Keith Anderson recently completed an internship with Samaritan’s Purse in Mozambique.
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27a, NASB).
Once upon a time, a grandfather and his grandson lived together in a hut on the outskirts of their village. Life wasn’t easy. The grandson had a condition that kept him out of school and made it impossible to lead a normal life. The grandfather, now old and beginning to worry about the future of his beloved grandchild, worked hard to support the two of them. But as the grandfather grew older, working to care for his grandson became more difficult.
That “once upon a time” was not so long ago. Just recently, I visited the Samaritan’s Purse base in Zavala, Mozambique, to see the work we’re doing with orphans and vulnerable children. After receiving a brief introduction to the programs, the program manager took me around to see some of the beneficiaries in the area.
We drove a short distance through the sandy village and pulled up to a small palm branch shack that was erected on the outskirts. An old man with a shiny, bald head and a playful smile greeted us and began searching for something we could sit on. He returned with a chair and a bench for us, while for himself he reserved a fallen coconut. His name was Manuel.
One of the men with us disappeared into the shrubbery to call Manuel’s grandson. He returned 17-year-old Castigo. The boy’s mother died when he was young, and nobody knows who his father is. Even his uncle and aunt, who live right behind Manuel, won’t offer the grandfather any help.
Castigo has epilepsy, which left him with a severely deformed left hand and a warped left foot. He hobbled forward and sat quietly behind his grandfather, eyeing us and then looking around at the trees.
Manuel began telling his story. He was born in Zavala and lived here his entire life, gathering chilies or working on a machamba – the local name for a small farm. Although he is one of the poorest men in the community, he also cares for his grandson.
As we sat and listened, I was touched by the affection of this grandfather for his grandson. Even though life is difficult with having to support two people on a meager income, this old man still smiled and cared through all these faithful years.
Not everyone has abandoned them. Samaritan’s Purse gave Manuel a goat. Community members who volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse bring food and other necessities, trying to cover what needs they can. A number of other goat owners have also entrusted their animals to Manuel’s care. In his custody, when a goat is ready to reproduce, the first of the young kids goes to the owner, but the second will be given to Manuel as payment for his service and as a way to assist him in his daily struggle.
When we returned from seeing Manuel’s goats and chili bushes, we handed him a small sack of goods filled with soap, sugar, food, and other necessities. Support from people who love them is what enables Manuel to care for his grandson.
Perhaps what struck the deepest chord within me was how the love of God has reached such a place, deep within the African bush, to meet a particular need. I’ve heard people ask whether God truly loves everyone when there are people in Africa who live isolated from the Gospel.
I’ve seen here that it’s this very love of God that resonates within the hearts of the people working here. He’s quite willing to use such like-hearted servants to reach all those isolated people and bring them into His everlasting arms.