They were poor. Generations before them were poor, and nothing had changed. Three children to support and not enough money. Then, they got sick. One could blame many things for the illness, but blame doesn't cure. So she died. He was left alone with mouths to feed and no one to help. Should he work or take his children to the doctor? Would medicine do any good if there was no food to go with it? Some people tried to help, but burdened by despair and the weight of years of poverty and hardship, the way out was not something he could understand. So his son died. And two of his children were taken away.
Now they will be without their father and without a family for the rest of their lives.
I wish I could tell you that all our attempts to reunify families were successful. The truth is that the problems are much deeper than a small orphanage could ever hope to solve. The hunger will take international trade policy solutions, infrastructure development, and agricultural innovation. The poverty will take economic growth that seems impossible now with foreign debt, the stripping of natural resources, a large informal economic sector that doesn't contribute to the tax base, and corruption. The health and hygiene issues have not been solved with the billions of dollars of aid and relief.
Is there hope? Do I believe that what is right is also what is good?
His wife died giving birth to twin girls. Like most Zambians, he could not afford formula to feed one baby, much less two, nor could he work and care for these two little girls and their three older siblings. In a community so touched with tragedy and poverty, help was scarce. So his baby girls went away.
He tried to visit, but the cost of travel to them was more than four days of work. He made attempts at least once a year. The government officials wrongly told him that he could not have his girls back until they were 18. He married again. His wife cared for his three other children. They could eat, their children were in school, life seemed better. But he missed his little girls.
So he asked.
This time, we had a program and a plan. The training, resources, and knowledge were in place to start. It is hard, and it will take time and money. Children who do not know their father and their siblings have to build those relationships and learn to trust each other. A mother has to love and care for two more children she has never met. Hearts that have hurt for so long cannot heal overnight, and wounds sometimes leave scars that remain all our lives. It would be easier not to walk this path; it would be easier not to try. Hard doesn't mean bad, and doing what is right is more important than ease and comfort.
This is hope. This is the Gospel. This is redemption.