Who is your best cross-cultural friend? Someone who you can see as your sister, or brother, despite being born on opposite sides of the world?
Mine is Angela. Angela is a woman approaching 50. She is from South Sudan, but she spent most of her life in Northern Uganda, about an hour or two distance (depending on the roads). When she was young, she was forced to be a nanny/maid for other young children. She was never allowed to go to school. She survived two wars (a brutal civil war in South Sudan where they eventually gained independence from Sudan, and the LRA rebels of Northern Uganda). She also survived three husbands. Her story is incredible, and her life is beautiful - almost as beautiful as her smile, her joy, her love for the Lord. Angela has three sons. When she married her third husband, she was forced to leave them in Kitgum while he moved her to the capital city of Kampala (8-10 hours drive away). She found out that her children were being used as slaves, not going to school, and not being cared for. She couldn’t ignore that any longer. She returned to Kitgum with her youngest child to be with her other two children. The second born is Vincent.
Vincent, as noted, was born in very humble circumstances. He went through a lot as a young boy. Too much. But if you look at Vincent now, in his late 20’s, what you see is someone totally different, something miraculous. Angela always tried to be a good mother and a good example to her kids. She did the best she could in a system where they all had to fight for survival. Vincent grew and did his best as well.
He got married, had a daughter named Melanie, and got any work that he could. Vincent is a very hard working young man. He would carry heavy bags of cement on his head to transport them. This is a very dangerous job.
One day in late 2015, he slipped on wet ground as he carried a heavy bag of cement on his head. He fell, and the bag of cement fell on his neck. His neck broke and he lay there in agony. His mother brought him to the hospital in Kitgum, where they gave him Tylenol (REALLY?! For a broken neck?!) for the pain but said there was nothing more they could do for him. There’s no way for him to get surgery on his neck in this place. Angela called me. Robb and I came as fast as we could. We saw Vincent, his wife Charity by his side, and their young daughter Melanie crying. She was about 3 ½ or 4 at the time. We made some phone calls and found out that we could get him surgery in Kampala, if we could get him there. We were very concerned about the bumpy roads with his neck. The slightest problem could be a really big deal for him.
Thankfully our dear friends Wayne and Bev are friends with the head of MAF (Missions Aviation Fellowship) in Uganda. They called him to see if we could get a plane sent up to one of the nearby airstrips (still about 2 hours away on the bumpy roads). MAF had some money left in their account that they use to help the needy, and they set it up and flew to the North to pick up Vincent and his wife. We were so grateful!! We drove them very slowly and carefully to the airstrip. I was so worried with every bump, but my husband Robb did a great job driving and got Vincent there safely. They flew him down to their main airfield, and we had a car pick them up and bring them to the hospital in Kampala. Before long, Vincent had surgery on his neck. It was successful.
Vincent came home about a month later. He hasn’t been able to work since that time, because he still has some limited range of motion and cannot lift very heavy things. At the same time, we were asking God for a groundskeeper on our ministry compound. God made it clear to Robb and I that we should hire Vincent. His wife Charity observed all that God was doing for their family. It really impacted her. She just gave her life to the Lord about 2 months ago. She was among the believers who were baptized when my dad was here just a few weeks ago.
If you see Vincent, you will find him smiling and working hard. You will see his gentle spirit, much like his mother’s, shining the love of Jesus through his life. God has also blessed Vincent and Charity with another baby girl. They asked me to name her, so I named her after my mom Marilyn. I’m hoping that she will live up to the name and be a dynamic woman of God. For now, she is gorgeous and sweet. :)
(Angela’s story is featured in my new book, God Can. I encourage you to check it out to read all of the amazing things God has brought her through, and how He has made her more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ!)