Children at Risk Category
BY RENEE HEEMSKERK
The first time I met injustice, I was around six years old. I walked up to the room that my three brothers shared and confronted a locked door with a handwritten sign in poor penmanship that read “No Girlz Allowed.” I took it as personally as one possibly could. After all, I was the only girl in the house and so the sign was solely and directly at me. The rejection quickly turned to anger. When pounding fists and loud cries remained futile, I retreated to my lonely bedroom. The knowledge of unfairness settled into my heart.
Since then, I have met injustice many times. Most recently, as I sat down for lunch with 20 children with HIV. There in the quiet that emerged as children’s mouths filled with rice and dahl and curried chicken, I became acutely aware of the unwanted guest present with us. The injustice of HIV and the suffering it entails is more than any person should have to endure, let alone a child, trapped since birth by the disease. As a bright light on a dark night draws insects towards itself, injustice has a way of drawing to itself more injustice.
The injustice of HIV draws to itself the injustice of orphanhood. Children must grieve the loss of one or both parents as they succumb to the disease. Without natural protective figures, they are left in want and need. They also face the injustice of abandonment. Family members refuse to care for a sick child, fearing they will invite a curse into their home and onto their whole family. Then comes the injustice of rejection, as parents petition the principal at the local school to expel sick students. Full of fear, they threaten to pull their children out and demand their school fees be returned. They argue with logical voices that there is no point for sick children with a limited lifespan to attend school anyway. The shadow of death looms over homework assignments and exams. Mounting injustices pile high on children with HIV until ultimately, they are crushed. Deep unfairness settled into their little hearts.
As Christians, we are called to meet injustice. Though our natural human nature would instruct us to avoid it or flee from it, we take a seat beside it. In doing so, we share in the suffering that injustice inflicts and release comfort to the sufferer. It is there that God births a vision of the kingdom of heaven that we are invited to bring forth. This is exactly what God did in the hearts of our local partners Philip Timoti and his wife, Lydia, at the ministry of UPHOLD. As they met with neglected, abandoned, distraught children with HIV, God birthed in them a vision of hope and life. Together, we established the Victory Kids Home, where children with HIV encounter family in the place of orphanhood, reclamation in the place of abandonment, acceptance in the place of rejection. It stands as an example to the whole community of another way. A home full of love–a confrontation to injustice–the depletion of its power.
The difference is remarkable. Hidden in a school where no one knows their secret, they are thriving. The sickly, undone children are now vibrant and lively. They finish eating lunch with me and rise from the big wooden table buzzing with excitement. They diligently practice songs, dances and skits they will perform at the school’s anniversary party. Five of them will receive the top standing in their class this year. As the burden of injustice is lifted from them, they rise and shine. And we rejoice.
“And yet I will show to you a more excellent way” – 1 Corinthians 12:31. The way of love is exactly that—the most excellent way. When we choose to walk in it, we see incredible things happen. We defeat injustice and bring forth faith, hope and love.