We met Sylivia while we were commissioning two new water wells in a remote village in Kaliro, Uganda. She had tuberculosis and was close to death. The pastor of our local church brought us to her home and asked us to help. We asked about her family and discovered that nobody would accept responsibility for her. She was too much of a burden so her family left her for dead. We were not willing to do the same. We took her to a local clinic where the doctor told us that she would have died in three days or less. After x-rays they discovered that one lung was almost completely full of pus. Sylivia was literally drowning. She needed immediate surgery to drain the lung, but we did not have the money that we needed. We told the doctor to go ahead with the surgery and that we would find the money. We started an online campaign and many of you donated to save her life. That money together with some of our own personal funds covered the surgery.
It became obvious that she was going to be in the hospital for about a month and she was going to need food, supplies, etc. I called her pastor and told him that I would buy a wash basin (for bathing), a charcoal stove (for cooking), and the charcoal. I told him, however, that I would not be buying her food or soap. The church needed to accept responsibility for her and provide her with soap and food to cook during her entire stay at the hospital. He agreed and her church family continually came from deep in the village to bring her food and check on her. They never once asked for any transportation or help with other costs. After about a month, Sylivia was well enough to go home.
Four months later (March 2014), we were back in Sylivia’s village. I went to check on her but almost did not recognize her! She was healthy, happy, and joyful! As we sat and talked I found out that over the past several months she had come to town for three follow up visits with the doctor. Never once had she contacted us for any assistance in the high transportation costs. She also informed me that she is going to need surgery to remove a tumor in her lung before she is completely restored to full health. The surgery would cost about $200. This is a huge (almost impossible) cost for someone like Sylivia who lives in a remote village with no financial income. At this point, I fully expected her to ask us to pay for the cost of the surgery. She did not. Instead, with a huge smile on her face, she informed me that she had already raised about $160.
In a village that had given up on one of their own, we were given the opportunity to help a helpless and dying woman. In that moment, we did what we saw was the only option — we helped when no one else would. But we also pulled her pastor and church family together to help as a team. Once they saw Sylivia improving, they realized they could help, and became hopeful once again. After seeing the way her church family came together to help her, the same community that had refused to take responsibility for her, came together to raise the money for her surgery!
It gets better. After that, Sylivia took me to meet her sister. Prior to all of this, Sylivia’s sister was not a believer. But after seeing the church help save Sylivia’s life, she was so moved by that testimony, that she gave her life to Christ. Then she took me to meet her father. With tears in his eyes, he got down on his knees (a sign of respect normally only practiced by women) and offered me the gift of a chicken to show his gratefulness for what had been done.
Extending help to someone in a third-world country is a very delicate matter and should be done with careful discernment. We do not want to create a dependency on free handouts. However, if we had been so afraid of hurting through our helping, we may not have helped at all. Sylivia would be dead, her sister would still be lost, and we would not have had the privilege of seeing a village transformed by the power of the Gospel lived out. Thank you for standing with us.