God woke me early this morning with a blog topic on my heart. As I lay in bed from 4:30 to 5:00 am, I channeled my inner Due and thought about this topic and how it had meaning in our lives right now. So I got up and started writing this blog. I had gotten about half way through my thoughts when the sun came up over Lake Victoria. I decided to get my running duds and go out for a run before it got too hot and to think about how I would finish my blog. I started out my run continuing to think about the blog that God had laid on my heart. Then, somewhere between Phil Wickham and Lecrae, I felt that God wanted me to delay my other blog for a couple of days and post this one.
As I write this, it is 8:15 am on August 21, 2014. Later tonight, Jamil and I are scheduled to fly out of Uganda and make our way back to Oklahoma City by August 22nd, in the evening. I feel that I need to pass along some important thoughts about Jamil and his stay with us, but first, I want to remind everyone of Jamil’s life story.
Jamil was born in October of 2001 (at least this is what is newly acquired birth certificate says) to a young mother and a Muslim father. His parents soon separated and Jamil’s mother abandoned him with her oldest brother, Joseph, who lives in Palissa. Joseph has 10 kids of his own and makes a meager living. He has done a great job of caring for Jamil as his own.
At the age of 10, Jamil remembers having only one set of clothes and no shoes. His clothes had many holes and he did not have any soap to bathe or wash his clothes with. About this same time, he began to have a pain in his right eye and that eye began to protrude and cause some significant disfigurement. As detailed in this testimony blog, Jamil says that he went to a crusade meeting in the fall of 2011 and met an evangelist that noticed his eye. That evangelist, Jonathan Kabanda, took photos of Jamil and began to pray for him. We met Jonathan Kabanda early in our trip of 2012. After a few days of knowing us and learning what our team was doing in Uganda, he asked me if he could tell me about a boy with an “eye problem”. I said sure and asked Jonathan to email me the photos that he had.
I was shocked to see the problem that Jamil had with his eye. It was unlike anything that I had ever seen in my US practice of medicine. Jonathan, by email, introduced us to Pastor Fred, who is one of the leaders of the Arise and Shine school in Palissa. Jamil was not currently in school because of his health problem. In fact, he was shunned by his village, thinking that he was possessed by some evil spirit. His family fully expected him to die because they could not afford to get him the health care that he needed.
Through emails with Pastor Fred, we arranged a meeting for me to see Jamil and review his records. Fred drove Jamil two hours, from Palissa to Jinja, where we were currently staying and putting on clinics. He was supposed to arrive in time to come to our clinic that day, but had been delayed and ended up meeting us at a restaurant that we were eating in that evening. When Jamil arrived, he was very quiet and likely self-conscious about his appearance. He had on a Navy blue pin-striped blazer and pink Converse high-tops. Fred had to continue on to Kampala, but left Jamil with us an adult cousin that would escort him back home. We were amazed at how much this small boy could eat! In fact, we were concerned that he might get sick from all of the western food that he consumed. Since it was so late, we bought an extra room at our hotel and asked Jamil and his cousin to stay the night.
Jamil was from such a small and poor village, we actually had to show Jamil and his cousin how to turn on the lights and how to flush the toilet at the hotel. I don’t say this to make fun of them in any way. I just want to give you an idea of where he came from, just 2 years ago.
After seeing Jamil, I called our sponsor, Dr. Martin, and started lining up an ophthalmology appointment the next week. After his appointment with Dr. Agabba, Jamil was scheduled for surgery in April of 2012. His surgery was considered a success and after returning to Palissa, he was allowed to start school. He was 10, but started in P1 (first grade). When he returned to see Dr. Agabba in June of 2013, his tumor had returned. This time, it was recommended that he have another surgery followed by 6 weeks of radiation. By the time he had recovered from surgery and finished his radiation treatments, he had spent 10 weeks in the hospital last summer. He again resumed his schooling and had progressed to P3 when we returned to Uganda in May of this year. He had grown taller. His eye looked better. He was speaking English. And he even was translating for me while I was caring for patients in Palissa. Jamil had declared that he wanted to be a doctor. What an amazing transformation God was making in his life. About the first of June, we sent him for a follow up CT scan to make sure that his tumor was eradicated. The results were sobering, to say the least. His tumor was returning and now starting to invade the bone of his skull. My next blog will discuss some of the things leading up to us feeling like we needed to bring Jamil to the USA to try to get his tumor halted for good.
So this, now 12 year old, boy has been through so much and has come from very humble beginnings. He has come from not knowing how to flush a toilet to operating my iPhone. He has come from being very shy and self-conscious to jovial and outgoing.
God has laid this on my heart and I hope that it does not offend anyone wishing Jamil well. God has placed us in the guardianship of Jamil for the next 6 months, and he will forever be a member of our family. So if this comes across as me being a jerk, I’m sorry, but I feel that it is for his benefit. He will be living with us for the next 5 months, as we try to expeditiously move him ahead in his education, especially in English and Math. This, of course, while arranging for him to have all of the healthcare that he desperately needs. That being said, one thing is for sure: Jamil has to return to Uganda by February 18, 2015. He will be returning to start the 2015 school year in a boarding school and the 2015 school year starts around February 1st. Due Unto Others will be paying for the best school that he can qualify for, at that time. He will need to perform well and attend a reputable school to be able to be accepted into a medical school, when he has completed the required years of schooling.
Here is my concern that I share with Jill. It is probably of our own doing through blogging and facebooking to recruit prayer support, but we are concerned that Jamil will be too much of a “celebrity” when he arrives in Oklahoma. We want everyone to make him feel welcomed, but it is a delicate balance. Many people have been praying for him, have seen his progress, and feel like they know him already. Many of you have expressed an interest in buying him a welcome gift and we feel like we are in a difficult position. As much as we would like to shower him with the best America has to offer, we already have to start thinking about how he re-enters Uganda, in a boarding school, on the 1st of February. He won’t be allowed to take belongings with him to school. Even if he were, there would be a high probability that it would be lost or stolen. We have already received some hand-me-down clothes and shoes that are in very good condition. I don’t want him to have received so much “stuff” that he has trouble being content when he returns to Uganda. I think just doing life with us, as Americans, for 5+ months is going to make it difficult enough.
So please do me a favor and prayerfully consider doing one of these things, if you want to give Jamil a welcome to America gift.
1.) Give him a picture of you or your family and let him know that you will be praying for his healing and future education. We will have him keep a collection of these for encouragement when times are tough.
2.) Commit to earnestly pray that his meningioma will be totally healed during the short time that we have him here. He has a one-time visa and will not be allowed to return.
3.) If you feel that you would like to make a monetary contribution, it would be greatly appreciated. Please make the gift towards his medical care or ongoing education. You can make a check to:
P.O. Box 694
Duncan, OK 73534 Just put “Uganda-Jamil” in the memo.
We have committed to pay for his healthcare to resolve this tumor. We are not sure what that will cost.
He is scheduled to see an excellent Christian surgeon, in Edmond, on this coming Tuesday. Following that, I suspect that we will be getting an MRI and being set up for surgery. This physician works out of St. Anthony’s in OKC. Hopefully we can qualify for some sort of help through a charitable foundation of St. Anthony’s, but we don’t know. We may have to pay retail for this surgery. One thing is for sure, the care has to happen, no matter the cost. This is a special boy with a huge testimony, already, at the age of 12. I prayed yesterday, when we received his passport back with the visa attached, that his passport would be filled with stamps from places that he has traveled to tell people his testimony and to share the love of Jesus. I trust that it will.
Thank you for your love for Jamil and for understanding our concern for his well-being.