Alfred

shared by Cindy May

I should have taken a picture of Pastor Experito’s bags before he left.  They were chock full of everything that was on the wish list, and then some.  He was stuffing things in all his pockets because they don’t weigh the passengers!

If you don’t know Pastor Experito yet, he and his wife Justine live in Gulu, about 5 hours north of Nkumba.  He is an evangelist filled with the joy of the Lord, and it’s impossible to be around him more than a few seconds without being greeted by his large and welcoming smile.

I’ve been in regular e-mail contact with him since he arrived home, and have been peppering him with questions– one that elicited this honest response:

I was just crying when I came from America where I could enjoy  bath in a bath tab. Justine went to look for water came back late yesterday and the water container could not carry water that can be enough for cooking and bathing for all of us. The challenge of water is too big.

My heart broke reading that.  The good news is that enough has come into the general fund recently, that RTP was able to send him $800 for a water catchment tank.  This will collect rain water so that Justine doesn’t have to walk 4 km round trip to haul water back to their home.  If you didn’t see the picture of the water hole where he and Justine collect water, you can see it here.

All of this led me to think about Alfred.

In 2006, when Frank and I met Experito, we also met a young boy named Alfred.  He was just this amazing 11-year old kid who, despite a very traumatic life (his father had been abducted by the LRA) had a cheerful disposition and could quote Scripture left and right.  He and Frank took an immediate liking to each other, but at the end of the day, they parted ways.

Later that night, we decided to hang out at one of the night shelters. Turned away by two of the shelters for security reasons, we arrived at the third night shelter. We had seen hundreds if not thousands of children that day, so you can imagine our surprise at the third night shelter when Alfred walked up. As one of the invisible children, Alfred used to walk long distances into Gulu to sleep at night (for safety and space purposes.)

The next morning was Sunday, and we were off to church with Experito.  Part-way through the service, in wandered Alfred, who plunked himself in Frank’s lap. It was partly affection, and partly to keep his feet out of the 1/2 foot of rain-water that was collecting around our chairs on the floor under the tent-enclosure.

After we left Uganda, we worked with Experito to help Alfred attend school, but had very little contact with Alfred otherwise.

Then in 2008, Experito gave us this picture:

It hung on my wall over my desk.

Alfred’s charming smile had disappeared.  I finally asked Experito about him just last month.  My question was: “Is he happy?”  I know Ugandans don’t always smile for the camera.  Experito’s answer was pretty simple. “No.”  He explained to me the obvious: life in the IDP camps is pretty desperate, hope a vapor and despair epidemic.

In retrospect, I can’t believe it took me two years to ask that question or to think about what we might do to help Alfred further.  I think, well, I know, I was feeling overwhelmed by other needs and reasoned that I couldn’t do everything, so I just put it out of my mind.  Recently, I have been reminded that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb 11:6)

My eyes had shifted from Him and what He could do to what I could do by myself.  But I do not believe that God will give me the opportunity to do what I can handle. I believe He will give me the opportunity to do what HE alone can handle…the impossible.

God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible – what a pity that we plan only the things we can do by ourselves.” — A.W. Tozer

We discussed several different ideas, and Experito went home with money for a pair of shoes for Alfred. He wrote: “It is not always difficult to have Alfred smile.This is one of those moments you could see it is a smile from the depth of the heart.”

After Experito gave Alfred his shoes, Alfred then guided Experito and Justine to the place where he fetches water–new shoes and all.  Although the small, dirty pond looks very similar to the place where Experito and Justine get their water, this is actually a different small, dirty pond.  “Alfred’s family set up camp as close to a seasonal stream of water as possible. To reach the stream you have to walk through a bush for one mile.This journey in search of this dirty water makes you to meet several snakes like we did. Justine who is so unfriendly to even a mere mention of the word snake had a hard time as we met several of the poisonous reptiles to and from the stream.

I talked to Alfred’s dad (returned by the LRA) on how to make the family access abundant water. We discussed several things and will install a water catchment system and dig a valley concrete water tank so as to harvest and store the rain water from the house.  He says he is ready and willing to make bricks, aggregate and sand to enable us to at least construct them a big water tank which could store about 100,000 litres of water (26,420 gallons–enough water for 80 people for a month.) This will be a great leap for this village and will be a beach head for other activities. I told him that we shall work together to achieve this goal. He told me that I will at least get a report from him by May on how far he will have gone.” ~Experito

Water is Life:

What I have discovered in my travels to more than 40 countries with World Vision is that almost all poverty is fundamentally the result of a lack of options.  It is not that the poor are lazier, less intelligent, or unwilling to make efforts to change their condition.  Rather, it is that they are trapped by circumstances beyond their power to change…

Imagine that the water you fetched from the lake was teeming with deadly bacteria, parasites, and waterborne diseases–that are literally killing you.  A child dies every 15 seconds of a waterborne disease.  This creates a no-win situation for millions of parents in our world today–they can watch helplessly as their children die for lack of water, or they can watch them die from diarrhea, because the only water they have is tainted.

Tragically, living without water has even more dimensions.  Thousands of hours are lost seeking and hauling water…These are hours that could be spent earning an income or contributing to the well-being of the family and community.

If you take away (my) water and sanitation, you take away my health and that of my children.  If you take away my health, you have taken away my energy and my industry. If you take away my energy and ability to support my family, you have taken away my dignity; and if you take away my dignity, you have taken away hope–for the future, for my children, for a better life.  This is the harsh reality of the more than one billion people in the world who live without access to clean, safe water.

In Africa, they don’t say that water is important to their lives; they say that water is life. The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision

For dozens of people, including Alfred, this $2000 water tank will begin the process of stepping out of poverty and into hope.  And the love we give in helping relieve people from the bondage of poverty opens the door to their understanding of God’s love.

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