H ... O ... M ... E
He had concluded his school break and was now back in school. But, before he began his predictable routine of education, Mommy Sera had given him enough money to travel to his village of Moroti and to eat some food along the way. She had taken him off the streets of Jinja several years before. The firstborn in a family of six, Gabriel had a passion to return to his village, before school began, to check on his two brothers and sisters who had remained there.
|Gabe with Emma|
The youngest in the family, Emma (a shortcut for Emmanuel) is six years old and had been left with an extended family member. But, Gabe found he wasn't with the auntie he was left with. He was on the streets surviving any way he could. He was dirty, hungry, and uncared for.
Gabriel never made it through his account of his adventure back to the village to find Emma. He choked up, put his large hands over his face, and broke down with sobs that followed him out of the building. I went around the other side to find him. I just held him in my arms and imagined what turned out to be true. Emma was in desperate condition with no hopeful future. Gabe took the little money he had and gave his brother food and transported him back to Jinja. But, the only place for him to stay was in Masese, one of the worst slums of our city.
|Raoul points Gabe & Emma toward the way HOME|
After finding Emma, camera in hand, I surveyed the immediate surroundings. Less than ten feet from where I stood where six or eight children. All appeared to be younger than eight years old. They stood in a tight circle surrounding a pot of local alcohol, sucking on straws that disappeared into the dirty pot. They were not in school. Their environment was their teacher. They were learning at an early age to drown their miserable existence. This unforgettable memory sealed my commitment to get Emma out of the slum and into a home.
|Emma with Raoul in Masese|
|Emma's new father in his new home|
Kwagala is the Luganda word for LOVE. How do you tell a six year old boy who has no family that you love him? Words are not enough. Just as God demonstrated His love with specific and life changing actions, love has to be expressed in the same way.
Raoul, Gabe, and I located the Local Chairman 1. He is, essentially, the village chief, who has the legal authority to release Emma to the care of Raoul. He asked many questions, to which we had answers, and he granted permission for Emma to leave the squalid conditions of Masese for the warm and loving environment of a home. Just before we left the slum, I observed Emma relieving himself into a small ditch that ran between the mud huts on the hillside. It seemed an appropriate farewell.
|Emma on his new bed|
As I left Raoul and Emma in the new home, Raoul said to me, "God wanted Emma to be the first boy in my home." I agreed, but asked Raoul, "Why?" He replied, "Because Emmanuel means God with us and He wants to confirm that we are in His will with this new adventure."
How do you spell love? H ... O ...M ... E