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Bringing Joy to the World

In many African villages, the spirits of superstition are carried through generations of families, gripping their lives and imprisoning them in a satanic web.  Only the knowledge and power of the Holy Spirit can release these people from such savage beliefs.  Many times, when a deformed child is born in a village, the parents are marked by the villagers as cursed and they burn down the family’s home.  When a
defective child is born in the village and the neighbors question whether or not evil spirits have cursed the family in that hut, the family with the newborn are driven out of the village.  The simplest solution for some families is found by taking the disabled infant to the bush and allowing the wild creatures to devour it.  This is the epitome of Satanic influence.

Bowembo, a charming, handsome Ugandan man in his late thirties (himself severely crippled by Polio) served the Minister of the Disabled for Uganda, Honorable Florence Nyiga Ssekabira.  Bowembo’s job is to locate the physically and mentally handicapped children who are removed from society by their families.  By keeping his ear to the ground, so to speak, he can listen to rumors and gossip throughout the villages and is thus able to discover these marginalized disabled people.  Fatima, a mother in one of those villages, gave birth to a baby girl with cerebral palsy.  She had a hut built behind her home in which she could keep the child hidden from the neighbors.  That child lived in that hut for two years before we learned about her.

The compassion that God implanted in Mike’s heart for disabled people constantly urged him to seek out these discarded people.  God always provided the network and web by which he could discover them, though he lived on the other side of the world.  Because he knew Honorable Florence and Bowembo who worked with Honorable Florence, Mike then had access to these situations. So one day Mike and Bowembo went to visit Fatima.  Mike describes the trip as one where they started on a street and eventually the street became a lane and then eventually the lane became a path and then the path went into knee high grasses.  Mike and Bowembo were aided by Honorable Florence’s driver Herman and body guard David who helped them to walk from the car to the hut.  The relationship between Honorable’s body guard, driver and us was always affable, genuine and warm.  When the drive told Mike that he had diabetes also, Mike checked his blood sugar.  It was over 700.  Mike said, “No wonder you always feel so rotten.”  Herman died the next year.

When Mike came to visit his friends in Africa, he brought the joy of the Lord.  It was evident in his face, in his body language, his speech, and his outstretched arms.  Even as Mike was dying in his last few days, the way he reached people was with his outstretched hand. It was all he could do.  He couldn’t communicate in any way.  When the hospital workers who collected the soiled linens and emptied the
garbage cans and mopped the floor, came into his room, the first thing he did was put out his extended arm to them.  That was my cue to say, “Mike wants to tell you something.  He wants to say how much he appreciates your hard work and how it helps him.  But most of all, he wants to say that Jesus loves you.”  They always came over and took his hand.  It was this same gesture of reaching out that Mike extended in the village that day to Fatima and her family.

After initial greetings to Fatima and her two teenage daughters, Mike asked if he could see her baby.  The mother went to get the child from the hut and Mike asked her to put the little girl in his lap.  In the 90 degree weather, he was surprised to find that the child was ice cold.  Straw and mud huts are very well insulated and remain cool, even when the sun is at its zenith.  And this location was zero
degrees latitude, directly on the equator.  Mike asked, “Fatima, do you ever bring this baby into the sun light to get warmed?”  Her reply was, “No.”  With the passion and concern that only Jesus can plant in your heart, Mike told the family, “God has brought me all the way from around the world in America to tell you that this child is a very special child of God.  She was created in God’s image.  The very breath she breathes is God-breathed.  This child needs to be brought out in the sunlight physically, mentally and spiritually.  She needs to meet people and be touched by friends and be smiled to and spoken to by passersby.  She must be treated like she is the most important baby in the world.  Because that’s what  she is—a precious gift from God.”

Mike explained that though the child had severe deficits, she had potential and it was this family’s responsibility to help her grow in a healthy environment.  Keeping her hidden in a hut was not healthy. Fatima had two teenage girls who were so bright and cheerful, helpful and responsive to Mike’s questions and concerns, that when Mike asked Fatima (a Muslim woman) if she had ever accepted Jesus as her savior, the two big sisters replied, “We are Christians.”  Fatima responded, “No, I am a Muslim.”  The family group asked Mike if they could sing songs for him to show their appreciation for his coming to their village.  “Of course,” Mike responded.  Bowembo spoke softly into Mike’s ear to translate the words from Luganda into English.  The songs were about Jesus!  After the singing, Mike said to Fatima, “Fatima, when you sing about Jesus, your face just lights up.  Imagine what would happen if you had Jesus in your heart?  Would you like to ask Jesus into your heart today?”  Fatima quickly replied, “Oh yes, please!”  So with Bowembo’s interpretations, Mike led Fatima through the sinner’s prayer.  When finished, Mike said, “I understand that when Muslims become Christians, they change their names.  Is this true?  May I choose a new name for you?”  Fatima heartily accepted that idea.  Mike said, “I’d like to name you-- Joy.”  The sisters and the mother all agreed that was a wonderful name.  Bibles written in their own language were given to each family member.  The two girls excitedly said that now that they had their very own Bibles, they could have their own Bible study class.

Four weeks later, upon arriving home in America, we received a hand written letter, beautifully composed in English by the oldest daughter, Sarah.  It stated that Joy was a changed person and a different mother.  Not only did she remove the child from the hut, but she daily walked around the village to show the child to the neighbors and get a good dose of Vitamin D at the same time.  A repeated request from Joy to her village friends was that they address her by her new name.  The daughters reported that they have their own Bible study every day.

God, please give Joy and her children the strength to continue to grow in your Word and be lighthouses to their village.  Thank you, amen.

Isaiah 55:12  For ye shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

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