How can there be children that nobody wants?
I’ve been asking that question since 2012 when I first visited the Buhangija center in Shinyanga, Tanzania where Shade has worked for the past two years. As you approach Buhangija all you can see is a ten foot high concrete wall topped with razor wire, an iron gate and a uniformed guard. It looks more like a prison than a home for children, except the security is not designed to keep them in, but to keep out those who want to harm them.
Most of the children in Buhangija have albinism, they are born without any pigment in their skin or hair. But they’re still just children. It is a stigma to be albino and their families often keep them out of sight. But they’re still just children. Local witchdoctors will take their body parts to use in spells and incantations, so they are literally hunted and brought to Buhangija for protection. But they are still just children. They live in an environment that barely provides the necessities, let alone comforts and the nurture they should receive from their families.
But they are still just children, and that’s what overwhelms me when I step past the guard and through the gate. They are a mob of funny, laughing, energetic, sometimes shy children who are desperate to know that somebody loves them, somebody wants them. In the middle of the chaos I want to hug each one, look in their eyes and say “Nakupenda” (Swahili for “I love you”).
Since 2014 Shade (formerly Living Hope) has told these children that God loves them very much and that He sent us to show them the love of their Heavenly Father. A Tanzanian friend recently told us that with all that we’ve done in education, health care, nutrition and hygiene at Buhangija, our biggest accomplishment is that we have taught the children how to love! They have learned that they are not cast offs but are precious to God and to us.
In the past year two babies have been born into my family, my grandson and great niece. Both of them were welcomed by adoring parents who looked forward to their arrival and prepared everything these little people would need. They are loved and fed and nurtured and enfolded into the family circle.
Josephat Torner, a Tanzanian who has albinism, is an internationally known activist for the rights of his fellow citizens with albinism. He is an eloquent and courageous leader and advocate who is respected by many in his country, yet constantly at risk of his life. When he was born, people came to his mother and said they should poison him. Thank God she didn’t listen.
No child should come into the world facing lethal threats. No child should be abhorred and rejected. No child should be told that they are less than human.
God, in His grace and love, has given Shade the privilege of loving children and telling them the truth about themselves, that they are made to reflect the image of the One who created them. Jesus is quite happy to be surrounded by the throng of children nobody else wants because He sees that others have overlooked the infinite value in each small face. Jesus is very much at home in the dusty, ragged, chaotic compound at Buhangija. Because He wants to be there, we want to be there with Him.
Written By: Jack Grubbs