By Bwalya Melu
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy…” —Psalm 30:11
When you lose a key, the first person you usually think about is a locksmith. With four kids at home, all with a propensity to lose their keys, I have paid a number of visits to a locksmith.
Hope, I am learning, is like a key—a key to access our dreams. Sometimes life’s experiences cause us to lose the “hope” key, and we need to find a locksmith to replace it.
That’s exactly what happened to me recently when I spent seven months as interim director for World Vision’s office in Zimbabwe. Anybody familiar with Zimbabwe will know about the political upheavals in the country, the soaring inflation, the stagnating economy, and the crippling effect all this is having on poor families.
At the office, I was faced with a projected decline in funding for our programs and a looming staff reduction process. I wondered how we could continue to support impoverished children at a time when they needed our help more than ever. I also worried about my family back in the States. I was feeling sorry for myself. Everything looked bleak.
And then I found my locksmith.
His name was Learnmore Ndlovu, a 12-year-old sponsored child. On the face of it, Learnmore might not have seemed a strong candidate to bring hope. He was orphaned at the age of 3, when his mother died from cancer and his father deserted him. He was left in the care of his unemployed grandparents, who also care for seven of Learnmore’s orphaned cousins. Furthermore, Learnmore was diagnosed with hydrocephalus—an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the cavities of the brain. Untreated, this can lead to convulsions, mental disability, and death.
On the bright side, World Vision had built a small house for Learnmore’s family, and it had a toilet—a luxury in their village. World Vision also provides regular medical checkups for Learnmore and arranged for the insertion of a shunt to drain the water and reduce the swelling in his head.
When I met Learnmore, I was totally unprepared. He had traveled almost 500 miles to Harare for a medical examination.
But the boy had one of the brightest smiles and most exuberant personalities I have ever encountered. He talked incessantly about what he will do when he gets better. “These legs are not made of wood, but flesh,” he told me. “One day I will go to school and beat my cousins at a race.”
Unable to contain his high spirits, Learnmore broke into song: “Raise your hands and praise the Lord, and he will bless you.”
Later, alone in my office, tears of joy fell down my cheeks. I realized that I had allowed myself to become disheartened by my problems. But Learnmore, who had faced many more obstacles in his short life than I can imagine, showed me that it is possible to live life with optimism and confidence in God. Learnmore was the key to reviving my passion for the ministry.
And what a ministry it is. All of us involved in this work—child sponsors, donors, World Vision staff—are also providing keys for thousands of children like Learnmore to unlock their hopes and dreams. In that process, we too are blessed.
Let’s not get discouraged. We can all be locksmiths.