Angelo's StoryRich Stigall
South Sudan’s hard-won independence has left its mark on this young nation. One bright African described the country’s challenges by observing, “There are no casava fields planted here…there are no banana stands along the roads.” Amidst this need, Sam (GO Africa’s Operations Manager) and our GO Africa team met a special boy named Angelo and wanted you to know him as well…
Angelo’s Story by Sam Roberts
At first glance, Peter Angelo looks like your everyday, happy-go-lucky 7-year-old boy without a care in the world. When we initially arrived at the boys’ home in The Father’s House in Torit, South Sudan, we went around giving fist bumps to the circle of boys. When we made it around to Angelo, he held out his open hand in our general direction ready to shake hands. The boy next to him saw the mismatch, helped contour Angelo’s hand into a fist, and then he happily reciprocated a fist bump, just like the others before him.
There’s more to Angelo’s reality than can be gathered from a playful greeting. He suffers from a visual impairment, only able to vaguely make out large shapes when the lighting is very bright. He was born with this condition. For all practical purposes, Angelo is blind, and he is not 7, as his small frame suggests. Rather he’s a 12-year-old boy from a little village in South Sudan, most likely undersized because of years of malnourishment. The only surviving family he knows of is his sister, who is just a few years older. She suffers from debilitating polio, yet she is the only caregiver he’s known for many years. Both of his parents are dead; his mother from a stomach illness, and his father was killed in tribal conflict. Angelo has more reason than most to complain and to protest living this life he finds himself in.
Yet, when you watch Angelo playing at The Father’s House, he is almost always right in the thick of things, surrounded by the other children. If there’s jealousy or resentment in this little boy, I can’t find it. When an adult addresses him, Angelo is articulate and respectful. A few weeks ago at church, when his pastor asked the entire congregation for one brave soul to summarize the previous week’s sermon, the pause dragged on, and it became clear that no one was going to speak. So it was little Angelo who stood up and answered the challenge – complete with scripture. When morning and evening prayer times are called by The Father’s House moms, it is Angelo who always leads.
When we polled each Father’s House child and the child’s respective guardian for background information for their personal files, Angelo had no guardian sitting next to him to help answer the questions we had to ask. Awful questions. Questions no adult should ever have to ask a little boy to answer. And answers so painful to voice, no young child should be asked to recall. Or to relive.
‘How did your mom die? ‘
‘How did your dad die?’
‘How old were you when they died?’
‘Do you have a home or anyone that can care for you in your village?’
No, Angelo, you do not. You told us so yourself.
But you do now. You do here. You have a mama that has only known you a few months but already thinks the world of you. And you have a Father in Heaven that looks at your life and is smiling. He sees you, not as a little undersized, unprivileged, blind boy, but He sees you and says, “Perfect. My design for Angelo is perfect.”
Others might look at Angelo and think God is unfair, unkind and unloving. They might say that He made a mistake.
But if you know Angelo, you know those are all lies, and more importantly, he knows better than to believe them. Ask any one of the children that spend their days with Angelo if they love him and feel loved by him. Ask any adult in Angelo’s company if they look at Angelo as a blessing and a joy to be around. Ask his pastor if Angelo has been anointed by God to be a living testimony to His refreshing goodness and grace for his entire congregation to witness, young and old alike.
Ask me, and I’ll tell you Angelo is a light. He is a reflection of Jesus Christ’s brilliant example of love and hope for all of us. This special little boy is an unexpected light that shines very brightly from the Torit Father’s House.
From a worldly perspective, it’s true. Angelo cannot see. But the rest of his little world cannot help but see the light in Angelo.