NKOKONJERU A home for children who nobody wants
Saturday, June 4, 2011 at 11:08PM
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Situated in southern Uganda, Nkokoenjeru (white chicken) , is a very special place to the children that no one else will take in.  Local nuns love and care for this band of “refuse” the least among us.  They are blessed to be able to serve these children.  Originated by Irish Catholics many years ago, this compound has operated for many years, anonymous to the world and the rest of Uganda, but well known to the heart of God.

July 2, 2008 Marie H. Meaney

Our story begins in a remote village in Uganda where we can see that a young boy named Godfrey scoots along the well worn path.  Embedded in calluses of his knuckles and elbows is the deep red Ugandan earth.  Repeated crawling out to the main path has worn down the skin and formed a dried crackled finish on his forearms.  Godfrey can use only his upper body to drag the torso and legs.  Born 12 years ago with cerebral palsy, he is unable to use his legs.  Only a close assessment of his intellect would reveal the extent of his cognitive dysfunction.

The anticipated joy of his birth by the parents was abruptly halted as he arrived in the world, a defective child.  Was this disappointment the result of a curse on his parents, or was this an evil omen for the villagers to address.  When handicapped children are born in Africa, they are many times taken deep into the bush and left for the elements and animals to devour.  In Godfrey’s case his parents built a special tiny hut/shelter just for him.  This way they could still carry on in their own hut as if everything was normal.

A mother’s gentle heart reached out daily to feed the child, being careful to keep his existence a secret.  As Godfrey grew she was his only companion. His father died of AIDS and his mother was now HIV positive.  The only social contact Godfrey had was with his mother and she taught him to sing many simple African songs.  While other children in the village were attending the local school, Godfrey’s only education was what she could offer him.  Lacking the stimulation of social contact and the resulting language development, music was the only seemingly evident joy in his life.

And now, at age 12, with his mother dead he is on his own to survive.  Without her daily attention to his needs it seems hopeless.  The deterioration of Godfrey’s well-being, is quickly spiraling downward.  But every morning early in the day when the air is cool and fresh and the people are heading out to work in the fields and the children are finding their ways to collect water and then proceed to school, Godfrey lay on the road and sang.

No one knows how many hundreds or thousands of people walked past him, not seeing or wanting to see him, but occasionally one person would stop and give him some sustenance, a mango, a passion fruit, banana, or piece of bread.  In the grand scheme of God’s grace one individual, as in the Good Samaritan, reported this young boy’s predicament to the village chief and he in turn passed it on to government authorities.

Into the office of Hon. Florence Nyiga Ssekabira, Minister for the disabled of Uganda, came the news of Godfrey in the road. Honorable Florence delegated the job of inquiring into this distressing situation a young man named Buyembo, himself severely disabled from polio at an early age.  Like Honorable Florence they both did not receive the polio vaccine as children.  At that time there were many rumors that enemies had contaminated the supply of inoculation doses. Many children did not receive the needed dosage of Salk vaccine. Today this is tragically evident as many adults have the same story to tell.

Dear Buyembo, a very crippled 35 year old man with a most winning smile and contagious charismatic personality found his way to Godfrey’s village.  Inquiring into the story of this young boy, he made his way to the exact spot where Godfrey daily had drug his body . According to Buyembo observations Godfrey’s physical condition and appearance defied description.  One can only imagine how a child would look  living on the ground with no care for his personal cleanliness, hygiene and health.  A quick evaluation would reveal he was simply clinging to life, with his days numbered.

Buyembo, in his joyful and loving form, picked up that young boy into his very muscular arms and carried him all the way home.  He had a helper with him to ease the burden. Since Buyembo’s one leg was  3 inches shorter than the other this must have been a sight.  The crippled helping the crippled.  Over the next few days Godfrey was bathed, fed and given the attention that would save his life.  Buyembo, his savior, the faithful friend, every day attended to the removal of chiggers from his feet and legs, parasites and worms from his digestive system and fungus from his scalp and skin.  After repeated bathings Buyembo smoothed Vaseline and lotion onto Godfrey’s dried callous skin.

Somewhere in the very large bureaucracy that is common to all working societies, this young boy’s very life, hinged  on a caring  neighbor who went to the trouble  of seeking help and then directing Buyembo to Godfrey’s abode.  The big day arrived when Honorable  Florence’s bodyguard, Sam, arrived with her driver to literally lift Godfrey from his mat, place him in the government car and take him to a place where loving Christians would give him the special care Godfrey desperately needed and deserved as a very special child of God.  

Because the Irish nuns at the home at Nkokoenjeru were called by God to serve “the least among us”, they accepted Godfrey with open arms, huge engaging smiles and a plan to bring him up to the God-given potential that resided within him. As Godfrey adjusted ever so slowly to a new structure that included regular meals, baths, and an education, he began to bloom.  The smile that was clouded by physical and mental pain had been suppressed for his entire life.  The tortuous sensations caused by worms, fleas, chiggers and hunger slowly lessened to the point where along with Godfrey’s smile came a song.  The songs his mother taught him became the songs that helped him to communicate to his many friends who also resided at Nkokoenjeru.

The rousing choruses of singing children and young people greeted us , revealing a depth of God-given joy one does not readily experience.. An aura of God’s love permeates Nkokoenjeru.  We found ourselves here to visit the young boy for whom we had purchased a wheelchair.  The very small amount of $140.00  which had been given by American Christians was now able to lift this young boy out of the dirt up to a level where we could look him straight in the eye.

The day we spent at this small and joyful compound, changed the way we looked at ministry for the disabled of Africa.  There is no way we can, as 2 individuals, meet the horrendous needs of a culture and it’s discarded people.  But we can, with God’s help , minister to one child.

The day at Nkokoenjeru proved to be one of great blessing as we were able to provide a case of Bibles for them.  After a beautiful lunch with the children and leaders we sang and danced and prayed and played with the children.  The question for Marie, the ever optimistic  teacher, is, can we bring Godfrey up to a decent level in language and reading and other disciplines now that he lives in a stable community.  Of course the answer is yes.  This is exactly the kind of challenge that a pedagogue loves to confront.

And so Godfrey grows in Jesus’ love and in an environment that encourages his growth, in body and intellect, It  just so happens to be  our personal blessing  to provide for he and his friends at Nkokoenjeru a Christ-centered curriculum with all the accompanying books, supplies and extras that bring the colors and joys of learning into the children’s’  lives.

While enjoying lunch together with the nuns, I was able to show them a very special “show and tell” item.  Seven weeks previous to this trip to Uganda, Marie received a total knee replacement.  Upon opening the small pink lace drawstring bag I was able to show them the actual kind of prosthetic device that now was part of my body. The sight of space age titanium and plastics was an awesome sight.  They could see the fresh scar on the left knee.   Their mouths dropped open and we all gave praise to God for the wondrous miracles of modern day medical technology. But most of all for the healing power of the Great Physician, allowing  us to return to a more normal way of life without missing a beat..  Praise God  (Mukama Yebezibwe)

Article originally appeared on AfricaVillageMinistires.org (http://africavillageministries.org/).
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