He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am He.”
John 4:16-18, 25-26
If new chapters of the Bible were being written today, there would be a very full chapter about Angela.
Angela was forced to marry a man who already had a wife. She gave birth to her first child, a girl, who lived for two and a half years before she developed a fever and died. She had another child, a boy, who died around the same age of exactly the same cause: a mysterious fever, a swift death. Later, she found out that the other wife had become jealous and poisoned the children.
Angela decided to leave. Soon after, she became involved with another man. This man also had a wife. He and Angela didn’t get married, but they had two children together. When he drank too much, which was often, he beat Angela and the kids.
Desperate for a way out, she decided to sell cassava, a vegetable similar to a potato, on the side of the road until she made enough money to buy a bus ticket home.
When she returned to her hometown, Angela married a new man. This one didn’t have any other wives. Their first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, then they had twins, one who was stillborn and one who died at three months old. After that, they had one son, then another. Then that husband decided he wanted a second wife.
She provided for her family by selling the “local brew” and tried to numb her pain by drinking. It was a readily available solution, but the relief never lasted. Even when she tried to walk away from the pain of her past, she never got very far.
Angela met a new man. They were just friends, but they conceived a child together. He was shot and killed while serving in the army when she was five months pregnant.
The child was born at home, and she was born with spina bifida. No one in the village had ever seen such a thing before. They told Angela she had given birth to something that was not human.
She took the child to a hospital in Mbale and was referred to CURE Uganda, where she was told that her child could be healed through surgery. CURE Uganda is a global leader in the treatment of hydrocephalus and spina bifida, but Angela had no way of knowing that. Neither did her family.
When she called her family to tell them her baby could have surgery, they told her not to bother. The child was disabled. Why waste time and money on a disabled child?
Ten children. Five deaths. One disability.
Something was telling me, ‘Now, you get the child and throw it into the pit latrine here at CURE and run away. Even if they shoot you from the gate, let them shoot you, but go and throw the child into the pit.’
In a final act of desperation, she tried to shove the child down the toilet at CURE Uganda. When she wouldn’t fit one way, Angela tried another way, but she still didn’t fit.
After every attempt failed, Angela laid the child down outside, sat far away from her, and wept.
Immaculate came to CURE Uganda as a playroom attendant in 2001. She currently serves as Spiritual Center Assistant. She arrived after enduring a story similar to Angela’s, a story similar to many mothers who find themselves at CURE Uganda.
Immaculate had three children with a man who promised to marry her but never did. Then, one day, he left. Her family turned on her, and people started calling her names. She felt completely alone.
At her weakest moment, Immaculate was struck by the same desperation that had consumed Angela: the lie that death was her only escape.
I was about to go and buy poison one day. I had a baby. I didn’t have a job; one [child] was four years, one was two years, and one was a baby. I went to a friend who was saved and I said, ‘My sister, I’m dying. I feel like dying. What do I do? I want to take poison and die so that I can rest.’ But she said, ‘No, you will not die. Give your life to Jesus.’
The truth, when it is spoken, has the power to silence evil.
It’s what happened the day Immaculate met Angela.
Immaculate found Angela sitting outside of the toilets at CURE Uganda. She was so confused by what she saw: a mother weeping uncontrollably, ignoring a shrieking baby that was clearly hers.
She picked up the baby, brought Angela back to the ward, and instructed her to hold her child. Then Angela said the words Immaculate knew all too well.
She said, ‘My sister, I feel like I want to die. I have a lot of problems. And this child I’ve produced, the father died, and I’m just alone. My home people started laughing at me and saying, “You have produced something abnormal, an animal. You are just a curse upon the family.”’
So I said, ‘It is good that you have arrived here. Sister, God has seen those tears. What I feel you need to do is give your life to Jesus.’
The same truth that was spoken to Immaculate was spoken to Angela, and just as it had so many years before, the truth silenced evil.
Angela accepted Jesus as her Savior.
She didn’t return to an easy life. In an effort to make a complete shift from her old life and make it publicly known that she was now following Jesus, Angela burned all of the equipment she needed for brewing alcohol, which was both her only source of income and the substance that had controlled her for too many years.
Angela faced intense persecution from her customers, community, and family, who had originally taught her how to brew.
She didn’t know how she would survive without the income or support from her family, but she didn’t need to know. She had found the One who would sustain her.
She was very happy. She said, ‘I don’t care whether they persecute me. I’ve got Jesus. I will not leave Jesus.’
I loved God, and I did not want to live that life again. I said, ‘God is the One who saved me. He will know how to take care of me.’
Angela, the woman who had many husbands and fathers of her children, had finally found the Messiah, just as the woman at the well did so many years before.
And what of the child who refused to be thrown away?
Esther is the child who was born into confusion, fear, and rejection. She is the child who could not be forced down a toilet. She is the child who was picked up by Immaculate, placed into Angela’s arms, and held tightly as her mother found the only peace she had ever known.
Esther was healed of spina bifida at CURE Uganda by two doctors who continue to leave their mark on the hospital: Dr. Ben Warf and Dr. Peter Ssenyonga. Because of their care, Esther is still thriving over a decade after her surgery. She is walking and running. She plays hopscotch and hand games. She is able to do everything any other 11-year-old girl can do.
She excels in school and wants to become an English teacher for kids with spina bifida someday. She wants to give other kids the same specialized attention she receives at her school, one specifically designed for children with hydrocephalus and spina bifida.
She loves to serve others. She loves it so much that she’s in charge of serving all of the meals and snacks to her classmates at school and can often be found serving her family at home.
She is a delightful girl who makes friends easily, even with the animals in her village.
Two years ago, in the same church where Angela established her new life in Christ, Esther accepted Jesus as her Savior. The healing that began with her admission to CURE Uganda was now complete.
Angela confesses that she might love Esther more than any of her other children because she was the child God used to radically transform her life and the lives of many others.
Like her biblical namesake, Esther arrived “for such a time as this.”
When I first brought Esther to CURE, I didn’t believe she could be healed. Even people in the village and the community thought, ‘That lame person, that disabled girl, can she be healed? That one will be wasted. You are wasting your time.’
Right now when they see her and she is perfect, they are wondering, ‘So even the lame person can be healed?’ When they ask me, I say, ‘The God who brought me to CURE is the same God who healed my child.’ Some people keep quiet, but some people say, ‘Wow, that hospital is really powerful.’ Then I tell them, ‘It’s the hospital God uses, but it’s God who heals the child.’
Esther and Angela’s story is one story from one family at one hospital. CURE Uganda has seen more than 5,100 outpatient visits in this past year alone. Across CURE’s network of hospitals and programs, through more than 280,000 outpatient visits, hundreds of thousands of patients and their families encountered life-changing healing in 2015.
That number is defined by our current resources. There are thousands more children and families who are waiting for the chance to be healed. They are hoping Angela’s prayer is answered.
My prayer is for God to bless CURE so much and give them the grace to support more children like Esther. What CURE has done for Esther and for me, let other people also get what we have gotten.
God brought you when I was crying. You didn’t know me, but God helped you to know me and help me at that time. God used you as a savior, to bring a change to my life. God brought you at the right time.
Angela spoke those words to Immaculate during our interview, but she could just as easily be speaking them to you. When you allow God to use you, you become part of the story. You are the one God appoints at the right time to bring healing. His story, and their story, and your story? They all intertwine.
All you have to do is accept the invitation.
You won’t find Angela’s name in the Bible, but her story is there. So is Immaculate’s. So is Esther’s.
So is yours.
It’s the story of Jesus bringing healing to those He loves. It’s the story that continues to happen because He “sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”
Angela’s name may not be in the Bible, but it is written in the Book of Life.
Through the work of CURE, many people’s lives have been transformed through the sharing of the gospel.
Immaculate keeps her own personal Book of Life. For over a decade, she has written down the name of every mother she has led to the Lord at CURE Uganda. The number reaches well over a thousand, with one long-awaited name added during our visit.
When we made plans to visit Angela’s village, we asked if someone nearby could demonstrate how to make the local brew so we could understand the cultural significance of the practice and take photographs. As the demonstration progressed, we came to find out that the woman who was showing us the process was Angela’s mother and Esther’s grandmother: Akol Esther.
Several hours later, just before we left, we found Akol Esther sitting with Immaculate in deep conversation. Immaculate motioned us over. She told us that 80-year-old Akol Esther, who had been so confused when her daughter chose to leave her old life behind and follow Jesus, was ready to accept Jesus as her Savior.
She went back the following day and burned and broke all the pots for brewing. And she said, ‘No more; I’m very saved now. I’m a child of God.’
That is the story of CURE. It’s the one we live on a daily basis, and the one you are being invited into today. It’s the story of healing that extends far beyond our hospital grounds, spanning generations and reaching into eternity.