I want you to meet my friends, Zakia and Wasawa….8 month old twins, and their Mom, Nalongo. They came to live at my house 4 and half months ago…When I got the call about this little family, I was told that Nalongo was mentally challenged, and that the twins were close to death. The hospital staff had tried their best to treat the babies, but after a month and a half they were still severely malnourished. They were not improving and the longer they stayed there the more sickness’ they contracted. The hospital wanted to discharge them, but they had nowhere to go. Nalongo didn’t understand how to properly care for her children, nor did she have the desire to care for them. She was told her that babies were dying and she had no intention of trying to save them; in her mind they were already dead.
When I picked them up from the hospital, I Looked into their eyes and there was a look of despair. Defeat. Hopelessness. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy task...but, I brought them home and enrolled the babies into our malnutrition program. All 3 of them actually. They came together, as a family. But, from the looks of it they had no idea how to function like one. The babies cried all day and all night, and their mother had no desire to tend to them. She seemed more annoyed by their presence then anything, and she would get a look of frustration when Zakia or Wasawa would “disturb her”.
As soon as this little family became accustom to the routine around our house, Nalongo jumped right in with household chores! She was a great help to our staff! Though, washing clothes and cutting onions was not what she was here for….but we continued to gently encourage her to pay closer attention to her children; to tend to their needs first, above other things.
After many, many days there was still no change. I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and say, “Ok, I’m finished.” But God gave me the grace I needed every day, and renewed my strength each morning! And eventually she started to get it… She started to treat her children differently. She started to react to them differently. She started to look at them differently. She began to care for them with love. With JOY! With the delight that all mothers should have when caring for the children God has given them! I would walk into their room and she would be holding them, talking to them, helping them attempt new things such as sitting up, rolling over, and she would be smiling all the while! Along with that newfound love, came great improvement in the baby’s health. They started to eat better, and gain weight…they started to smile!
Well pretty soon Nalongo found herself caring for many of the other children in our house- the babies that didn’t have mothers with them. She would help bath the girls and put them down for nap, she would hold crying infants, and feed hungry children at meal time. I couldn’t believe the change that was taking place. It was pretty cool to watch!
I remember this one night. I was lying in bed and that doesn’t often happen…not for me at least. And I heard a little voice outside my door. It kinda scarred me at first, but I got up and right outside my room was Mamma Nalongo and baby Wasawa. She had tears running down her face and was absolutely frantic. Now I’m most definitely not fluent in Luganda, and she was talking so fast that I was having a hard time understanding her…I was only hearing “He is going to die. He is going to die. I don’t know what to do.” I was so confused. When I had gone to bed just an hour before, he was fine; I didn’t know what could have happened in such a short period of time that would bring his Mother into such a state of panic. So, I took wasawa and began to look him over, and at first glance he seemed fine to me, but she was so upset. She just wouldn’t stop crying. After a few minutes of consoling her, I finally got her to calm down enough so that I could take a better look at the baby in her arms. And as it got quieter in the room, I know exactly what was wrong….he had the hick-ups! I quickly ran outside to call our night guard who translated to her what in the world hick-ups were, and that there was no need to worry. After the explanation, she got the biggest smile on her face as she realized that her baby boy was going to be perfectly fine!
By the time I made it back to my bed that night, I just lay there praising Jesus! I knew she had truly gotten it! God had set ablaze a love for Zakia and Wasawa in their Mother’s heart. She had that love, the kind of love that makes you panic in the middle of the night when your baby is breathing funny, or making a strange noise, or maybe even when they have those annoying hick-ups…
Today if you come to my house you will not find Zakia and Wasawa there. No, those skinny, desperate, lifeless babies are gone. BUT, in their place are 2 fat, very healthy, loved babies that bare a remarkable resemblance, and their names are, Grace and John… You see Zakia and Wasawa are Muslims names. They come from a Muslim family; their Mom has been Muslim her whole life. Worshipping Ala is all she’s ever known. That is until she walked up our front steps…until she entered a home where she was surrounded by Christ Followers. Until someone cared enough to share Jesus with her, to love her like Jesus. Unconditionally! Nalongo never knew Jesus, she never wanted to, but she does now! She says, “I no longer follow Ala. I want my children to have Christian names because it is Christ who has saved our family.” And when we speak of Jesus’ family she gets a huge, sly grin on her face as if she knows exactly what we’re talking about!
As Christians we are called to love the poor. The orphans. The widows. Even when it is unconformable. Even when it’s hard. No matter what!
This picture was taken today, right before Nalongo, Grace and John went home. I would say that they have the "one big happy family" thing down!!!