A Village Meets Jesus After a Little Girl Has Heart Surgery

August 30, 2016 • Uganda
Alice, a former Children's Heart Project patient
Alice's family

Samaritan’s Purse sees 19 people accept the Gospel in eastern Uganda as a result of the witness of Children's Heart Project

Sometimes we go through certain situations just so that we can get to know God. It took a congenital heart defect for a small eastern Ugandan village to meet Jesus Christ.

Alice, a former Children's Heart Project patient

Alice at the hospital in Texas before her surgery

Three-year-old Alice Nakolo’s family believed in witchcraft and often visited witch doctors to seek health, healing, and luck. Many people in her village didn’t know about the one true God.

Although Alice seemed healthy at birth, as she got older, she didn’t grow. She was thin, and she had a bad appetite. She barely had energy to sit up and eat her food. She would fall asleep most of the time and sweat a lot. Her heartbeat could be seen through her chest. She couldn’t run or walk for long, and her mother carried her most of the time. She couldn’t play with other children.

Alice lives in a grass thatched hut with three of her siblings, her mother, and her grandmother. Her father, Nyende, left the family. Because Nyende used to get drunk; beat his wife, Rebecca; and abandon her and her children, Rebecca’s self-esteem and confidence were damaged.

Nyende did nothing for Alice, leaving Rebecca to figure out what was wrong with her on her own. Each month, she put away a bit of money in case Alice got sick. She asked for help from people around her neighborhood. They directed her to witch doctors and herbalists for medicine, but it didn’t heal Alice. She later went to different churches and then different hospitals.

Eventually she was referred to the main referral hospital in Kampala, Uganda’s capital. Alice and her mother had never been exposed to the city, so traveling to Kampala was a bit overwhelming. Throughout the long, tiring journey, Rebecca couldn’t help imagining that Alice would die. At the hospital, Alice was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. With her meager resources, Rebecca didn’t think she could do anything else for her daughter.

“I traveled in the cold night by bus, slept on the hospital floor when I had a doctor’s appointment the following day or when Alice fell sick,” she said with teary eyes. “There is nowhere I have not gone or nothing in my power I had not done for my daughter to get well. But it all did not work out.”

Alice, a former Children's Heart Project patient

Alice’s community hearing the Gospel from Samaritan’s Purse staff members.

Then the hospital introduced Rebecca to Samaritan’s Purse. When she met the staff members who work on the Children’s Heart Project, her face sagged with worry, weariness, and sadness. She didn’t know what to expect, but the team stood with her in prayer and supported her. Through our Children’s Heart Project, Alice was put on a waiting list and then accepted to receive surgery in North America.

A Crowd Gathers to Hear the Gospel

Before Alice and Rebecca left for Texas, Samaritan’s Purse staff members visited their village to encourage the family and pray with them. Alice’s grandfather was worried about his granddaughter because he didn’t know what to expect. He was concerned that she was traveling so far. On the way to the village, the staff prayed that people would join them and share with them. When they arrived, a crowd of 29 people was waiting on them. They were curious what kind of people would care for a poor village woman with such love and at no expense.

Samaritan’s Purse staff members shared the Gospel with the group and prayed, and many people were interested. By the end of the day, four women and six men, including Rebecca and Alice’s grandfather, had given their lives to Christ. Samaritan’s Purse staff members prayed that God will provide a church for these people to attend because currently the nearest church is more than an hour’s walk. Before leaving, the staff members distributed audio Bibles.

When Rebecca arrived in Texas, she called Alice’s grandfather to assure him that they were being taken care of and were comfortable in Texas. He said he felt relieved, although he was still afraid of what would happen during surgery. But because he had received salvation, he was strong in the Lord and was sure the Lord would see them through the trying time. He prayed constantly for Alice and Rebecca.

Alice’s lifesaving surgery took place in August 2015. Before the surgery, she was shy and cried if anyone other than her mother tried to talk to her or carry her. Now she is bubbly and social. She talks to others and is willing to let them carry her. Her change in personality is because of the love she experienced from all the people she met along her long journey. She now knows there’s no reason to be afraid.

Alice, a former Children's Heart Project patient

Alice after her surgery

Rebecca also changed through the surgery. While in North America, Rebecca was able to learn many things, including how to speak with an American accent, how to pray in English, and how to knit—which is her new favorite hobby. She has gained weight and confidence and looks vibrant.

“I am very happy!” she said. “When I wake up in the morning, I am smiling! Imagine how much God loves me. He sent people that I don’t even know, He worked through them, and now Alice is healed!”

A little more than a month after Alice’s surgery, her family welcomed her home. Rebecca is doing a good job of taking care of her children. Now that Alice is well, her mother is able to tend to her garden and is growing a variety of crops for her children. She hopes to soon produce enough to sell.

After Alice returned home healed, her father also returned to their home.

“I did not feel at peace when I left my family,” he said. “I had to go back and ask my wife to forgive me. I felt like I did not deserve to be forgiven, but I was surprised that Rebecca welcomed me home and forgave me. Now, I am a changed man. I don’t drink alcohol anymore, and I thank God for changing me.”

Alice, a former Children's Heart Project patient

Alice fetching water for her grandfather

Rebecca said that she forgave Nyende because she knew that God would do the same. Since he has moved home, they are now expecting another child.

Since returning home, Alice has become playful and has a lot of energy. She wants to help her mother in the kitchen and play with the other children outside. She is continuing to gain weight and often wakes up to eat at night. Her favorite hobby is playing with dolls.

“Now I can send Alice for a cup of water, and she will run to bring it!” her grandfather said.

A Miracle in a Small Village

Samaritan’s Purse has continued to visit Alice’s village post-surgery. During that time, nine more people have come to Christ, making a total of 19 recent conversions. These villagers now have Bibles to pursue spiritual growth but still lack a nearby church.

“Seeing [Alice] before and after surgery is like comparing two very different people,” Alice’s grandmother said. “Indeed God does exist, and He is a God of wonders. As a family, we can now have other plans without getting worried about losing her. We have been set free indeed.”

Alice, a former Children's Heart Project patient

Some village residents received new Bibles in their own language. They also received audio Bibles so that those who cannot read can still hear the Gospel.

Alice’s family wakes up early on Sunday mornings to make the hour walk to the closest church. Rebecca says it’s not a problem because she finds peace and joy in the Lord. As she does chores at home, she plays her audio Bible. She says it’s her greatest possession.

Most of the village members see Alice’s healing as a miracle. Through God’s work in her life, the Gospel continues to spread. Rebecca is grateful to God for taking care of them and to Samaritan’s Purse for the way God has provided.

“Thank you for doing Alice’s surgery,” Rebecca said. “It gives me joy as a mother to see that my child is healthy. May God continue to use you always.”

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
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