In 2013 I wrote an introduction to the 40 Days of Prayer, a Hands at Work event held each year in the lead up to Easter. It was the first year that I really entered into this event. We have 12 days of prayer coming up in December! Day 1 featured a story of a boy damaged and desolate by life, abuse and circumstances. His name was Rimos*, and a few months after praying for him, I met Rimos. Desolation is just a word. He had completely retreated from this world into his own world of pain. His eyes: unfocussed, distant, unblinking and blank. Healthy in body yet completely broken within. The eyes are the light of the body we read in the Sermon on the Mount. Rimos lived in darkness, not permitting anything in, lest he experience even more pain and trauma.
Into his desolation stepped Reuben, a local careworker, and in his loving eyes and gentle voice he fearlessly entered, and made the tiniest crack in Rimos’ impenetrable defences. In Reuben's Holy Home Visit Isaiah 42:3 was revealed - "a bruised reed He will not break, a smouldering wick He will not snuff out". After 100 minutes of tender care, our Rimos whispered a few words in response. It seemed a tiny step on a long road, but that first step was huge!
Two years after – 2015 – I visited Mulenga, accompanied by (who else?) Reuben. Of course I asked about those who I had visited, and top of my list was Rimos. How is he? Reuben would not tell me but he seemed very excited for us to keep on down the hill, so we kept walking in the bright sunshine, till we reached the Life Centre of Mulenga, where children receive nutrition, education and . . . . Life.
The life centre seemed very dark, and my eyes took some time to adjust. Lit with just the gaps between the gangly wooden branches that form the walls, I saw blackboards, desks and students busy finishing a mathematics lesson with their community teacher Emmanuel. And there, sitting tall and attentive was Rimos. Yet this was not the Rimos that I had seen in 2013. His eyes were alive! Life had returned! He is now a part of the youth leadership program in Mulenga. Tears that I had shed over two years ago over Rimos' desolation had been turned into tears of joy. I took a photo to celebrate: What a moment that was for me, in two ways:
1. I saw what Hands at Work really does. Food, Education and Health are the 3 essential services at Hands. Hands helps keep thousands of children from death through malnutrition and neglect. Yes, Rimos received these basics and they are universal human rights. But in Reuben, this young man experienced Jesus, and he was loved back to life. To see Hands at Work, is to see Life. Not the materialistic ‘life-of-things’ that we cling to, but the John 10:10 “abundant life” that Jesus describes, and that I see pouring out through the Hands community.
2. Prayer came alive for me. There were many hundreds praying with us in 2013. Many of them prayed for Rimos but who never have visited him. How powerfully and graciously their prayers have been answered for him and me! Let me quote from that 40 days of prayer: "Read the story of Rimos, a vulnerable child in Zambia. Pray that over the following weeks, God will help you understand the inner pain children like Rimos live with every day."
In 2015, God completed that circle. A 13 year old boy who lost both his parents at age 4, gained life when people prayed, when a church somewhere in America supported, and when Reuben shared the Jesus That He Knows. Life didn’t just come, it exploded into his life, and mine. I was helped to understand his inner pain, to feel it almost as my own. But God did more than that: Jesus came to bring life and to bring it abundantly. That is God-breathed life!
I encourage you to pray, give and visit to encourage those who have drawn a line in the sand to care for hundreds of kids like Rimos. Why? To understand Rimos, I had to become vulnerable like him. In understanding his inner pain, I can see my inner pain. I need healing just like Rimos. “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matt 5:3
* name has been changed