I had mentioned my new friend Isaac in a previous blog. He is an 11 year old boy that we met in Kitgum a couple of weeks ago. He caught my eye because he was looking “pimp” in his lime green pinstriped suit coat, shorts and football (soccer) cleats. Isaac has HIV and has had the disease since birth. He is taking antiretroviral (ARV) medications and daily antibiotics to prevent infections. This tells me that he is likely fairly progressed in his disease, as the Ugandan doctors usually don’t start ARVs until the patient has a CD4 count less than 250. His grandmother had brought him to the clinic for a skin rash and a fungal nail infection. With his grandmother bringing him, I would assume that his mother is very ill or already dead from HIV. At 11 years old, Isaac would be pushing the envelope for life expectancy for a kid born with HIV in Uganda. A few weeks back, we HIV tested some 150 secondary school kids (ages 13-18) and none of them had HIV. This made me think that these secondary school students were at a “between age”. By that I mean that they are at an age that they are too old to be alive if they were born with HIV, and too young (in theory) to participate in behaviors that would cause them to contract HIV for themselves.
Seeing and talking to Isaac, I just felt that God wanted me to do something that would make Isaac feel special and feel God’s love. Looking down at his football cleats, I asked him if he played football. He raised his eyebrows, which means yes, almost like a nod. I asked him if he was good at football, again the eyebrows elevated. I asked him if he had a football, and he looked down and shook his head no. I then asked him a question that I already knew the answer to, “do you think you could beat me in football”? He smiled an impish grin and raised his eyebrows again. So I asked him if he could return the following day to take me on, one on one, in a game of football. He agreed. I told him that if he did not show up, I was going to send some big strong guys to pick him up. He again agreed to be there.
So the plan was formed. David and some of our family ran to the pharmacy that afternoon to get some medications that we had run out of. While in town, they picked up a really nice soccer ball that is a replica of the ball used in the World Cup, recently hosted here. They went to a filling station to air up the ball and several of the kids and guys at the station tried to talk them out of the ball. It was really cool, but only cost $14 USD. I discussed it with Kent, to make sure that he did not think it was too distracting, and then I talked with the team the next morning at team meeting. We would shut down the clinic for a few minutes and draw everyone’s attention to the football game in the middle of the compound. We wanted to make it like a melodrama, where Isaac was the good guy, and I was the bad guy. Some of the team made paper signs cheering for Isaac. We just wanted to make it a big deal and give him a day in the sun.
It got to be about 2:00pm and I had not seen Isaac yet, so I started to get worried that he was not going to show up. I started to ask kids that were about his age if they knew him. No one seemed to know him. I was about to put a 5,000 shilling ($2) bounty on his head and have the older kids go try to find him, but then he showed up. He was by himself, wearing flip flops, not cleats. We fed him some rice and beans and let him wait a few minutes until I was able to take a break. Please click on the link below to see how Losing can be a GOoD thing.
The people that were waiting did not seem to mind the extra delay. They enjoyed the game and they enjoyed making a kid be a hero against the mean grey haired muzungu! At the end of the video, you can see me lean over and ask Isaac a question. I asked him if he knew that Jesus loves him. He did more than raise his eyebrows, he shook his head, and said “Yes”. I feel that Isaac is a “starfish” that God has placed on our beach. He has a disease with no cure. He is taking all of the medications that he can to stay healthy. I don’t know what the future holds for me, or for Isaac. I am a little jealous, however, that he is likely to be playing football in heaven before I am. I plan on seeing Isaac again, someday, in heaven. Until then, I am going to be practicing. I want the whole world to know, that the first time I see Isaac in heaven, I will be asking him for a rematch!!