Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Heart Patient Experiences a Renewed Future

Children's Heart Project Heart Camp

The oldest group at Heart Camp in Uganda in 2014

For most of his life, Watmon was restricted on what he could do. Now he has freedom like never before.

“Why me?” is the question that preoccupied my mind while I was growing up; the more times I asked myself that question, the further away the answer seemed. All I could see around me were chains and restrictions—don’t play soccer, don’t carry heavy things, don’t do this, don’t do that.

But as a child, I still violated the rules. I could play soccer, but my biggest undoing was that I tired easily. I became a liability to all my playmates since no one wanted me on their team anymore. Why do I have to tire this easily? Why me and not anyone else?

Children's Heart Project Uganda

Watmon has grown into a young man since his heart surgery.

In my final year of elementary school, the entire school was summoned to the playground to participate in athletics. The best participants would be selected to represent the school. I did only a quarter of a lap and fell down to the ground, panting and gasping for breath, my heart beating like it would pop out of my chest immediately; my entire body felt like it was experiencing a system overload and was about to crash! I was sweating profusely.

After a couple of minutes, I started feeling better. At home, I narrated this ordeal to my mum and asked her the same question I always asked myself: “Why me?” The incident concerned my mother so much that she took me to the hospital. The doctors confirmed that I had a congenital heart defect, and my monthly visits to the hospital began.

The most traumatic experience of my heart condition occurred in February 2006 when I was asked to go to the shop to buy some cold water. I decided to run instead of walk so that I could get to the shop before it closed. I fainted in the middle of a roundabout on a busy road. Fifteen to 20 minutes later, I regained consciousness and summoned all the strength I could to get on to my feet. I’m thankful to God that while I was unconscious no vehicle ran over me.

An Opportunity for Healing

Later that year, after many years of being in and out of hospitals, I was accepted for surgery in Florida by the Children’s Heart Project. The Samaritan’s Purse program takes children from undeveloped countries to North America for heart surgery.

When I arrived at the airport, the host family that Samaritan’s Purse arranged for me met me. It was like they had known me my whole life. The love, care, and attention I received from them was overwhelming. It was like the Lord had blessed me with another set of parents from another continent.

Children's Heart Project Uganda

Watmon at Heart Camp

I thought to myself, “Who welcomes perfect strangers into their home? They must have the love of Christ in their hearts.” Uncle Tom and Auntie Kathy (as we fondly called them) took turns preparing breakfast for us. In Ugandan society, women are expected to perform tasks like that, so it was rare for me to see a man cooking. I got a piece of paper and a pen and took down some notes on how to treat my future wife.

Although I was already a Christian when I met them, Uncle Tom and Auntie Kathie taught me many things about Christian life. They not only shared the Word of God with me, but they also walked it in their day-to-day lives. The atmosphere at home was filled with love, laughter, fun, and joy.

We went to church together, went shopping together, went to Busch Gardens together, went swimming together, washed the car together, played games together, and bathed the dog together. Every activity we did was interesting and fun because we did it together. We were a family—like we had known each other forever. They even tucked me into bed at night. With Uncle Tom and Auntie Kathy, I was home away from home.

When the time came for my procedure, I was calm and ready. The doctor walked me through the procedure and gave me confidence about it. But when we reached the operating theater, I became nervous. I thought to myself, “With my doctor beside me and his huge team of doctors and nurses, what can go wrong?” Then I was calm again.

When I regained consciousness, my legs were stiff, and I couldn’t move them. Having not been allowed to eat the previous night, I was hungry. After I ate, I felt reenergized. I spent two days at the hospital before I was discharged to continue healing at Uncle Tom and Auntie Kathy’s home.

Children's Heart Project Uganda

Watmon discipling a group of younger boys at Heart Camp

The Lord had finally answered my prayer, and my question changed. What did I do to deserve this opportunity of healing? My attitude changed from feeling sorry for myself to one of gratitude and feeling special and highly favored that the Lord had used Samaritan’s Purse to heal my heart.

Spiritual Growth

In 2012, almost six years after my surgery, Samaritan’s Purse invited me to attend Heart Camp, which the organization was hosting for all children in Uganda who had previously had heart surgery through the Children’s Heart Project. It instantly became the highlight of my year, and I always looked forward to the next one.

It helped me grow spiritually and helped me overcome my mental barrier against physical activity because sports and games are a daily part of Heart Camp. In 2014, I took on the challenge of running seven kilometers. It finally dawned on me that my heart had indeed been fixed and had healed completely.

The subsequent Heart Camps have been times for learning. In turn, I have taught others what I have learned over the years. Between 2015 and 2016, I had the privilege and honor of facilitating in three different Heart Camps, and the experience has been enriching and humbling as well as challenging. It’s enhanced my spiritual growth. Not only have I participated in Heart Camp facilitation, but I have also been a part of a number of congenital heart screening sessions where children are first identified for surgery.

My spiritual life has also been enriched by a discipleship program that I’ve been attending through Samaritan’s Purse. The theme is Unleashing Your God-Given Potential, and several young adults who had surgery through the Children’s Heart Project are participating.

Children's Heart Project Uganda

Watmon with a group of young adults who were beneficiaries of the Children’s Heart Project. They are now receiving discipleship to help them grow spiritually.

Since January 2016, we’ve been discipled and empowered to broaden our knowledge of the Scripture. I can confidently stand and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others. Hallelujah! On top of that, the monthly trainings have strengthened my friendship with the other young adults. We are now a family in constant communication; we pray for each other, encourage one another, and allow the Lord to do great things for our nation and His Kingdom through us.

From the trainings, I found an answer to “Why me?”

John 15:16 is a simple Scripture that God used to illustrate this: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (NKJV). He chose me to bear fruit that will last.

I have opened my heart to the Lord, and He has brought me this far. The future is so bright that I can’t see how far He intends to take me; where He leads me, I will follow.

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