How a kid with a hernia taught our staff about grace — long after work hours were over. 

By Falon Opsahl Barton

 

Esther was a baby who almost died of malnutrition. She’s now a chubby, happy toddler.

Kaida was a little boy with a giant tumor on the side of his face. After several surgeries, he can now smile, eat, laugh, and run around like his peers.

Moses is a little boy who is severely malnourished. He is gaining weight and his health is improving now that our staff got him to a hospital in Jinja.

Our staff has the habit of finding sick kids in the village and helping pay for their treatment in town out of their own pockets.

Sometimes this means paying for transport. Other times it means paying for food or medicine in the hospitals. It’s always our staff members being good stewards of their Kibo salaries.

Last month, a young boy (let’s call him Mark) with a softball-sized hernia joined the ranks of those children served by our big-hearted staff. This is his story.


“Hey Tom, I think you need to come check this out,” Enock said into his phone. “There’s a situation, and I think we should help.”

When WASH Co-Manager Tom reached Enock, they both stared in disbelief. In their two years working with Kagulu village — and with this home in particular — they had never seen this boy before.

They definitely would have recognized him, too.

For one, his family required more attention than most. With 15 adults plus children living on a small plot of land, the family lacked the funds and the land to dig a latrine. Our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene staff spent a lot of time with the family to help and encourage them.

So they would have remembered a naked eight-year-old with a softball-sized hernia on his genitals.

In all of WASH’s visits to this family’s home, Mark’s parents had kept him indoors so no one would see his deformity — a common practice in many of our partner villages. The only reason Enock saw him this time was because Tom had already visited the home, so his parents brought him out because they thought the visitors had left.

Tom and Enock brought Mark and his family to meet with the rest of the WASH team and the village leaders. Mark’s parents told the group what was wrong:

Mark had a hernia and hydrocele, swelling of the testicles and scrotum.

“Have you gone to the hospital? Sought medical help? Pursued an operation?” the WASH team asked.

“No,” Mark’s parents answered.

WASH understood. Mark’s parents couldn’t afford the transportation to town, let alone the money necessary to have a doctor’s evaluation and an operation.

But the WASH team also knew they couldn’t let Mark keep living like this. He wasn’t going to school. He was bullied by the other children. He knew how to primarily relate to people with his fists, because that’s what he felt like he had to do to survive.


Back in Jinja, the WASH team talked it over with the rest of the Kibo staff.

Together, they debated: How can we be of help to this family if they refused to take the initiative to improve their own sanitation and hygiene? How can we help people who don’t help themselves?

Plus, they discussed, Kibo doesn’t do this kind of individualistic intervention. We want to get to the core of issues by helping communities lift themselves out of poverty. We don’t want to just put a band-aid on problems by rescuing a few lucky individuals.

Still, Mark shouldn’t have to suffer, certainly not for the rest of his life, the staff decided.

“Since we are servants of the Lord, and Christ wants the best for everyone, we said to ourselves no, the kid isn’t the problem. The kid deserves the service he needs to live a happy life like other kids.”

Enock Madoolo, WASH

 
As the one who originally found Mark in the village, WASH assistant manager Enock Madoolo took a special interest in Mark’s case.

As the one who originally found Mark in the village, WASH assistant manager Enock Madoolo took a special interest in Mark’s case.

 

The Kibo staff connected to another organization called Next Generation Ministries (NGM), which has a team that provides medical treatment in the villages of Busoga. NGM agreed to fund Mark’s operation.

So the staff pooled their personal funds, raising 17,000 shillings (about $5) to transport Mark and his grandmother from Kagulu to Jinja for the operation.

Neither Mark nor his grandmother had ever been to Jinja. The Kibo staff showered them with kindness as they welcomed them to the Source Cafe, where Kibo is headquartered.

The staff had contributed another approximate 90,000 shillings (about $25) — out of their own pockets — to house them in one of the Source Cafe’s offices, provide clothes and bedding, and feed them three meals a day for the six days they were in Jinja.

Tom and our Country Director Henry drove them to and from their doctor’s appointments.


“We were all stepping up. Everyone was doing it collectively, not leaving it for an individual to take care of alone. It was a collective effort from the Kibo staff. It was overwhelming.”

Enock Madoolo, WASH


Mark and his grandmother were also overwhelmed. Suddenly they had their own room, their own mattresses, a toilet, a television.

For the first time, Mark’s grandmother didn’t have to collect firewood, prepare food, or fetch water.

For the first time, Mark had his own clothes, shoes, and kind friends to play with.


“We wanted them to feel loved. Mark was greeted by everyone. He felt comfortable and loved. They didn’t want to go back home. They were smiling all the time. Mark told his grandma, ‘You go, you leave me here.’ His grandma asked if she could have a job at the Source washing dishes.”

Enock Madoolo, WASH


Thankfully, the operation to remove the hernia wasn’t invasive or complicated, and the care afterward was relatively simple. The wound needed to be clean and dry, and Mark needed to take his medicine regularly.

Within 24 hours, the wound looked like it was healing nicely.


“Mark’s grandma was telling the staff at the hospital how they ended up there. The nurse kept telling us, ‘God bless you guys.’”

Lorna Katagara, Life Skills


Finally, Mark and his grandmother had to return home to Kagulu village. They rode with Enock and Martin, who had to visit Kagulu for Kibo work anyway.

When they arrived, it seemed like the whole village was surrounding the car.


“Mark’s grandmother said she would go back to the village and praise the name of Kibo, but we said, ‘No, praise the name of God. All the glory goes back to the Lord.’”

Enock Madoolo, WASH


Mark showed off his new shoes and clothes.

His grandmother told everyone that she had meat and fish every day — a luxury unheard of in Kagulu.

Martin carried the bedding, which the Kibo staff had purchased for Mark so that his wound would stay clean, into Mark’s house.


“It changed how people perceive us in that community. It built the trust between Kibo and the community. They thanked us for what we’d done, for Kibo’s generosity.”

Enock Madoolo, WASH


The community saw how well Mark was already healing. You could barely even tell that he had had a hernia at all.

Plus, for perhaps the first time, he was happy. Almost immediately he started playing and laughing with his peers.


“The kid who was segregated is now loved.”

Enock Madoolo, WASH


Kagulu village is huge. Almost 300 homes. All six members of our WASH staff visited on the day they found Mark to do their final evaluation of the village’s sanitation and hygiene facilities. They had a lot of ground to cover, and they needed to cover it quickly. It would have been easy to miss the one child in need of special care. But leave it to locals — locals with a deep love for Jesus — to single out the need and take the steps necessary to fix it.

That’s #TheKiboWay.