Updated: Aug 11, 2020
When the threat of COVID-19 first hit Uganda, street children were some of those most at-risk for contracting the virus. They’re used to begging on the streets and interacting with complete strangers on a daily basis with no access to clean water, sanitization or face coverings. Once businesses began shutting down, there were far fewer people on the streets and these children had nowhere to go, making the threat of starvation imminent. Thankfully the local government, with the help of NGOs, placed around 200 of these children in various homes and institutions, including Mercy Childcare Ministry (MCCM). MCCM welcomed 11 boys off the streets of Kampala, many of whom had been on drugs and came from very rough backgrounds.
“My first time to meet the boys at our village, I was able to quickly identify them from the kids that had been at Mercy for a long time. These boys were dressed in rags, they spoke vulgar language and many were recovering from drugs,” said Wilfred Rugumba, Director of MCCM.
Brian was a boy who stood out from the rest because he was definitely the roughest of the bunch. As Wilfred observed him, he noticed that he fought with his friends regularly and had been on drugs while on the streets. He was immediately drawn to Brian and was eager to get to know him on a deeper level. The two were able to connect over their love for chess and Wilfred was surprised and pleased to find out just how skilled Brian was at the game! As they began to play together, Brian shared his story about how he ended up on the streets of Kampala.
While living in a remote village with his family, Brian would hear stories about life in the city and he longed to experience this life outside of the home he knew. He made the decision to take his brother’s phone and run away to the big city of Kampala. Brian was in complete awe of the tall buildings and the hustle and bustle of the people and traffic, but he had no plan for where he would stay or how he’d survive. He quickly spent all his money and met other street boys who oriented him to life on the streets and introduced him to drugs. This quickly became his new lifestyle. While on the streets, Brian met a Muslim leader who converted him to Islam and invited him to the local mosque. Brian was most excited about the fact that he was able to receive free food outside the mosque every Friday.
When the local government picked up the street children, Brian was one of the 11 who ended up at Mercy Childcare Ministry. He heard the gospel for the first time at MCCM and committed his life to Jesus. Praise be to God! Brian’s life has been completely transformed over these last few months and Wilfred has had the privilege of walking with him on this journey as the two have developed a special bond. Brian’s dream is to become a farmer or a mechanic and Wilfred has spent time taking him out to the farm where Brian discovered his interest in caring for pigs. He brought one home to the village and began caring for it before Wilfred bought him three goats to help care for as well. Brian was ecstatic!
Wilfred shared that on a recent Friday he woke to Brian's voice saying, "It is me Brian, I have come to say goodbye!” Filled with emotion, it was time for Wilfred to say farewell to this boy he’d come to deeply love, as MCCM social workers had successfully located Brian’s family after 3 months of searching and they were ready to reunite them. Brian is now back home with his family and looks forward to visits from those at MCCM.
Mercy Childcare Ministry has a very strong commitment to reunifying children with their families whenever possible and when it’s in the best interests of the child. Social workers physically travel around the country following leads in an effort to find the family members of the children who come into their care. Some of the places they go are so rural that there isn’t any form of public housing, and the social worker must rely on the hospitality of strangers. MCCM will continue to support Brian and check on him regularly while he lives with his family and they are in the process of trying to find him a nearby garage where he can be an apprentice to learn mechanics. Wilfred also gifted Brian a little goat and some money for him to buy a pig back home so that he can continue to learn farming.
“I can’t wait to visit him and see how God is going to use him to transform his community. I miss him and so does the staff and friends who have been with him. He changed in a very short time and everyone liked him amazingly,” Wilfred said.
Please pray that Brian easily adjusts to life back home and finds a healthy church family that will help him grow in his new faith and be a witness to his family. Pray for the protection of the social workers at Mercy Childcare Ministry as they seek to locate the families of the 10 other street boys to begin the reunification process. We are praising God for His hand of providence over Brian’s life!