A little girl, left for dead, gets a second chance
I was approaching Benjo’s School by foot through the narrow alleyways of the Mathare 4A slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Walking alongside were Pastor Viterlis Opicha, overseer of Benjo’s School – a man seemingly clothed in a perpetual smile – and a few dozen elementary school children, mostly dressed in burgundy school uniforms.
Upon arrival more children greeted us – the older enthusiastically, while some of the youngest shyly stood by not knowing what to make of my unfamiliar face.
The school is made up of small classrooms built out of rusty corrugated tin sheets, handmade bricks and often framed with wood stick. In the center of the school property, with classrooms surrounding it, is a small open area where the children play.
It was breakfast time, and as the smell of porridge and burning firewood permeated the school grounds, I entered the kitchen to say hello to the cook. A woman with a shy toddler mostly hiding behind her long green skirt, was busy putting finishing touches to the meal. She stirred the pot of porridge with a paddle, big enough to navigate a canoe. She seemed very organized. The kitchen, although sparse, was very orderly. Everything had a place. On top of the two wood-burning stoves, stood beautifully polished pots. She clearly took pride in her work I thought to myself.
She filled up a large number of colorful plastic mugs with the porridge. A young teacher arrived, and proceeded to hand out the mugs of porridge to the children sitting in the open area.
As the children ate, they smiled. Their appreciation of the warm meal was inescapable – it radiated from their faces. As is often the case with the schools where we feed children, the meals they receive there are the only certain meals of the day.
Pastor Viterlis introduced me to Mercy. Unable to walk, and confined to a small purple plastic chair, she sat there eagerly observing the play of the other children, while sipping her hot porridge.
Pastor Viterlis explained that they had found her in the garbage. Her parents, presumably, had disposed of her because of her handicap. No one knew to whom she belonged, but they had found someone to care for her, and she now attended the school.
The pastor and caretakers were not able to afford a wheelchair for her, and as such she was completely dependent on adults carrying her to and from school.
Mercy is a quiet little girl, with beautiful eyes, and an infectious smile. She seemed uncommonly calm and peaceful for a girl her age. Looking at her I was dumbfounded, trying to imagine what parents would leave their child in the garbage to die. It deeply angered me and I struggled to keep my tears at bay. Pastor Viterlis knelt down next to Mercy, lovingly placing his hand on her head, as a father would his own daughter: “We are praying that one day she may walk.”
An easy life Mercy may never find. Growing up in the slums is difficult for anyone, let alone an orphaned, handicapped girl. As she grows, she will likely struggle to provide for herself. Perhaps she will question why her parents abandoned her, wondering if they saw no value in her life. But she will also know the mercy and love of God, displayed through the people who, like the Good Samaritan, did not walk by looking the other way. Instead, they took her in, at great personal sacrifice, nursing her back to health, as best as they could, feeding, clothing and schooling her in the process. Someday, as she reflects on the mercy shown, perhaps she will understand that her Heavenly Father puts an infinitely higher value on her life than did her earthly parents.
We shall never know what came of the injured man, after his encounter with the Good Samaritan. That part is left for us to imagine. Was he left with permanent scars, or a limp, serving as a reminder both of the injustice and mercy shown him? Or was he fully restored to the health and emotional state he enjoyed prior his attack? That, Jesus’ parable never revealed. But what it did reveal was that mercy triumphed. The Samaritan broke with custom and culture, bringing healing and hope to a man, who like Mercy, was left to die.
As we travel the Jericho road of life and encounter people in distress, as Pastor Viterlis did Mercy, may we each find the grace to “Go and do likewise.”
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor…”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy…”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Please pray that God will grant Mercy complete healing, both physically and emotionally.