December 9, 2004
On Tuesday, there was a new boy at our Ndirande session for the handicapped. He has eyes so dark and deep you could swim in them. His eyelashes are long, dark and beautifully curled. They would be the envy of Madison Avenue models. But Fred’s hair has a reddish tinge. This indicates malnutrition. He was also covered with a rash that the nurse called scabies. They were small round sores that obviously itched. He had scratched some of them so much that they were bleeding or oozing.
Fred was sitting next to Beatrice, but I knew that he was not her son, so I asked her who he was. Through a translator, I learned that Fred was her brother’s son. His mother died some time ago, and his father just recently. All of Fred’s grandparents and other relatives were gone as well. Only his Aunt Beatrice, who is a handicapped widow with five sons of her own, was left to care for him. He snuggled up to her, and she put her arm protectively around the orphan.
On the radio this morning, I heard that 5 million children around the world die of malnutrition and starvation each year. Many of them are in Africa, but the situations in India and China are getting worse. There are also children in industrialized nations that suffer and die. The United Nations predicts that the problem will get much worse in the future.
Fortunately, the mission had money to give each family at Ndirande a large bag of maize that day. Beatrice and her brood will struggle, but they should make it. Others will not. One child dies every 5 seconds around the world from malnutrition.
I never felt guilty about baking Christmas cookies before, but this year, it just doesn’t seem as crucial to our preparations for the Lord’s birth.