It was Thursday, and it was the best day I have had in a long time. It was a beautiful day spending time with my fiancé, running into old familiar faces in the neighborhood, learning Luganda with a friend who is more like family, meeting a new friend and getting to take beautiful Vanessa to meet a physical therapist.
Vanessa is a sweet seven year old girl who is suffering from cerebral palsy. One day Godfrey (my fiancé) was out in town running some errands when he stopped in for some lunch at a little hole in the wall restaurant…this phrase is much more literal here in Uganda! His attention was drawn to behind the counter where Vanessa was laying on her inch thick “mattress” unable to speak or move due to her deformities. Her mother told Godfrey that she was a single mother raising five children including Vanessa, four who are biologically hers and one niece who lost both of her parents. Her husband left her after Vanessa, the last born, became sick. Here in Uganda witchcraft is still very prevalent and people can see having something like cerebral palsy as a curse, being bewitched. This is why Vanessa’s father abandoned his family. Godfrey called me at work to tell me about this girl (Vanessa) he thought I needed to meet. When Godfrey calls me at work I know it’s something serious. The last time he called me at work it was to tell me about the perfect house he had found for Suubi House, two weeks later we moved in! So, I knew it was something to be taken seriously.
A few weeks prior to Godfrey meeting Vanessa we had gotten the news that a friend from home was going to sponsor “the banana boy,” Charles. We went to the place he was living to tell him the great news but he was nowhere to be found. The “aunt” told us she had sent him back to the village and she had no way of getting in touch with them. We asked for a phone number and she replied with “no one there has a phone.” This was clearly a lie because everyone, from the city to the deepest village in Uganda, has a phone. We tried many attempts at getting the information from her but she wouldn’t budge. What could we do? I was happy to know that at least now Charles was living with a family member and wasn’t being forced to walk miles upon miles each day to sell bananas to make this woman a few dollars a month. But we were left with all of Charles’ sponsorship money… so what now?
It was my turn to meet Vanessa. We hopped on bodas (motorcycle taxis) to head to the small restaurant where Vanessa lives with her mom and siblings. I was greeted by mom, Florence, with a huge smile on her beautiful round face. They lead me into the one-roomed building and behind the counter was Vanessa. I think she was confused as to why all her siblings and mom had crowded into the house with such excitement but she also greeted us with a smile. She lied in her usual position on the floor, one arm stretched out unwilling to bend and legs crossed over one another unwilling to straighten. Momma Florence told me the story. They had been to hospital after hospital but without money no treatment could take place. She showed me pictures of Vanessa when she was younger and the difference was astonishing. She used to look like a normal healthy little girl. She was so desperately in need of medical treatment and physical therapy. I remembered the money that was left after things with Charles had fallen through and immediately knew what it should be used for.
It’s Thursday and the day has come for Vanessa, her mom and I to meet with a physical therapist to work on a plan for Vanessa’s treatment. Dr. Peter walks into the small clinic and sits down with us to examine Vanessa. Because she lies in the same position everyday with no physical or mental stimulation her condition continues to worsen. “If it continues like this she will be brain dead very soon,” these words from Dr .Peter hit me like a ton a bricks. Momma Florence is working so hard to provide for her family but comes up short every time. How can she pay for rent, food, school fees and medical bills when she is the only one working and also make enough time in the day to spend time giving Vanessa the care and attention that will determine life or death? We left the clinic after arranging that he will meet Vanessa at our house on Thursday evenings to get her started with some physical therapy.
After my long beautiful Thursday I came home tired and joyful, filled to the brim with hope. And then it happened. One of those moments when you realize every situation you’ve been through, every struggle you’ve endured makes sense, that God has been working out His will in your life when you couldn’t see or understand it ,that His grace is sufficient and His mercy really is new every morning. Clarity. Finally, after all this time in Uganda, after every project I had tried and failed at, after so many nights filled with tears over the fact that there was an undeniable purpose for me being in Uganda but never fulfilling it, finally I had clarity. Suubi House is meant for the hopeless children and families affected by disease and disability.
There are many others just like Vanessa, children in desperate need for someone to pick them off the floor and play with them, to exercise not only their muscles but also their brains. They need to breathe fresh air, listen to music, splash in water and play with friends. Some may have loving families and others might have families who think they are cursed, but they all need HOPE (suubi). Suubi House will be a day program where these kids come to get the care and attention they need and a place where parents can get training on how to better care for their children. We will play with them, sing with them, fill our bellies with them, learn and grow with them and pray with them. In the evenings Suubi House will still be used as a community house to hold things like youth group, discipleship programs and worship nights.
There have been days where I look back at the time I have spent in Uganda and wonder if anything has progressed, have we really gotten anywhere? God has been moving and working in ways I never understood but I can now see how far we have really come. Please pray with me as God continues to work all things together for His glory. There are still many difficulties to walk through before this can become a reality but as they say here, God is good all the time, and all the time that is his nature! January 2014 is our goal date to start this program J
Financial provision- in order to make this happen I will need to quit my job at the international school. This will mean I have NO personal support. My God is a big God!
Volunteers- we can’t do this thing alone. Please pray that God brings the perfect people to come alongside and work with us at Suubi House.
HOPE- pray that God would continue filling us with His hope that never disappoints.
Sarah Mae Bowman