At Christmas time most of the children spent a couple days with their jjajjas but a few of them remained in our home. When one boy refused to return to his jjajja I was surprised because I had found her to be pleasant and demonstrative of love and care with him. But he felt he was not safe there and would rather she come to see him at our house. Well, when jjajja learned from her friend that other children returned to spend the night she was livid and we were her target. I promised the team that I would handle it when I was in town.
So we made an appointment to meet with her on Wednesday. Robert and I drove to her home through some rough roads. I’m accustomed the regular potholes and ruts but this was more like earthquake survival driving. I held my breath and squeezed my eyes shut while Robert calmly assured me, “we shall pass”.
Her home is on the road across from a tea plantation. The view is lovely. I suppose she can drink fresh tea as she pleases. When we arrived jjajja came from out of the bush behind her house wrapped in cloth and dripping wet. She greeted us, “I’m so happy to see you” and ran into her small one room house. Her upper body is as sculpted as a man from all the hard labor in the garden. We remained in the car, I know I was gathering my strength and asking God for wisdom and guidance to handle a difficult situation. I was reminded I have handled much worse here in Uganda, so this was going to be a matter of listening and assuring her we understand her position, then drawing a firm boundary that it was my decision not the child’s for him to remain at the home. We don’t want her to think negatively of the boy.
The boy suffers some deep trauma he cannot find words to describe. The mention of his jjajja makes him cry, and now his anger is more like raging fury. He has been caught trying to strangle someone, and he has confessed to murderous thoughts. He has dedicated this year to God to help him overcome his desire for killing. I understand something happened but I am not sure exactly what it was but it’s our job to protect him and help him heal. He won’t return to his jjajja.
So there we were at her home, she offered me the one plastic chair she has in her possession. She and Robert stood before me while I sat. I can’t tell you how uncomfortable that was for me. After a little small talk I surely thought we would begin to discuss the matter but a small baby toddled out from the bush completely naked and covered with sores, snot smeared on his face, and flies eating away at the open sores all over his body.
We began to question her about this child. I felt his head and he had a high fever. His belly was fully distended and his ankles were swollen with edema. All indications were clear that he was severely malnourished. My guess is he was one year old.
She began to explain that her brother’s son produced this child and at a burial for the family he disappeared and so did the mother leaving the child at the burial. So she said she would care for him. This was two years ago and no one knows where they are to be found. It is easy to go missing in this country. She smiled wide and said, “do you want to take him?” I thought he was a baby, but now I understand he is over three years old. I thought he should go to a baby’s home and be a good candidate for adoption, but with missing parents the courts would not allow an adoption. Our home is for older children whose parents have died.
As I looked at the child and considered his life and how she was not caring for him well, the sores all over him, the fever I knew I couldn’t leave this place without him on my lap. I told her, “he is very sick.” She said, I can’t take him to the doctor so I use local herbs. I shuddered. So I offered, “ can I take him to the doctor and get him well then return him to you?”
Oh her face brightened and she said yes that is good. She began to smear grease over his skin to prepare him to go out. She complained, “I have no children of my own and if he goes I will be alone. But you take him.” I can’t say that made me feel so good, but the critical situation of the boy’s health and condition seemed more important to me than an old woman suffering loneliness.
I asked her if I could pray for her so we bowed our heads. I asked God to heal the boy, and be a presence for this woman so she will know she is not alone. It caused her to weep and she wiped her eyes as she waved with a big smile to Marvin. We buckled him in the seat between Robert and I and the child simply smiled.
We went straight to the doctor. He examined him and said the sores are a result of malnutrition. He gave him a shot of antibiotics which caused the boy to scream and resist. Robert comforted him offering soda which made him stop crying! The doctor sent us on our with with four medicines and a bill of twenty dollars for all the supplies and services. There’s one instance in Uganda when someone could have over charged me by a few hundred dollars and I would have happily paid.
We stopped at the supermarket to get the boy his soda, which was really a juice box of pineapple juice. I got diapers and more juice for him. Then we took him home. The moment we lifted him from the car all the children came running and stared. They asked, “can we keep him please Mama Tonya?” Musa took him from my arms immediately kissed him, hugged him and then off he went to scrub him up for a bath. No one asked him to do this, he seemed to know it was the first matter.
Someone produced some little overalls and I put a cookie in his hand as he screamed over the soap hitting his sores. The cookie was a temporary cure. And so he joined the group in our home. I introduced him to Auntie Julie and she said, “I will take care of him.” I have a feeling she will like having a child around when the children go back to school. No one is looking forward to the day they return because the emptiness and silence will be sad.
When Ryan joined our home in October we had to buy another bunk bed. This means we have an extra bed in our home already. We are all committed to pray to understand God’s will for this child. I hope we are able to keep sweet Marvin. I know God will make it clear how we shall proceed.