When I was in Uganda a few years ago, when I stepped foot into the worst slum in that country, it was like stepping into a dark, hidden cave. We descended down a long slop of dirt. Like we were descending into the earth, not on top of the earth. Like at any moment the land above and around us could swallow us.
Children filled that empty void as we slid into their world, and they filled our hands with theirs. We kicked up dirt as we stumbled along to that little church.
This church was not on top of a hill, a light on the hill. It was at the bottom, a light in the void. It sat at the base like it was waiting to catch everything that fell into it from the top of the slum’s outer edges.
What fell into it were children.
This slum is where little girls go missing at night and are miraculously returned the next day, or the next few days. They come back broken and used and disrespected. In this slum little boys are hazed and trained to sale drugs, be abusive, take what’s not theirs and claim what’s not owned.
What I am saying is that poverty is the greatest thief I know.
It takes away food, and housing, and safety. It takes away opportunity, and hope, and freedom.
But most of all it takes away a child’s innocence, a child’s wonder. It takes away childhood and replaces it with darkness and hopelessness.
A child born into poverty does not enter the world and play. A child born into poverty enters the world and pays.
The cost is steep. Their health. Their education. A family that is not present. That brilliant, brief moment in their life to just be a child. Those fleeting years to take everything in as mysterious and colorful and hope-stained.
The world needs more children who play.
Mary is one of those children.
The world needs, we need, Mary to be a child. To play like a child. To hope like a child.
Because a world void of childhood would have us all wondering what exactly Jesus meant when He said,
“These children are the kingdom’s pride and joy. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” (Luke 18:17, The Message, emphasis mine)
The world needs children to be children.
Mary is six-years-old and she loves to play. She lives in desperate poverty in Ghana.
Since birth, she has had a hole in her heart.
This is how Mary’s heart beats, strained and labored.
Mary’s heart defect is called Patent Ductus Arteriosus, Ventricular Septal Defect. Patent Ductus Arteriosus is an extra blood vessel found in babies before birth and just after birth. The hole closes up shortly after birth.
But it did not close up for Mary.
At six-months-old she was taken to the hospital because she was experiencing complications, but her mom and dad did not have the money to bring her to the bi-monthly appointments that she so desperately needed. Because they live in poverty.
When Mary plays, she runs out of breath and has to sit down.
Her six-year-old lively, active body moves more like an 80-year-old body.
When we asked Mary about her heart, she said simply, “My heart pains me.”
And what six-year-old child needs to know so early on how the heart can feel pain?
Poverty may have tried to hide Mary, but God sees all and He cares for all.
When Mary was five her family was introduced to a local church partnered with Compassion. She was registered as a Compassion sponsored child and Compassion has stepped in the gap for Mary.
Mary needs surgery. And we’re here to give Mary back her childhood.
In a world filled with injustice and poverty, Mary’s childhood has taken a beating. We’re here to give her a different beat.
We’re here to show her how a heart can beat.
Today Compassion is launching a campaign to help fund the surgery Mary so urgently needs.
What is the cost to give Mary back her childhood?
$15,000. For a childhood.
You can give a tax-deductible donation today to Compassion’s GoFundMe Campaign.
We can be a people who take Jesus at his literal word. When He says, “Bring the little children to me.” We can respond, “Yes, Lord. Yes, we will.”
Visit the page to learn more. Please also help share Mary’s story. Tag your posts with #HowMarysHeartBeats and #CompassionInternational