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September 17, 2011

Grace & John

God can soften even the hardest of hearts. In my mind I knew that to be true, but if I was honest, I didn’t believe that the heart of Nalongo would ever change. She sat by the bed of her seven month old twins, but only because that was expected. Her eyes remained fixed on anything but those sick babies and her hands clutched the fabric of her worn skirt almost as if to avoid any chance of reaching over the few inches between her lap and little Zakia and Ashia. After weeks at our small nutrition unit this mother remained aloof and uncaring and, despite the constant encouragement of our staff and continued improvement of her children, she refused to believe they would survive. Perhaps she was protecting her own heart from the grief she felt was inevitable; I’m not sure how I would respond if I had been told my own child was not going to live.

Day after day our staff bustled around Nalongo, always encouraging, always praying and yet wondering if she even saw or heard them. Then one day, she made her way to the edge of the veranda where a group of moms listened to morning bible study. The next day she was there again and then was seen cautiously rearranging the blankets surrounding her babies while speaking softly to each one. Slowly and a bit fearfully, she picked up one baby and then the other. She shyly approached our staff pastor and began asking questions. Before long, joy was replacing the bitterness that had held her heart for so long and she began worshiping the God who was becoming her friend. As Nalongo learned more about God and how to provide the care and nutrition her small family needed, little Zakia and Ashia grew stronger and healthier.

Then one day it was time for them to leave. As I sat with Nalongo for the last time we watched her beautiful healthy babies playfully reaching for each other on a blanket spread on the lawn. My heart was full as I remembered the discouraging beginning of my relationship with this beautiful woman and my own struggle with doubt. In my broken Luganda mixed with English I told her how pleased I was with the progress she had made and how healthy little Zakia and Ashia now were. Her response was swift and firm. “Their names are NOT Zakia and Ashia!” I was taken aback; how could I have been wrong all these weeks, I was certain all their medical records used those names… “I have changed their names. Their names are now Grace and John. Zakia and Ashia are Muslim names. It is Christ who has saved my babies and I want them to have Christian names; one day, I want them to know the God who saved them.”

God can soften the hardest of hearts and in my heart I know that is the truth. I praise Him for saving the little bodies of Grace and John and for changing the heart of their mother. I thank him for allowing us to see just a glimpse of what he can do through a handful of servants who continue to pray and believe.