‘I thank God and Jesus Christ that someone has regarded us as human beings.’
by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison
The Othoro boys lived in squalor when compared with the standards of their own community. Like children at many, perhaps most, of the other Lutheran parishes across rural Kenya, these boys (and at least one girl) all suffered the loss of both parents to AIDS.
I’ve rarely beheld such lonely despair. Without their little Lutheran church, they would even now face a darkness unfathomable.
I stepped inside the hut that served as the orphans’ home—not much more than 10 square feet. No furniture. Not a stool. Not a bench. Not a chair. Mud floor. Rusted, galvanized, scavenged steel roof.
“What is your name?” I asked.
“I’m Albert,” came the reply.
“How long have you been here, Albert?”
“I have been here eight years,” said the boy.
“How often do you attend church, Albert?”
“I go every Sunday,” he replied, jutting his chin slightly with a pride that bespoke his love for his church.
One by one, the children told me how long they had been in this place. Responses varied from one to nine years. For some, memories of parents had all but faded.
Well more than a year passed before I returned to Othoro. I saw a grassless spot where the orphans’ hut once stood. Instead, there were the magnificent new buildings of the “Othoro Lutheran Rescue Center,” planned, designed, and built by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya. Seeing what $40,000 can do for good in Africa is breathtaking!
As I surveyed the new orphanage (pictured on the left), I saw children heading to me. I looked into their faces and realized they had all grown tremendously since my last visit. “Show me your new home!” I shouted.
With glee, the boys and one little girl took me to the kitchen and explained each detail. Then it was on to the storeroom and the dining hall.
Their former squalor flashed through my mind as I beheld 24 neatly made bunks.
Our smiles simultaneously broke into tears of joy. “This gift has been given to you because the Othoro Lutheran community loves you and our Christians in America know about you and love you,” I said. “All of this is because of Jesus’ love. In this new home, we share His love with you.”
Standing next to me was Eric, 12, whose life was forged through years of deepest tribulation in the midst of a Christian community.
“What do you think?” I asked Eric.
Speaking with wisdom and faith well beyond his age, he spoke these most profound words: “I thank God and Jesus Christ that someone has regarded us as human beings.”
Mercy in Christ, before and above all else, is a matter of being. Well before doing, mercy is about who God IS and who we ARE.
As we read in the Confessions: “A faith that acknowledges mercy makes alive” (Apology, XXIV, paragraph 73).
This is what LCMS World Relief and Human Care is all about.
Adapted from Christ Have Mercy: How to Put Your Faith in Action © 2008 Matthew C. Harrison. Used by permission of Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved. For purchasing information, please visit CPH at www.cph.org or contact CPH directly at (800) 325-3040.