By Nhung Hurst, northwest regional manager for Operation Christmas Child
During a recent trip to Uganda, I made the huge mistake one morning of saying, “I never get sick on international trips.” I know, I know. I recognized my stupidity the moment I said it, and I acknowledged it to God and asked that He teach me my lesson and get it over with as quickly as possible!
I did get sick on Thursday during the morning distribution and was praying that I would not throw up all over a sweet little boy and his shoebox. I did not want to leave that kind of trauma on the poor little guy.
I loathe getting sick in public. It just feels undignified, and it was magnified by the fact that I was in Africa. We were two hours from our hotel, in one of the most remote locations with no toilet or clean water. Then I slipped and fell in the mud while wearing a white skirt.
I wanted God to open a hole right then so I could sink in. But then I started praying. Not only for healing, but that God would change my attitude. This trip wasn’t about me. These kids and their families lived in these surroundings every day, and I didn’t want any self-pity on my part to detract from their beautiful experience of receiving shoeboxes.
We headed to our next distribution, and I felt well enough to hand out the gifts. I noticed one little boy who had taken the lid off his shoebox but hadn’t touched anything. He seemed oddly removed from the whole thing, so I carefully showed him each item. Nothing sparked his interest until I got to a pair of little black gloves. He put up his right hand, so I put the glove on. Then he showed me his other hand. That’s when I noticed that he only had two fingers on his left hand—his thumb and pinky. I could tell that the stubs of the other three fingers were scarred, but I put the glove on and counted out five fingers.
The smile that lit his face was the greatest comfort to me. In that moment, I didn’t feel sick or filthy. I understood right then that when we belong to God, we are clothed in dignity regardless of our external appearance and surroundings. I needed that little boy as much as he needed me then.
Later, I learned from orphanage workers that this 4-year-old boy, Joram, had been abandoned by his grandparents and left in the garage of the orphanage along with his two sisters. The children’s parents had died of AIDS. When Joram was 2 his grandparents took him to a witch doctor to cure him of his muteness. He had never uttered a word and they thought he was possessed by some demon. The witch doctor promised a cure but needed three of his fingers for the remedy. When the grandparents saw that he wasn’t cured, they placed all the children in the orphanage.
It grieves me to know that he suffered that kind of needless pain, but I know that he is created in the image of our heavenly Father and is loved. I know that I will never see a pair of gloves without thinking of this little guy ever again.