67: Treasures Ransomed from the Trash

67: Treasures Ransomed from the Trash

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back

Treasures Ransomed from the Trash

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.

~Luciano de Crescenzo

Sitting on the playroom floor, I held a beautiful little boy named Joshua. His infectious smile seemed to fill the room. Gazing into his eyes, there was little sign of his horrific beginning. My eyes blurred with tears. This precious boy was one of many thousands of abandoned infants in Uganda, left on the streets to die of starvation by parents suffering from severe poverty or disease.

Joshua was one of the fortunate few. The police discovered him just before he would have died of exposure. Starving wild dogs wandering the streets and alleys commonly devour such babies. Little Josh faced another challenge; he inherited the deadly AIDS virus. As soon as he arrived and was tested at our baby home, he began receiving regular doses of life-saving medicines, nutritious food, and loving care from our staff of Ugandan “mothers.” What a radiant, energetic boy he was now, giggling and squirming in my lap. Three other rescued babies crawled over my legs and reached out to be held. Each one was adorable.

I had come to Uganda to see the miracles being worked there, and a fountain of tears erupted again as I pondered the fact that Joshua’s hopeless state, as well as those of all the darling children clamoring around me, had been forever changed by a divine encounter I had just a few years earlier.

I had been speaking at a women’s conference in England when I met a beautiful Ugandan woman. During the luncheon, I felt drawn to go over and talk with her. Her name was Agnes, and she was dressed in a beautiful golden-colored African-print gown. We chatted, and I learned about her life and ministry in Uganda, where she and her husband founded a church and a school for orphaned kids. She remarked that the talk I had just given at the conference, entitled, “You Are Treasure, Not Trash,” had the kind of message desperately needed by the struggling women of Uganda. She was taking it back to uplift them. Her own story was compelling. Her parents died of AIDS, and she and her siblings survived by selling popcorn on the streets. I knew immediately that meeting her was a direct answer to my prayers about investing my life more into helping orphans around the world.

I shared about our own beloved daughter, who we adopted from China, who also was abandoned as an infant, and my desire to help more like her. Agnes divulged some unforgettable and cruel facts. “Many women are hopeless and desperate in my country… often they cast their newborn babies into the trash and latrines.” Her eyes filled with tears as she continued in a low, compassionate voice. “Recently in my own neighborhood, children were screaming hysterically as they witnessed a wild dog devouring a dead baby.” At this point, we were both gulping back sobs.

“Your present school is wonderfully assisting kids older than five,” I commented, “but what about the abandoned babies? What could we do together to rescue these babies from being put in the trash?”

She replied candidly that in Uganda, “There are no government funds to rescue children or support homes for them — none. The future of these babies rests solely in the hands of those whose hearts and hands are moved to help.”

“Well, I guess that would be me,” I said. I didn’t have the money personally, but I knew I could be a voice for these kids in America. I took that first scary step with which every important journey begins. I knew in my heart that we had to build a home for them. I had just enough faith to take my own first baby steps for the sake of Uganda’s babies.

After returning home to Colorado, the excitement in my heart began to spread through my social circles. Like a seed planted and watered in the soil of caring hearts, I felt encouraged as my vision began to grow. In a way, it reminded me of a long row of dominoes falling one upon another and creating momentum. Children, family members, close friends, teenagers, teachers, moms, dads and grandparents began to respond to the call for help. Friends told friends who told other friends. Benefit concerts, ladies’ teas, garage sales, spaghetti dinners, hand-knit baby blankets and baked goods sales spontaneously multiplied, the message of hope for these needy new-borns amplified.

The elementary school where I taught adopted the project as part of the school’s outreach program. The school brilliantly gave each student one dollar as a fundraising “seed.” They encouraged each girl and boy to “think outside the box” and multiply that dollar to support the baby home.

The children’s ideas were as multifaceted as a rainbow: Some made and sold friendship bracelets or brownies; those with musical talent gave open-air concerts in malls with a donation bucket at their feet; others shoveled snow from sidewalks, scrubbed floors or walked people’s dogs for a small donation.

The kindergarten families organized their own garage sale at school and invited the older grades to shop… all for the love of the babies in Africa. Then, during a designated chapel, the children brought in their profits with laughter and celebration. One boy dumped his entire savings for a new bicycle (more than one hundred dollars) into the offering basket. “I’d rather give this to the kids who need bikes in Uganda,” he said, glowing with the happiness that accompanies such sacrificial giving.

During that year, many others were moved by these babies’ stories and joined in the unfolding miracle. The result? Land was purchased and the new baby home transitioned from “faith to fact.” It now houses twenty-five priceless human beings ransomed from the trash.

Since we opened our doors, over fifty children have been rescued, with eighteen of them placed in loving forever families. Boys and girls who arrived with marks of abuse, parasites, and malnutrition are now healing inside and out, being nurtured body and soul. Tragic beginnings are being reversed. Their fragile lives now include loving caretakers, bikes to ride and swings to swing on, good food and safe shelter. They have “brothers and sisters” to play with and a safe oasis in which to bloom and be children.

After a tearful goodbye and many, many hugs, the time came for me to return home. Sitting on the airplane high over the ocean, I realized I left a huge part of my heart in Africa. The joyous images of these rescued little ones, these “treasures ransomed from the trash,” will forever be imprinted in my heart and soul. I am continually amazed at how the Lord can plant a seed in the heart of just one person, and multiply it to so many. The work goes on month to month to meet the needs of these little ones. What the world so easily throws away as trash, God treasures, and so must we.

~Claudia Porter

More stories from our partners