Since we came to GSF, the day Amy & I feared most was the day when one of the children would die. Several children have passed away over the years. It is all too common in Uganda due to HIV/AIDS and other diseases and hardships. The children who live at GSF have each experienced death directly and it is a primary reason they live here. After serving more than two years, the dreaded day came last week.
Norah’s story began when she was born with HIV, inherited from her parents. Norah’s mother passed away late in 2002 when Norah was 9 years old. Norah’s aunt happened to be the Matron at GSF at the time, so she brought the young girl to live at GSF, and she was accepted despite being older than those who typically come into the home. Norah’s father had some personal habits and problems which prevented him from caring for her. He passed away earlier this year, in March. God had a plan for this girl in bringing her to Good Shepherd’s Fold.
Norah struggled with sickness as is typical for many children with HIV. In the last couple of years, her CD-4 counts, which basically measure one’s overall level of immunity, decreased drastically low in spite of being on advanced medications for AIDS. In November 2009 she contracted a bacterial infection called toxoplasmosis, which caused paralyzation on her right side. Norah was relegated to a wheel chair for a condition which is typically permanent. However, as people prayed and her determination kicked in, Norah gained strength. Earlier this year, she began to walk slowly with a cane, even managing without the cane on some occasions.
Norah loved to sing! She was part of the praise team at GSF, but her diseases weakened her and often prevented her from being able to stand and sing in church. Gaining strength, she joined the GSF choir to sing at a special event earlier this month. Then two weeks ago she stood again in church and gave testimony to God’s goodness: “I thank God that I thought I would never stand and sing in church again, but now you see me standing and singing on the stage again today.” Amen!
Her near-zero immunity was battling against Tuberculosis at that time and Norah fell very sick a few days after that testimony. In her weakened state she developed pneumonia and was admitted to the hospital on Monday, September 20. A severe stomach infection also emerged as her body was virtually unable to fight off the slightest germ. AIDS, TB, pneumonia, stomach infection – she had no defenses left.
Shortly after 2:00 a.m. on Friday, September 24, Two of the house moms came knocking on our door. The house mother who was staying with Norah in the hospital had called. Norah was partly delusional and partly coherent, asking for a Bible, asking for prayers, singing (as she loved to do!) He Is Lord. We prepared to rush to the hospital, but the doctors were coming and we were told to wait.
Little more than a year ago, we had held a crusade at a nearby village. Three men from our home church in Southaven, Mississippi had come to work with us at the orphanage for a couple weeks. Our pastor, Tim Lampley, was preaching at the crusade one night. Though Norah wasn’t feeling well she had wanted to go to the crusade. I sat on the soccer field with her and talked to her during the message, quietly asking if it was sinking in. It appeared that it was the conviction of the message, more than any sickness, that was causing her concern that night. Instead of waiting for her friends, she returned with us to GSF immediately after the message and she wanted to talk to Pastor Tim. I listened that night, as he shared again the gospel message with Norah and she prayed to give her life to Christ. A new creation. A changed heart. An orphaned HIV girl found New Life!
Norah stepped into eternity at 2:45 a.m. on Friday morning as the doctors were working on her. The great pain and many diseases of her earthly life were over as she walked through the gates of Heaven – forever healed.
I arrived with one of the house moms at the hospital at about 3:30 a.m. to comfort Norah’s house mother, to see the body, to confirm the last details of her life. I am reminded that, no matter how sadly we may view the circumstances of someone’s life, there is everlasting joy awaiting those whose hearts fully belong to Jesus Christ!
“Norah, we look forward to seeing you again.”