returned to the police, they will find someone from his extended family. If not, we can recommend an orphanage for him stay in. I’d like to have some sort of assurance that this boy will be taken care of, but in a country like Uganda, there’s no way to be sure. All we can do is pray for him. You ask, how could a mother want to kill her own child? I can’t answer that one, but the Bible says there is One who never forgets.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…”
– Isaiah 49:15-16
I will continue to post updates on Brian’s story, and plan to share a photo of him when he is smiling and well again!
In other news: The team from my home church arrived safely today, I’m so happy to have them here for a month’s worth of adventures!