A Healed Heart Leads to a Divine Calling

October 9, 2017 • Uganda

A young girl receives life-saving surgery through Children’s Heart Project and puts her faith in Jesus Christ. Now, she serves as a mentor and interpreter for children who are on a similar journey.

Save a Child's Life
013687
$
Donate

Hilda Nalwanga had felt unwell for as long as she could remember. She longed to run and play with the children in her class in Uganda, but she became tired quickly. Her heart pounded hard and fast all the time. She got sick often.

Hilda, at center in yellow, celebrates her 12th birthday in school in Uganda.

Hilda, at center in yellow, celebrates her 12th birthday in school in Uganda.

In December 2005, Hilda was visiting relatives during school break when her Aunt Prossy noticed that she was sweating heavily and her breathing was fast and ragged. Concerned, Prossy watched her niece closely for two days and when the symptoms did not improve, she took her to a health clinic.

After listening to her heart, the doctor referred her to a hospital and ordered an echocardiogram which revealed that Hilda, 13 years old at the time, had a congenital heart defect. Without surgery, her condition would continue to deteriorate. It was unlikely that she would live to see her 20s.

Hilda was stunned. She pleaded with God, asking why He was allowing this to happen to her. Her devastated parents wondered how they could afford the surgery that would save their daughter’s life. It seemed impossible.

But God was already making a way.

Nothing Is Impossible with God

About a month later, Hilda’s doctor asked her to return to the hospital. A visiting team of cardiologists was screening patients to receive heart surgery through Children’s Heart Project, and Hilda had been referred as a potential candidate.

More than 1,200 boys and girls have received surgery through Children’s Heart Project, a program of Samaritan’s Purse that identifies children in developing countries who have congenital heart defects, and brings them to North America for life-saving surgery. Partnering hospitals and surgeons volunteer their services, and Christian families host the children and their mothers (or other guardian) during the typical six-week recovery period.

More than 1,200 boys and girls have received surgery through Children’s Heart Project.

In October 2006, Hilda learned that she had been accepted into the Children’s Heart Project program and would soon be flying to Washington, D.C., to receive surgery that would repair the hole in her heart. She was thankful but afraid. The thought of going abroad to an unfamiliar place with people she had never met and a language she didn’t speak made her feel unsure. And the prospect of heart surgery was nerve-racking.

Auntie Prossy prayed with Hilda and reassured her that God had a good plan for her life. She encouraged her to hold fast to the promise found in Psalm 118:17: “I will not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”

“My Future Is Bright Ahead of Me”

When Hilda and her mother arrived at the home of James and Sheila Farthing in Sterling, Virginia, her worries began to melt away. “It felt like home,” Hilda said of her hosts. “Knowing that people were supporting and praying for us. Loving us. We were like a family.”

Hilda recovers after her 2006 heart surgery.

Hilda recovers after her 2006 heart surgery.

Days later, Hilda was in a hospital gown, being taken to the operating room where she would undergo surgery to repair the hole in her heart—a procedure that is performed regularly in the United States, but unavailable in countries like Uganda. When she awoke, she was bandaged and sore, but full of hope for her future.

During the six weeks she spent at the Farthings’ home, Hilda’s health steadily improved. Her heartbeat felt normal, she began to gain weight, and breathing came more easily.

Back at home in Uganda, Hilda returned to school. She was able to be active for the first time in her life, participating in recess and playing with the other students. “If I hadn’t had the heart surgery, I would have died,” Hilda said. “I would still be feeling weak and sickly. It is because of the surgery that I am now strong. I feel like my future is bright ahead of me.”

A New Spiritual Heart

Several years later, in 2012, Hilda attended Heart Camp—a week full of fun activities, worship, and discipleship for children who have received surgery through Children’s Heart Project. At Heart Camp, boys and girls like Hilda form friendships with other kids who have faced similar struggles, and they learn more about Jesus as they study God’s Word.

Hilda Nalwaga is now working as a Samaritan's Purse staff member.

Hilda Nalwaga is now working as a Samaritan’s Purse staff member.

It was there that she met Helen, a God-fearing woman who quickly became her mentor. Helen’s kindness and compassion was a living demonstration of Jesus’ love, and it made an impact on Hilda. “I wanted to experience that kind of love,” Hilda said. “So I decided to give my heart to Christ. I received a new spiritual heart.”

Each year, Hilda returned to Heart Camp, where her natural leadership abilities began to rise to the surface. She enrolled in the Samaritan’s Purse Leaders in Training program, through which young adults receive life skills training, learn to be mentors, and perform follow-up visits at the homes of other children who received surgery through Children’s Heart Project.

Declaring the Works of the Lord

Eventually Hilda became a Heart Camp facilitator, providing one-on-one mentorship and sharing the Gospel with Heart Camp participants, just as Helen had done for her. As she told the story of her own journey, Hilda encouraged boys and girls that God would meet their every need. “God is the provider. He is the healer,” she said. “He has a divine purpose for each one of us.”

Hilda stands with Elshaddai and his mother.

Hilda stands with Elshaddai and his mother Deborah.

But God had more in store for Hilda. When she received a call from Samaritan’s Purse asking her to work as an interpreter with Children’s Heart Project, she felt blessed and humbled. In August 2017, Hilda made her first trip as a staff translator, serving 3-year-old Elshaddai and his mother during their stay in the United States.

“I want to thank Children’s Heart Project for the care, support, and the commitment to bring more and more children [for surgery],” she said. “I believe that lives are being changed. Thank you for keeping Christ at the center of everything.”

As Hilda reflects on her own journey, she is awed by how God opened doors for healing in a seemingly impossible situation. Now she has dedicated her life to encouraging others that are walking a similar journey. “Pour out your heart to God, He never turns a deaf ear,” she urges. “Even if it is not obvious how He is working, it will be revealed. The journey is never easy, but with God the impossible can become possible.”

SUPPORT
About one out of every 100 babies has a heart defect that surgeons can routinely repair. Unfortunately, many of them are born in poor or remote places where their families cannot access the cardiac care they urgently need. Through our Children’s Heart Project, Samaritan’s Purse transports boys and girls from places like Bolivia, Mongolia, and Uganda to hospitals in North America. Doctors, hospitals, and host families and churches donate their time and services, but airfare is a major cost—typically $2,200 per person for international flights. For $22, you can share in this cost so that we can offer life-saving surgery and the unsurpassed hope of the Gospel. “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (Psalm 13:5).
Save a Child's Life About one out of every 100 babies has a heart defect that surgeons can routinely repair. Unfortunately, many of them are born in poor or remote places where their families cannot access the cardiac care they urgently need. Through our Children’s Heart Project, Samaritan’s Purse transports boys and girls from places like Bolivia, Mongolia, and Uganda to hospitals in North America. Doctors, hospitals, and host families and churches donate their time and services, but airfare is a major cost—typically $2,200 per person for international flights. For $22, you can share in this cost so that we can offer life-saving surgery and the unsurpassed hope of the Gospel. “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (Psalm 13:5).

Children's Heart Project 013687
Suggested Gift: $2,200 | Share the Cost: $22
$

More