Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Story of Hope...

Hope has been a part of my journey in Uganda since the beginning. Hope has been a constant during my time here; a reminder of what it means to trust, a reminder to greet everyday with expectation, to meet every task with perseverance, and to walk though life with Hope. You see, Hope is a 15-year-old Sudanese girl that has changed my life & the lives of those around me. Let me start from the beginning….

Last summer when I came to Uganda for the first time, I met Hope. She was just 13 years old and pregnant. I visited her at a nearby guesthouse with my friend Sarah. She had escaped her family only days before. I have never seen someone so brave and yet so scared at the same time. She looked as if she were a wise old woman. But she was only a child.

Hope came to Uganda from Sudan when she was about 9 years old. She was kidnapped by her brother-in-law (the husband of her half-sister – sister from another mother) and promised an education. Hope attended one term of school before she was forced to become her family’s slave. For 4 years she did everything for the family and worked unbelievable hours. All the while she was being abused.

When she was 13 years old, things took a turn for the worse. Hope was raped and became pregnant, and her family became outraged. You see in many African cultures, the daughter/wife is property of the family. They are not often valued in society, however they are worth a lot of money to a family in the form of a dowry. So essentially they are bought by the husband’s family and become their property. SO, when Hope became pregnant she became worthless. Her family would never get a big dowry (cows, goats, sugar) for her. In addition, in the Dinka Culture (her Sudanese tribe), pregnancy out of wedlock gave them the right to kill her.

As a result of her pregnancy, the abuse heightened. Her family members would beat her, kick her in the stomach, tie her up, and throw her in the front yard to sleep. And then they would do it again. All this was done in attempt to kill her baby & possibly her. I can’t even imagine the despair Hope must have felt.

She tried to leave once, but was found by another Sudanese neighbor and brought back to her family. Police came and took Hope and her Uncle to the station, they questioned them, and told the Uncle that if he killed her he would go to jail. But the abuse continued. Then one night she ran away with only the clothes on her back. Some friends had arranged a rendezvous to take her to safety. Hope never looked back.

I met Hope just day’s after her escape. That is when my Story of Hope began.

Shortly after Hope was rescued, some friends were able to find a home for pregnant teens in Kampala. And on Dec 4, 2009, Hope gave birth to a beautiful baby boy….Andrew. It was not safe for her to be in Kampala so close to her family, so shortly after Andrew was born, Hope was moved to Jinja to stay with our friend Katie until a more permanent solution could be found. She remains in Jinja today with another family. She is working part-time, being tutored, & taking care of Baby Andrew. Sarah and a friend been working with The Refugee Law Project to obtain refugee status for her here in Uganda. We are also attempting to work out a deal with her family so that she can return to Kampala safely & live with us!

There is a stark contrast between the Hope I met long ago & the Hope I know now. I have never met someone with so much LIFE! Truly, when she walks through the door, it is like sunshine walking onto the room. She is so joyful, loving, smart, and she is not scared of anything. She is an incredible mom too! It is so fun to watch her soothe her child then run and do a cannonball into the pool, like any 15 year old should. I am amazed by her every move.

I never expected that I would come to love this little girl so much. I long to see her. I pray for her safety constantly and that she will have every opportunity for an education. I want an amazing future for her. I pray for Andrew to be healthy & grow…and change the world one day. I would move mountains if I could! I want to give her the world…one free of abuse and overflowing with love!

The Story of Hope is the story of all our lives as well. Her life is not too different from yours. It just wears a different set of clothes and comes with a different set of circumstances. Our stories are all messy, but they are beautiful too. We have all been rescued, we have all been redeemed, and we have all been promised a Hope and a future. I can’t imagine my life any differently, and I can’t imagine my life without HOPE!

Beautiful Hope

Baby Andrew

Our Little Fish

Sweet Crocodile Tears

Baby Andrew's Namesake. Andrew Lambie

With Auntie Emmy