I approached a Ugandan woman lying stretched out on her stomach in front of a small fire. She was propped up on her elbows, cradling a baby on the ground as she fed her from a plastic cup.
This woman has been paralyzed for six years. Six years as a paralyzed wife and mother in rural Uganda. I can’t even imagine her life.
When we pulled up in our vehicle, much of her body was covered with tin and a tarp, but someone quickly pulled it off and away. I don’t think they wanted us to see her like that, but it struck me deeply.
She had to have been outside in the rain…
Later I found out it was not because she’s unloved or uncared for, but because it causes her poor body so much pain to be moved that, unless it’s raining really hard, she would actually prefer to stay out like she was.
Someone described to me some other health issues Mariam has and, based on my limited knowledge, they sound like bed sores.
It’s enough to break your heart…
But yet Mariam’s smile is beautiful, and her countenance is bright.
And her little baby, Sarah, is regaining health after being on the brink of death just a few months ago.
I told Mariam and her husband, Ronald, that I had heard about them back in our U.S. office and that I had been praying for them. Though we may have just met, they were no strangers to me.
(This is the continuation of Baby Sarah’s story from last week. You can read Part 1 here.)
I asked if I could hold Baby Sarah.
Cradled in my arms, in a white crocheted-type blanket, I knew I was holding a miracle.
This baby, whose malnourished little body I’d seen pictures of before, is now smiling and babbling. She’s regained her vision, and she’s eating solid foods. She has come so. far.
I was holding an answered prayer.
And Mariam, this strong-spirited woman, sees her baby’s illness as the hand of the Lord in their lives.
“I think it was God’s plan that Sarah fell sick, since it was because of her sickness that we got to meet such good people as you who have helped us and Sarah that much,” she has said to our staff.
“I know Sarah is a living testimony; she will travel this world and preach the word of the Lord to all because she has such a testimony that is vivid and strong.”
Amen, Mama, amen… I pray that for your sweet baby too…
Mariam is a resilient woman—she gave birth to Sarah at home, before a midwife could even get there—yet she had trouble breastfeeding Baby Sarah and her health declined until she had lost her vision and weighed only around two pounds at four months old.
The hospital refused to treat Sarah for lack of payment, and in the middle of the road her father cried out to God on behalf of his baby gasping for air.
He looked up and saw the Bright Hope medical clinic in a nearby field.
When our doctors saw Sarah, they cried. But there was no time to waste and they got a vehicle and rushed her back to the same hospital that had earlier turned them away.
And you know what? It wasn’t too late. Tragically, it was too late for the little Ugandan baby boy we also tried to help, but it wasn’t too late for this baby. Sarah was going to have a different story.
Since that day, Bright Hope and the local church have been helping with this baby’s ongoing medical care, transporting Sarah and Ronald to the hospital for checkups, and were providing formula for her until recently as she is now eating solid foods.
There’s just one small cloudy spot left in one of Sarah’s eyes, but just the fact that she can see at all is a reminder to Mariam of the miracle:
Even if she keeps that spot for the rest of her life, it will be a testimony to what God has done, Mariam says. She will be able to tell people her story of what God did for her.
But there’s another miracle in this story too: a salvation.
Through this dramatic journey fighting for Baby Sarah’s life, her older sister has converted from Islam to Christianity. Her name was Isha, but she has changed her name to Hope.
Hope. It makes me smile to think of it… Hope in Christ came through the demonstration of Christ’s love acted out in practical ways in this teen’s family.
But what was it that captured this 15-year-old’s heart?
“When people at the mosque saw us, they only talked behind our back on how poor we are. No one helped. But the church has loved us, they have taken care of us all, Sarah especially, and because of all this love, I decided to convert and join them,” she told our staff.
Powerful. It’s living out the Gospel in word and deed. It’s the fulfillment of James 2:15 – 17:
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Hope saw a living and active faith, and it opened her heart to the Gospel of Christ. Thank You, Jesus.
Though Hope does much of the household work and caring for Sarah when their father is away working, she says that, “[I] am sometimes tired at the end of the day, but seeing Sarah feeding well and healthy gives me great courage and hope in life. I never dreamt that she would be able to smile—but she does.”
I took a picture of Mariam and Ronald and Baby Sarah and told them that when I returned home I would print the picture, hang it in my office and continue to pray for them. And that is what I have done. I look at that picture and think about this precious family every day I’m at my desk.
I took a picture of their picture on my wall and sent it to our Uganda staff, asking them, “The next time either of you see them will you please show them this picture and tell them that I am praying for them?”
God has grabbed my heart with this story. This family is why we do what we do at Bright Hope—and God has let me be a part of it.
Before we even pulled up to Mariam and Ronald’s home that day, as I was hearing about Mariam’s paralysis, I had it in my heart to pray for her. But, to my shame, I never told her that.
But my desire must’ve been more than just my own, because as we were about to end our visit, one of the men we were with wanted us to take a moment to pray for the family before we parted ways. I think my heart gave a little leap—this is what I had wanted.
We all gathered around them, I put my hand on Mariam’s shoulder, and bowed my head to pray.
But no one said anything. We just waited. And then one of my co-workers asked the man who had initiated the prayer time if he was going to pray.
No, he was not- he wanted me to pray, he said.
My heart probably gave another little leap. This—this had truly been my heart’s desire.
I shared with the group that it had been on my heart to pray, and then I wholeheartedly lifted up that family before the Lord as we all held hands together there in the red Ugandan dirt.
I prayed for them that day, and I continue to pray… Jesus, thank You for this family. Protect Baby Sarah, help her grow healthy and strong, into a woman that loves You. Bless Ronald and Mariam and Hope—give them strength, encouragement and provision. May they grow strong in their relationships as a family, strong in their faith, and strong in hope.