By Sr. Odette Nahayo MMM
One day I was facilitating a programme for the needy elderly people in our community in Wau, South Sudan, and a young woman, whose name I came to know later as Fatima, came in and sat in the corner. She had a child on her lap. My first reaction was to ask her to leave because she was obviously not one of the present group. However, I felt I should first listen to her story before making any decision. I asked her to wait a little, promising that I would attend to her when I finish the session with the group, which normally takes only 30 minutes.
After I finished, I called her and asked why she had come to the Health Centre. Shockingly, the three-year-old child she was carrying was blind and epileptic. Her story touched me, and I promised to visit her.
On my visit to her place, I was stunned to find out that she slept under a tree with her two children. But during the rainy season, neighbours took turns accommodating her for a night or two. Her sad story was that her husband, a soldier, was shot dead. She carried his body back to the village for the burial even though she was pregnant. Returning to the village, she found her house was broken into. All her property, including all the materials of the house itself such as the bricks, the door, the roof and even the grass were stolen. She was left with nothing. She gave birth to a blind son, and as he was growing, she discovered that he was also epileptic. He was unable to stand or remain seated without being supported. Her other son who was in Primary 4 had dropped out immediately after his father’s death due to lack of school fees. The family was left with no hope, weeping day and night.
When I came back home, I shared the story with the Sisters how could we help? One of the Sisters shared the story with a friend who was quite financially secure. He also was touched by the story and requested her to estimate a budget for building a house, check if the elder son wished to resume school and see what the cost of the whole year would be. This was not enough, the benefactor also asked to check if the woman was able to do any business of her choice and what could be the cost. Going in haste, like Mary to Elizabeth, we jumped into action, and gathered all the necessary information. Within the same week, a sum of Three Hundred and Sixty U.S Dollars ($360) was sent. We were grateful to the benefactor. We went quickly to find someone who would do the work, and luckily enough we got people of good will.
Many people were willing to assist and contribute towards this effort. Within a period of two weeks, the family of three started sleeping in their own house. The next step will be her business. She already shared what she would like to do – baking bread, making mandazi, tea and selling other items such as salt, sugar and oil that can easily get customers. She is excited about the future ahead of her. Her son is already telling his friends that very soon he will go back to school. MMM Health Centre has also managed to stabilise the epileptic child and, since he was put on treatment, he has not been in crisis anymore. What more can one say? God always works through his people, for his people.
This is the letter I received from Fatima after she moved into her new house: “I know myself as a hardworking and happy woman. However, after the death of my husband, I lost everything including my joy and remained lonely, I became a beggar, and the taunt of laughter to my neighbours. Even those who were my friends turned into scorners. I was losing my faith, I questioned God several times, but I have learnt that God can delay intervening due to our lack of patience, but He does not stay silent forever. God opened a door, and His servants came in towards me, they fed me, treated my child, built me a house, they promised to start a business and my son to go back to school. Those who were laughing at us are now asking me how I went about it and who are those people who raised me up from the pit. My answer is that God remembered his poor servant and sent his people to me. How can foreigners help people they do not know? Even if I and my children do not eat, no one will notice because we are in our house. Now it is raining, we remember how many times some neighbours refused us a shelter when we needed it. We remember how much we suffered under the tree, then…we glorify the Lord, we pray for the Sisters, their Staff and our Secret friend, and we finally enjoy the nice sound of rain on our roof, we sleep peacefully. Our house is not made of GRASS, it is made of GRACE. I promise to also help those in need. I feel useful to my neighbours, and my identity has been restored. Thanks a lot for your love, Sister, and tell that unknown benefactor that God knows him, he will always intervene in his entire needs”.