Friday, April 1, 2016

A Gem in the Wilderness

     There is a little boy in a small village of northern Tanzania who is now called “King” by the people of the village where he lives.  Three years ago he was found by an African evangelist lying outside on the bare ground with only a soiled t-shirt, very malnourished, dirty, and pitiful.  This evangelist stopped and cried tears of compassion when he realized this was an unwanted, neglected boy.  He talked to the boy's grandmother, who wasn’t able to provide for his basic needs.  It was apparent he was slowly starving to death.  When asked what the boy’s name was, he was told that his name was ‘Esto’ which translated means “that (thing)”.  He didn’t even have the dignity of a real name.  He was born handicapped, probably with cerebral palsy, and abandoned by his parents, left to the care of his destitute grandmother.  Even though he was 10 years old, he was about one half the size of other children of his age; unable to speak or crawl.

     The evangelist we are speaking about is Captain Nestor’s son, Baraka.  We had the privilege of becoming very close friends with Baraka and his wife, Neema, and their three children, Pendo, Nesta, and Abigaili.  So we too became familiar with the little boy in this distant village through Baraka’s contact with him and the local church of that village.  Baraka could not forget this helpless boy so he sought the Lord as to his part in bringing help to him.  He gathered needed supplies for the boy:  a mattress and sheets, lantern and lantern oil, clothes, and basic foods and sent them to the local village church to give to the boy’s grandmother.  The church brought these supplies to the family.  They also found someone in the area to make a wooden walker for the boy so he could stand, strengthen his legs, and learn to walk.  As the people ministered true love and concern for this handicapped boy and his grandmother, they developed a trusting relationship.  The grandmother asked the pastor to baptize her grandson, and he received the baptismal name, Eliya, which translates to “Elijah”.  

        Whenever Baraka is in the area, he stops in to visit Eliya and Bibi (Grandma).  Baraka offered to take us to visit Eliya and Bibi (his grandma), and also Pastor Julius, who is the pastor of the village church caring for Eliya. The church keeps an ongoing relationship with Eliya and Bibi, and continues assisting in provision of their daily needs.  The transformation in the life of Eliya has been a noticeable event in Mbuguni. This little one truly is a gem in the wilderness whom God loves through His holy Church. 

    I have just read Pope Francis’ book, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, (2013).  In this excellent book is a section about the inclusion of the poor in society.  Pope Francis emphasizes that loving the poor is always a priority of the Gospel message.   He writes, “Jesus, the evangelizer par excellence and the Gospel in person, identifies especially with the little ones (cf. Matthew 25:40). This reminds us Christians that we are called to care for the vulnerable of the earth. “ 

    Why is this little one now known as “King”?  This is because the people in that village have noticed how the local church reached out to lift up this little boy, genuinely caring for his needs, not with a quick fix, but continually forming a loving relationship with him.  They see that his dignity is being restored as a human being created in God’s image.  They see that his life has been resurrected out of the dust.  They marvel that this little boy is now able to respond to love, has begun talking, and even walks while holding their hands.  They see Christ -- for Jesus said “I was hungry and you gave me to eat" -- and so they call Eliya "the king" of their village.

"Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high, Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!  He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; that He may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people."
Psalm 113:5-8

May the peace of Christ be with you,
Brother Nathan and Mama Anna

Bibi holding Eliya outside their home.

Eliya is learning to respond to questions.

Pastor Julius and Evangelist Baraka visiting Eliya.

Eliya loves to walk with the help of someone's hand.

Visiting with "The Village King"!

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