“Vulnerability” is a word that had a new meaning for me when I came to Uganda. I learned it anew specifically in relation to children. It seemed like every NGO I encountered was working with “vulnerable children.”
Now that I’ve lived here a short while (a total of five years in country), I’m beginning to think that the term is redundant, at least in this context.
A child is under threat from the moment it is conceived. Poverty, marital infidelity, and sexual promiscuity, among other things, have caused many women to either abort their children in the womb, or abandon them soon after they are born. Our ministry runs a children’s home where many stories can be told about how families have given up their children, sometimes after an attempt on their lives.
At childbirth, both child and mother are at high risk because of lack of proper medical care.
When a child is born, the threat of disease (malaria is still a huge life-taker), hunger, abandonment, neglect, hang over the child. How many children are left on their own at a very young age as parents go off to work? We have a few children in our school who are left to themselves for most of the day, some 7-year-olds left to care for younger siblings. Some are living with aunts, uncles or grandparents who don’t have the time or resources to give them proper care.
I recently read a BBC report that one in five children in neighboring Kenya are sexually active, some as young as ten. I am pretty sure the statistics in Uganda are almost the same. This, in my personal opinion, is related to neglect. We have had too many reports of children who are abused by other children (in the neighborhood or at school).
Since I work with children aged 3 to 8, ALL the children I work with are vulnerable just by virtue of their age. But as I get to know them, I realize that the vulnerability extends to so many more variables that seem to be raging out of control.
Each time I hear about another child being neglected, or abused, or bullied, I feel more and more helpless and hopeless. How are we even going to make a dent in this community? How are we even going to help these vulnerable children? How can we reach their parents? The issues get bigger and bigger as I know more and more.
I am drowning in this greater knowledge. The more I know, the more my helplessness grows.
“Panic,” says my flesh, “and quit. There is no hope for change.”
“Trust,” says the Spirit, “This is not your work, but Mine. I knew this long before I chose you and sent you. These children are Mine.”
Today, as we celebrate the Day of the African Child, say a prayer for them. If God is calling you to do something, obey, no matter how small the act seems. Your act of obedience is just part of God’s bigger plan, and with God’s hand behind it, can accomplish something you can never imagine.
I hold this verse for my ministry today, for my kids, for their families, and for myself:
Now to him who is able to do far more than all that we ask of think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Ephesians 3:20-21
I don’t really know why God chose me for such a ministry as this. Pride would question him. Humility and faith will just persevere in obedience. It is a privilege to celebrate the African child—while working with African children. God be praised and honored!