Mary&Edward: something to smile about
Mary* is a single mother to seven children, and when our frontline team met her, she was unemployed. As we spoke with her, it was her son Edward*, that caught out attention first. He had sunken eyes, dry and chapped skin, and a very sad-face. We soon discovered that he was 14-years old, but had impeded growth so was only the size of an eight year old.
Our frontline team arranged an emergency referral to the nutrition centre at one of the city’s hospitals. Mary agreed to accompany her son but feared that while she was away the other children would go hungry. We volunteered to provide food for them and to visit regularly while she cared for Edward in hospital. After two weeks, when Mary and Edward returned home, he was making good progress and Mary had been equipped with knowledge necessary for providing him and her other children with a balanced diet.
Having handled the emergency, we continued to build a relationship with the family. Another challenge they faced was the dangerous state of their make-shift house; it was on the brink of collapse and easily accessible for all the creatures in the neighbouring marshland. Mary had tried to improve it but lacked the funds to do anything that lasted. Every Life worked to rebuild the house with cost-effective, but durable, materials. The house was completed and included a sturdy door for safety and to keep out the marsh creatures! What was particularly special about this project is that Opolot helped us – he was a beneficiary of a previous building programme we had run and was eager to give back to his community.
Over time, it became clear to us that Edward’s challenges were not just physical. We learned that his dad had rejected him in childhood, saying that ‘he could not be the father of such a small child’. Over the years he had said many hurtful things to Edwards while putting the blame on Mary. Edward grew up feeling segregated and the subject of much ridicule. Meanwhile, Mary found herself feeling resentful towards her son for the ‘shame he caused their family’. This made Edward withdraw into himself and stay as silent as possible.
We continued to provide food for the family and helped Mary as she sought to find a job. We were also able to connect the family with a rehabilitation worker to assess Edward. He was diagnosed with mild autism, which further helped the family understand Edward and engage more positively with the challenges he faces.
Mary joined one of our discipleship groups when we learnt more about God and his love for her. This helped her to love her son and see him as a gift from God. As we continued to visit the family in their home, it was wonderful to see the transforming impact this had as despair was turned to hope.
The family are now regulars at our worship sessions at the Dream Centre (Every Life’s community centre) and recently, in an amazing answer to prayer, Mary got a job! Edward is a lot healthier, his speech has improved no end, and he now always confidently greets us with a massive smile. We’re currently helping Mary find a school that will be suitable for him – please pray that we are able to find the right place.
“I encountered Every Life when my life was most challenging; my husband and father of our seven children had just abandoned me and the young ones; he left me lonely, hopeless and unable to make ends meet. My son Edward was my biggest worry, he was so malnourished and retarded in his growth that I had despaired of life. He was always sad. Our house was in such bad shape, it was about to collapse altogether. When Every Life came, my son was rescued from certain death through nutrition intervention, the visits restored his joy; Discipleship has restored my hope for life in Jesus. Our house was renovated just in time, I now have a job and my family is safe and happy. Thank you God for these new friends!“
*Names have been changed to protect those mentioned.