Last week, we grieved the loss of Ivan, the older brother of two of our sponsored children, Jeremiah and Charity. The mother’s (Martha) heart has been filled with grief over the loss of four sons and some of her nephews, watching each of them slowly digress with the horrific affects of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. You may have read our previous post about the suffering this family has faced. Martha lived for years with guilt that she had been cursed, causing the deaths of her children, and when I first met her in 2017, I could see and feel the hopelessness in their home.
Ivan was working on some electrical rewiring of something (I am inept in this area, so I really have no idea!), a fascination and gift of his. Ivan was a bright young man, who was severely limited by his physical condition, especially with cultural and economic barriers. However, his greatest struggle was less to do with his genetic condition and much more to do with his utter despair. He also had been told his life was cursed and knowing the outcome for his brothers brought deep depression. My colleague, Arthur, asked him that day if he wanted to know and experience the love of God through Jesus. Ivan believed that day that he wasn’t a mistake or a curse, because through Christ he could experience the greatest hope. This was a key turning point in the life of this family.
That same day, his father returned from working in the field and saw something different in Ivan’s demeanor. He also had given up on faith in God, determined that his family was cursed, but seeing the transformation in his son allowed him to hold onto hope that God had not forgotten them. As a result, the whole family was changed with lasting hope found in relationship with Jesus, and the mother could rest in the knowledge that this suffering was not her fault.
Not long after, the family was approached by the government who purchased a portion of their land to widen the main road. With that money, they were able to build a new home! Then, in 2018, we connected with a local physiotherapist who had a team from the USA giving wheelchairs to people in need. Miraculously, she had an extra which was just perfect for Ivan. At first, he resisted the idea, but once he experienced what it felt to be mobile again, he couldn’t wait to show his friends. My visit this time with them was completely different, there was light, hope and joy in the home!
A few months before Ivan’s passing, tragedy struck the family again with the sudden death of the father, leaving Martha to care for her children on her own, with all their physical difficulties. To lose yet another son just after the loss of her husband is unimaginable. We have no words, other than God is ever present even in the midst of suffering as David said in Psalms 34:18,
“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”
Hope Africa cannot “fix” suffering in families, but we do believe we partner with God to bring hope to families. Sometimes that comes through the simple gift of sponsorship of children, like Ivan’s younger siblings, or monetary assistance such as wheelchairs, medical care or food. Often, it is simply through offering them the opportunity to know God personally, to know they are not forgotten. Even in the midst of suffering, the family rests on that lasting hope. Please pray for this sweet family as they continue to walk this road of grieving!