Hope for "Dependents"Rich Stigall
The life of a pastor in Uganda is an eye opener. We’ve been in Lira, northern Uganda.
We arrived to find the pastor hosting us in mourning. He just learned his 6 year old “daughter” died. She drowned. Digging deeper, we learned it was actually his brother’s daughter. Culturally, he considers his niece his own child. That’s important because his brother and his wife are both “sick” (meaning they have AIDS). The pastor embraces that their children will one day be with him in his home – his children.
We had only a short time with the pastor before he left to prepare for the burial ceremony. In that short time at his home, we found he now has 22 children he’s caring for. 7 are his biological children. The rest are “dependants.” These are orphans from relatives or nearby friends. The burden of care has fallen to the pastor, and they are family. He does all he can for them. This is the way – reality.
Hearing this, we surveyed other church leaders in the room. Each one cares for dependants in their homes. One man has no biological children with his wife. They have 5 dependants.
Here’s the problem…
There are too many dependants who have no one like the pastor or other leaders in the room. This extended family system is beyond saturated. Consequently, children suffer and die.
This is where you all come into play, GO family. We work with churches to expand their capacity to care for the children at the bottom – the ones with no support network. We don’t take the dependents from the pastor’s house. In this cultural fabric, they should be with him. Rather, we help the local church reach those who have no one to be dependent upon.
In Lira, the church has started its ministry to these hurting children. The first 20 girls arrived in care in June. Malnourished, sickly, scared, they arrived alive. Praise God. The local church body has poured love into these girls in a simple and safe environment. The children go to school, many for the first time. That’s not easy. For example, a 9 year old girl is enrolled in what we’d call kindergarten. It’s not easy. But it’s good.
Local church leaders are spending time with the children, each day. It’s not just the children and the mommas, alone. That’s the beauty of the local church. This is an extended family that has grown.
One church leader, Tomali Okao, is in her 60s. Her husband was murdered by the Amin regime, and she raised 7 of her own children and the dependents God placed in her care. Tomali now embraces these children as her own. She bought 20 small pine tree saplings and planted them with the children behind their homes to grow with them. Tomali has hope for the kids, offers great wisdom to them, and shows her love in practical ways. Tomali and many others now have more dependents, more family members. They just need a little help to carry this burden. GO family, you’re providing that modest help.
And look what can happen… Here are a couple of clips of the girls at Lira, just 2+ months since they arrived filthy, hurting, and malnourished.
Don’t get me wrong. There are and will be many challenges with these girls. But Jesus is much bigger than our circumstances, and He provides many, like Tomali, to stand lovingly in the gap.
Just take a minute to celebrate this scene. The girls just got home from school. They’re playing. They’re laughing.
God is good.