With My Own Eyes
Prior to taking my first trip to Mercy Childcare Ministry (MCCM) in Uganda and seeing the ministry with my own eyes, I had a very one-dimensional perspective of the ministry. I had visited Mercy Village through photos and walked the classrooms of Mercy Boarding School through video footage. I had heard stories of the mothers in the micro loans program and written in length about the construction progress at the Worship House church in Nansana. I spent the past three and half years familiarizing myself with a ministry that is 9,352 miles away and falling in love with beautiful faces that I’d only ever seen through a computer screen.
When the time came for me to finally travel to Uganda this past June, I knew that the ministry would come to life for me. And it did just that! I felt like I had jumped straight into a photo or video. There are many things that just can’t be experienced or understood without being there in person – feeling the African breeze on your face, holding babies in your arms, experiencing the unusual sights and smells, and worshipping alongside believers in another part of the world. I finally experienced Ugandan culture firsthand, overflowing with gracious hospitality and delicious pineapple.
My favorite part of my time in Uganda was finally meeting the MCCM staff in person as well as so many of the children and young adults whose stories I’ve shared in my work at Children to Love (CTL). On my first Sunday in Uganda, I had the privilege of attending Mercy Church and hearing Pastor Henry preach the Word. I wrote about Henry’s “Jesus Story” in a previous CTL newsletter, sharing that he was born into one of the poorest communities in Uganda, but was able to excel and become a lawyer for the High Court of Uganda (the third-highest judicial body in the country) because of the ministry of MCCM and God's hand on his life. He is also an MCCM board member and serves as a pastor. What a joy it was to meet Henry and see him thriving in the places to which God has called him!
Though each interaction and experience in Uganda was memorable, the experience which left one of the biggest imprints on my heart was visiting sweet Jemima. It was April 5 when we at CTL received the first message about Jemima. MCCM social workers rescued her from an abusive home where she was locked in a chicken coop outside and starved to the point of malnutrition. When I first read that message and saw the photos, a lump formed in my throat, and I fought the tears that were welling up in my eyes. I knew in that moment that I didn’t need to fight those tears, that I shouldn’t fight the tears, because those tears were a cry for justice. A cry for this sweet soul who was experiencing pain and abuse that I couldn’t wrap my head around. How? How could someone do this to another human being? To such a little human being? My heart broke for Jemima and the countless other children who are suffering at the hands of abusers. Yet my heart simultaneously rejoiced over the work of Mercy Childcare Ministry and how God so beautifully works through this ministry to rescue and redeem the lives of children. With my own eyes I saw that the staff of MCCM is living out God’s directive from Psalm 82: “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Jemima spent some time at a nearby Nutrition Clinic where she gained weight under the loving care and protection of the medical staff. She eventually came to MCCM where she became a part of the family and continued on her road to health. She is now living with Teopista, a single woman with a huge heart who lives just down the road from the ministry. When I entered Teopista’s home and my eyes found Jemima sitting on the floor, my heart nearly burst with joy and honor. I sat and held her in my arms, giving her high fives and telling her how great it was to meet her. Jemima is believed to be about 7 years old, but we can’t be sure because of a lack of proper records. Because of her severe malnourishment, Jemima doesn’t walk and her limbs are still very fragile. But she has gained so much healthy weight and we are believing for miracle after miracle in her life! She loves to go outside and can eat and drink well! I asked Teopista what her hope is for Jemima and she shared, “I hope that she’ll be able to stand and walk.” I believe by the grace and power of God that one day, she will. God has a plan for this little girl, and I feel honored and privileged to be a small part of it!
- Julie Bell, CTL Communications Coordinator
P.S. I recently put together this short video about Jemima's story. I welcome you to watch it to see Jemima and hear more from her caretaker, Teopista. God bless!