By Kari Miller
Several days ago, Johnson Iwondo came to the door. He greeted me with his trademark smile. I was elated to see my dear friend. I have known Johnson for 5 years and watched him go from an orphaned boy to a confident man of God. It is like watching a caterpillar become a beautiful butterfly.
Johnson was orphaned at age eleven and left with three other siblings to raise. Terrified and hungry he sought out help from World Vision. He was then sponsored, mentored and discipled by loving World Vision staff. In 2002 he came to my church in Minnesota to tell his story: the story of how God rescues orphans. Several weeks before Johnson and the World Vision staff came; a man named Bob called the Minneapolis World Vision office asking to meet the Ugandans. Bob lived in Stillwater, a small town about an hour north of the Twin Cities. He wanted us to drive up to Stillwater in order to show them a wheelchair he had developed. This wheelchair was equipped with mountain bike tires and was durable enough for the rugged terrain of rural Uganda. Bob was hoping our Ugandan guests would be able to give him some much-needed feedback about his design.
Our local World Vision staff listened politely to Bobs story and then suggested he contact some other mission agencies that specialized in medical devices. However, Bob continued to call three more times each time demanding to see the Ugandans and not willing to take no for an answer. Finally, in order to appease Bob, we decided to take a morning trip to Stillwater. This trip seemed so strange and quite frankly like a total waste of time, but Bobs persistence paid off.
So Tuesday morning arrived and Jeff, one of our local World Vision representatives, took Johnson and several others up to the quiet town of Stillwater. As they approached Bobs house, Jeff almost apologetically explained about Bobs wheelchair and how insistent he had been about their visit. Jeff then noticed that Johnsons demeanor changed slightly and asked if he was feeling okay. Johnson assured him that he was feeling fine and they proceeded on to Bobs house.
After the short introductions, Bob pointed out his wheelchair and demonstrated its usage. The whole event had not taken more than five minutes and Jeff was wondering if this whole trip had really been worth it. Almost as an afterthought, Bob casually asked if they knew of any disabled Ugandan men or women who would be willing to test it out free of charge. At this point, Johnson fell to his knees and began to sob. Needless to say, Jeff became very alarmed and rushed to his side. As we comforted him, Jeff pleaded with him to explain what had upset him so much. Had we done or said something to hurt or offend him? In between sobs, Johnson explained that there was something about his story that we didnt know.
As we continued to hold him, we explained that his closest brother in age was born with cerebral palsy and had spent 17 years of his life dragging himself on his belly through the dirt with his deformed shaky arms. He had never attended school and had never been more than 50 feet from their house. While the other siblings were in school, he stayed by the house unable to meet his own basic needs. His brothers name was John and he didnt eat unless someone came and fed him and had to wet himself if there was no one to help him use the latrine. Johnson then explained that John spent most of his time in prayer. He prayed for Johnson, his other brothers and sisters and he praised God. However, his most fervent prayer was for a wheelchair. Just before Johnson left for the United States, John told him that God was going to give him a wheelchair. Johnson pleaded with his brother to be patient and that he would get him one as soon as he graduated from college. So, when Bob offered this wheelchair to Johnson, he was overwhelmed at Gods faithfulness. Suddenly, he began shouting, God has done a miracle! God has done a miracle! At this point we were all crying huge tears of indescribable joy.
A couple of weeks later, we sent a camera back with Johnson to film that moment when Gods faithfulness became reality to John. It was incredibly moving to watch Johnson lift his brother out of the red clay dust into this wheelchair. John began to shake violently with excitement and to try to clap his hands. He was shouting in his palsied voice, My God is so mighty! My God is so mighty! It was truly a glimpse of Gods glory.
I am so proud of who Johnson has become. He is a Godly man with wisdom beyond his years. He has allowed God to heal his pain so that it can be used to encourage other children. I am glad that God has connected us and allowed us to have a deep meaningful friendship. He is my African brother and I am his American sister. Is that how God works? The privileged American can be loved by a former orphan– just as God promised– his Kingdom will be shown through the poor. He will bless those who are weak and needy lifting them up and giving them great blessings. In Gods economy the poor become rich and the rich become poor and in the midst of it all Gods love reigns.
As an American, we long to be a part of something big. We want to feed thousands of people, save the lives of many, provide shelter for the most needy. We want to be part of some big work that makes for an eye-popping story that makes others weep. Rarely do we long to love simplyto be a part of something small. We arent as desperate to know and be known by those around us as much as we are desperate to do something great. This week I have started to let go of my American need to do something great and have begun to embrace the small and the seemingly insignificant. I have loved and allowed myself to be loved.
Kari Miller is a 4th grade teacher who is passionate about loving Jesus and loving others. She longs to inspire others to love the least, the lost and the left out.
Visit World Vision’s website to check out the work they are doing in Uganda and beyond.