Eyes Full of Hope

Is the life of one fragile child worth fighting for? Not everyone would answer this question the same way…

“You are struggling for nothing. Gabriel is going to die soon.”

When Gabriel was first enrolled in the Lahash Sponsorship Program, the local program staff in Tanzania fought for his health against formidable odds. He was HIV-positive, sick, and malnourished. The comment about his inevitable death came from his grandmother, who had taken responsibility for the little boy when his mother died. She had lost hope for his survival. When extreme poverty leaves families chronically hungry, it is not uncommon for children with HIV to be neglected and deemed hopeless. Their fragile health condemns them as a waste of precious resources.

Lahash’s partners at Grace & Healing Ministry refused to see Gabriel that way. They worked carefully with the hospital on a medicine regimen his system could tolerate, and provided a nutrient-rich porridge so he could regain some strength. He was given a bed and mattress and no longer slept on the floor. Then, when Rice & Beans Month funds started coming in, the staff started a nutrition program specifically for kids with HIV. “When he joined the Nutrition Program,” said Director Esther Muhagachi, “Gabu’s face started to shine. He was happy, strong, and very cheerful when eating with the other kids.”

Gabriel still has struggles at home. His grandmother sometimes leaves him for long periods as she tries to find work to support the family. Even so, this boy who stared death in the face now has eyes full of life and hope. He is tall and strong, with quite a sense of humor. He is succeeding in school, even leading the school band. He dreams of having a bicycle someday. He is still vulnerable due to poverty and HIV, but he is never far from the loving, watchful eyes of the Grace & Healing Ministry staff. “We are taking care of Gabriel by giving him meals and everything that he needs. We love him and will always care for his health.”

Scripture, Reflection, & Prayer:

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Luke 18:15-16)

Across all time periods and cultures, there are examples of children being loved and valued, or treated as unimportant and disposable. Even in this short passage, children are seen in different ways. How do you think children were viewed by the people bringing their children to Jesus? What was the disciples’ perspective? What parallels do you see in Gabriel’s story? Prayerfully consider how you might align your view of children more closely to that of Jesus.

God, forgive us for the ways we have overlooked and underestimated those to whom your Kingdom belongs. With tenacious hope, empower us to love them and fight for them, that they might grow to take hold of abundant life.

Find the video “A Special Nutrition Program” here, and see the amount of food Gabriel and his friends are given at the Grace & Healing Ministry center!

You can make Gabriel’s lunch at home. Check out the recipe here!

This story, along with 3 others, appears in the 2016 “Welcome to Rice & Beans Month” guide. If you haven’t received one yet, or would like additional copies to share with friends, send a quick email to info@lahash.org.