By Carolyn Jones/Hands Across Nations
A big Hands Across Nations Christmas Greetings from Uganda, East Africa to our beloved America!
As we head into the wonderful time of year celebrating Christmas, the birth of Jesus, and think about all that we would like to give and do for our loved ones, I’ve been thinking about what several of our staff did for a young man who had no loved ones.
The first time we saw Alex, he was lying on the grass near the literacy class that had been started recently for lepers. He had a small bag of the only things he owned; a few plastic bottles, some rags and some other indistinguishable items. Keith suggested we invite him to the literacy class. So Isaac, our illustrator who has cerebral palsy, approached the man, invited him to join the class. Isaac volunteers as the assistant teacher, which entails correcting homework, assisting students attempting to write with their mangled hands with missing fingers, and filling in when Lucy, the lead teacher is absent. He has a heart for the disabled, knowing the sting of being an outcast. Since becoming our illustrator, and giving his life to Christ, he has not only been trained as an adult literacy trainer, but has been invited to teach secondary school students in a private school, how to draw illustrations for books and other types of art work.
Isaac gently spoke to Alex, learning his name and that he would like to attend the class but was very hungry. He agreed to go with Isaac to the class, dragging his right leg, his right arm curled up and quite useless. It was obvious he hadn’t bathed in a very long time, and he smelled of rotting flesh. We purchased a meal of posho (corn meal and water) with beans for a mere 30 cents which he slowly ate during the class. One leper, a distinguished sort of looking man named Y.K. was angry that we had brought Alex to the class saying he was a liar and a thief. The rest of the lepers were happy to have him join them.
At the next class, Isaac was able to discern that Alex had some painful wounds in an area which suggested an embarrassing disease but he told of being raped in the village, getting the disease and being so shamed he came to beg on the streets of Lira for the past year. He had not bathed in all that time, and had never seen a doctor. At Ayira Hospital, our longtime friend, Dr. Opio had his assistant evaluate Alex’s wounds and test his blood finding that he had an extreme case of a venereal disease but thankfully not HIV as Alex had feared. Right away, he began IV treatment, learned how to bathe three times a day for his wounds to heal, and had a trip to the “Saloon” to get his head shaved. All this time, Isaac was encouraging Alex and letting him know he was in good hands. By nightfall, Alex had a bed with donated clean sheets and a mosquito net, a basin, and a dear woman named Agnes who agreed to cook him two meals a day for just over a dollar.
By that evening, he was opening his Little Bible from the literacy class and attempting to read it to the people there in the hospital. Isaac told me it was the best day he had ever experienced, seeing how with care and love, Alex was a transformed person from a desperate, forgotten and demeaned beggar into someone who could give to others and rise above his circumstances.
That Sunday, Alex attended the church at the hospital and gave his life to Jesus, becoming a new creation in Christ. His smile was radiant and he continuously thanked God for his life and for healing. In less than two weeks, his weeping wounds were completely healed and Alex was strong enough to dance and sing at the hospital fellowship time for more than two hours. Y.K. told me he had changed his mind and now loved Alex like he loves himself – as Jesus says to do. He said, “we are one” – a complete change of heart which became so tender toward a man he did not want to have near him.
Next, we had to find Alex’s family back in the village. Isaac took on the task and learned where his family had been, but his mother had remarried and moved away. Trusting God, without knowing for sure what would happen, Isaac, Peter, our lead teacher trainer, and Paul our driver, headed off to the village with Alex and the hope that he would know his way back home.
The result was absolutely God’s perfect timing. Their clan leader had called his mother back home to take care of Alex’s younger brother who had been left alone. They had just finished their clan meeting with her and all the relatives when Alex and our team arrived. He was welcomed with open arms, with the family stating they would all help him. They had not known his whereabouts or condition for over a year.
Seeing that he could stand before them, confessing his mistakes and asking forgiveness, as well as how he was learning to read and write, was a miracle to them.
God also provided one of our Hands Across Nations literacy classes within walking distance to Alex’s home! From being a hopeless and despised beggar to being healed and restored to his family, and becoming a new born Christ follower all in less than three weeks, is a true miracle of Christmas – Christ with us. When we step out in faith to help “the least of my brothers” He is with us, leading our steps.
What a joyful Christmas gift from Jesus to all of us involved in the new life of Alex. It was also a gift of ourselves to Jesus coming at just the right time of His birthday. Halleluiah, nothing could be better!
Merry Christmas and may His love, expressed in His coming to earth to be with us, fill your heart and home this year.
From Uganda with love, Keith and Carolyn Jones
If you would like to contact us, our email addresses are: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
If you would like to make a Christmas contribution to Hands Across Nations work in Uganda, you may send it to: Hands Across Nations, P.O. Box 9048, Spokane, WA 99209