Monday, January 3, 2011
I first met Beatrice on my first trip to Masaka. We were enrolling 10 new children into Hope Alive! that day. The new kids had come early for us to get their information, take their picture and such. There was something about Beatrice that drew me to her. Perhaps it was her ability to make the perfect fish face. I was drawn to her and we had lots of giggles throughout the day. Since she knew little English, our communication was done through either a translator or silly faces.
Right before my trip to Masaka, my former boss signed up to sponsor a child. Upon meeting Beatrice, I knew that I wanted him to sponsor her. She needed someone who would love her and I knew he and his wife would. At that point, I didn’t know how much she needed that love.
A few months ago, we were contacted by Rose, our site director in Masaka about Beatrice. When we first enrolled her, we knew that her parents were separated. She was living with her father’s mother. Her grandmother died and her father took her to live with him.
The father’s neighbors had come to Rose concerned for Beatrice. Beating children is common here, including in schools. A father beating his child would be nothing out of the ordinary. However, what was happening to little Beatrice was not ordinary. Her father would leave the house for a day or more and not leave food for her. He would beat her so severely that the neighbors began to notice. They saw that she was being starved and abused and went to talk to leader of their district about it. The leader of the district happened to be Beatrice’s grandfather, the father of her father. The grandfather said that because it was dealing with his son, he could do nothing…and nothing is what he did. The neighbors knew that they could not let this continue. Knowing that Beatrice was sponsored through Hope Alive!, they went to talk to Rose. When Rose became aware of what was happening, they took Beatrice to a doctor in order for her wounds to be documented. They contacted her mother and asked if Beatrice could stay with her instead of the father. Details then came out that her father had refused Beatrice to stay with her mother in the first place which was why she was first with his mother and then her. It was pertinent that we get her out of her current living situation and so Beatrice was moved to her mother’s house.
When I heard of what had happened to Beatrice, my heart broke. I thought of how tiny Beatrice is and how the beatings would have hurt her little body. I wondered how all of this effected how she viewed God. Since God is our Father, would she see Him like she sees her earthly father? Would she be afraid that God would hurt her like her dad did? I just wanted to hold her. To tell her that she is loved not only by me, but by God. Until then, I prayed for her. I prayed that God would do a miracle in her heart.
My friends Maria and Gloria came to do mentor training in Kampala but also in Masaka. At last, I was going to be able to go back to Masaka again and see Beatrice! I made plans with Rose for us to go out to her mother’s home to see her. Her mom lives very far away from our site in Masaka, out in the middle of the bush. I could now teach a class on Bush Driving: 101, specializing in topics such as: “What To Do When The Road Disappears”, “Avoiding Potholes: When The Road Is Just One Big Pothole” and “How To Avoid Livestock That Run In Front Of Your Vehicle”.
Beatrice’s father has been making some efforts with her and would often take her home from Saturday Club. That day, he told Rose that he wanted to come with us to her mother’s home. In ways, I was excited about his interest. In other ways, I was concerned how this would affect Beatrice. Her father guided us to their little house and without him, we would have been wandering off somewhere with pigs and goats. When I parked the car, I saw her immediately. I’m smiling just remembering. The timid smile on her small frame. Her recognition of me. The glimpses of fear in her eyes showed how she felt towards her father. When I got out of the car, we hugged for a long time. I didn’t want to let go of her and it was clear that she didn’t want to let go either. We had brought food for the family and got it out for her mom to see. It gave us time away from the rest of the family to talk about all that had gone on.
Beatrice’s mother struggles to find work. She helps different farmers around their house to make a small bit of money but it is not enough to help Beatrice and her three siblings. While Beatrice is sponsored and able to go to school, her mom doesn’t have the money to send her younger brother. The struggle of their lives is evident. The joy that comes from within her bursts from her smile. I wasn’t surprised to hear that she is a born again Christian and it encouraged me that Beatrice had a mother who followed Christ. She explained to us that she still had a rough relationship with the father. Her fear of him was also evident. My heart broke for this little family. Beatrice and I played with each other for a little longer. She can still do one of the best fish faces I’ve ever seen.
In the language of Luganda, “I love you” is “Nkwagala”. To say, “I love you very much”, you would say, “Nkwagala nyo”. I would look down and tell Beatrice:
“Nkwagala nyo nyo nyo!”
She would look up at me and say, “nyo”.
I would repeat back, “nyo”.
And we would continue for awhile adding “very” onto “I love you”.
It was hard to leave. I didn’t want to let go of her but I knew that I’d be seeing her on Saturday for the Christmas Party.
Saturday came and I knew Beatrice was there when she came and sat on my lap. It was such a great day seeing all of the kids perform in song, dance, skit, poems and more. When the day ended and I had to say goodbye to Beatrice…oh, it was hard. I wanted to cry. I wanted to just hold her and not let anything bad happen to her again. I had someone translate for me so that I could tell her that not only was she loved by me, but that she was loved by God. I waved goodbye and left her in God’s hands.
Please pray for Beatrice’s father. Pray that God does a miracle in his life and that he sees how he has hurt his family. Pray that he sees the need to change. Pray that, above all, he comes to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray for Beatrice’s mom. Life is so difficult for her. Pray that she is able to find more consistent work so that she can provide for her children. Pray that she chooses to forgive her husband for what he has done to her and their children. Pray for little Beatrice. Pray that she works through the hurt and pain that she has experienced in her little life. Pray that she chooses to forgive her father. Pray that she comes to understand the great love that her Heavenly Father has for her. Pray that she chooses to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.