Today is World Malaria Day. That means something different to me now because of a little girl named Liberty who I’ll never know, this side of Heaven. This entry from Sweet Sleep’s 2011 Gulu team member, Amanda Calhoun, shares about that particular day .
Our Gulu team was deeply saddened as we stood among the huts that Liberty once ran to and from. We had no words, only prayers that I’m sure many of us couldn’t utter the whispers to God with. But, we were also filled with hope for those whom we WERE giving nets to. And, because of the reality and truth of that day, we were also keenly aware of something that needed to be different. We knew things. And, because of that, we were responsible to tell the story….to talk about malaria and its devastating impact. To pray for protection and for provision for these children, to pray for Sweet Sleep as we seek to provide life-saving nets to these children when they receive their beds and Bibles.
Throughout most of the nights that week, I woke in the middle of the night…crying for a little girl whose laughter was silenced too soon. My heart knew there was a battle cry to share with everyone who might listen, and so many of you have joined Sweet Sleep to fight with us. Thank you. You have saved thousands of lives. And we’re just warming up.
I couldn’t stop thinking about Liberty. I had to know more about her. I wanted to tell her story and to give this disease (malaria) a face so that we could understand it better. So, weeks after our team had been back, I asked Jennifer (our staff in Gulu) to travel to the home Liberty lived in to meet whatever family she might have left behind, to love them for all of us and to learn more about this little girl who had impacted our hearts and thoughts.
Here is Jennifer’s account of that day….
I started the journey as early as 9: 30am and I went to the village where we had our distribution point the first day and from there it was 4km ahead to liberty's home. I traced it for the family members and found her father (Quinto) who took us [to their] home. At their home I found her grandmother-- seated outside watching her maize seeds dry.
She was happy to know I was there to comfort her. She was so happy we remembered her and the family. She soaks (cries) as she talked to me. She told me that Liberty was so kind, loving, caring and above all she never missed to go to pray on Sunday. She was a quiet girl who was always not complaining, even if she was in much pain. The pain made her so close to her grandmother. Young as she was, she fetched water, firewood, washed dishes and supported her grandmother so much.
Liberty was born HIV positive and started well but later she started to get opportunistic infections and worse when malaria came in. Many times she got well but, that fateful day she passed away the same with her mother who also died of malaria in 2008.
Liberty loved to farm so, so much and before she died she had planted beans behind their house and the beans yielded so well and that same beans were used for her funeral service to feed the mourners who went (her grandmother told me this while shedding tears). Liberty had too much pain as she faced her death but she never complained--she had her strength and hope to see GOD.
She slept on mats, which I found in the compound. She used a torn net and never had a mattress of her own. She was buried next to her mother, she left behind a father, (Quinto) a brother ( Amos) and a grandmother (Medlene). Her family is peaceful and loving.
The grandmother handed me her dress light blue in colour which she used for prayers. She also gave me her photos that I took with my camera. Above all, she gave me her blessings and blessed the team of Sweet Sleep, even if she never saw them. She is blind…
After reading that message, I shared it with team members who joined with me to provide beds, nets, Bibles and other things to Liberty’s family in her memory. Her family was so thankful.
And then, one day, a box arrived at our office. I knew what the contents were, and I couldn’t open it. For months I have thought of that box, prayed for that box, looked at that box, wondered and prayed for how to tell the story and bring Liberty’s life to you in the right way.
Today, I picked that box up. I prayed over it. I sat with it. I opened it up. And, the moment I did….there it was. It took my breath away and I sat and looked at what I saw for a moment before continuing to remove its contents.
I’m certain I will always remember pulling Liberty’s dress from that box because the smell of Uganda came with it: the smell of a smoke-filled hut from so many meals prepared by or for Liberty, the smell of red clay earth, the smell of lives not really so far from where you or I are sitting.
I’m dedicating today’s World Malaria Day to Liberty. And, I’m urging you to make a gift in her memory today that will give one $8 mosquito net to a child in need of protection against malaria. You can go here to do that. When you do, mark “For Liberty” or “nets” in the comments box and I’ll make sure your gift is turned into a net and delivered to a child in Uganda.
And, today, for Liberty, I’m personally going to match every gift that is made in her memory. So, let’s do this.
Thank you all for supporting the work for Sweet Sleep, for praying, for letting me share Liberty with you in this way, and for how you will respond now.