This is the second part of Lahema’s Story. Read the first part of Lahema’s Story here.
Lahema’s elderly grandmother who “took care of her” had gone off to the farm to find food and had given charge to one of her close friends to look after Lahema while she was gone. Well, on Wednesday Lahema started having breathing problems… somehow she found her way to the main hospital in Zambia, but when she arrived, they turned her away because they were on “holiday”. You see, in Zambia they believe that someone who has AIDS is already as good as dead. Besides, she was just a child, and a girl at that…and in a country that does not value females or children, one’s “holiday” is much more important than an orphan girl dying from AIDS, a disease stigmatized as a curse.
The following day, Lahema was still having breathing problems, and so Evelyn gave money to the grandmother’s friend to pay for their transportation back to the hospital. Well, just like the hospital workers, the grandmother’s friend thought, “Lahema is just an orphan with AIDS who was going to die anyway…why waste good money on her?” So, knowing she had her own mouth to feed, she simply pocketed the money.
And so, on that Thursday, my poor precious Lahema, too weak to stand any longer, laid down in the dirt, crying and praying for help, and with neighbors all around, staring and standing idly by, Lahema left this world.
No one on this earth was willing to listen to the CRY OF LAHEMA, so her Heavenly Daddy just leaned down, gently picked up her suffering and disease-ridden body, and took her home into His loving arms, forever freed from abandonment and stigma, safe and secure from all evil, loved so purely and deeply, and never to cry again!!
Lahema’s funeral was unlike anything I have ever experienced. We drove for miles and miles on this narrow, bumpy road with only little hills of dirt flanking both sides, endlessly in every direction. No neighbors, no friends, and no relatives apart from her grandmother were in attendance that day. This child was hardly loved at all. But her orphanage director, my Zambian friend, a few old ladies and I trudged through the troughs left by removal of dirt – a maze around mounds. There were no gravestones, no pretty trees, no green grass, only seemingly tens of thousands of mounds everywhere. At the plot, the old ladies just wailed and wailed in this odd kind of song that wasn’t really a song…more like deep moaning sounds.
Three people were called upon that day to lay flowers upon her grave and were considered the most important people in Lahema’s life…her grandmother, her orphanage director, and me. I had bought two bouquets of flowers to put on Lahema’s grave at the entrance to the graveyard, and the men who sold them to me were arguing with each other for my business.
What is wrong with this picture ?!?! No one seems to care about life of a child in Zambia! Flower vendors at the entrance to a graveyard are fighting over a two dollar sale…virtually no one shows up to a funeral for this precious child…the main hospital turns her away because they were on “holiday”…neighbors just stand and stare as a little girl dies right in front of them…and an old woman pockets the money that could have meant the difference between life and death for her best friend’s granddaughter.
Sometimes, the oppressiveness over that country is beyond me. This is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in Zambia…Lahema’s grandmother told me that every day, Lahema would go out and pray for the sick people like we had taught the year before. An orphan child with AIDS praying for other sick people…how more pure can a child be? And when she was the one who needed prayer and attention, no one cared to help her. Poor Lahema, who was “counting down the months” until Camp LIFE, missed it by just one week…the good news about all this is that she was ushered into the most glorious place anyone of us could ever imagine! Heaven is infinitely greater than Camp LIFE, and she is finally in God’s warm, loving, and embracing arms.
After the funeral, I took some food to her grandmother’s mud hut and sat on the dirt floor with about ten old ladies who were still crying. In the midst of all our sadness, I told them there was Good News and that they could see Lahema again. They all looked up at me with confused looks on their faces, including the woman who had pocketed the money.
“God loves you all and offers you the free gift of Eternal Life if you will simply open your hearts to Jesus, who is the only One who can save you from your sins. God forgives and forgets every sin…All it takes is simple faith and you can see Lahema again,” I said. Right then and there, on the same day we placed Lahema’s body in the earth, ten wrinkled old ladies prayed and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Lahema’s life and her passing into the next life were already making a difference. Maybe Lahema was now crying, not for herself, but on behalf of those still here.
Lahema was my favorite little girl in all of Zambia. Her life gave me a beautiful picture of God’s awesome power to rescue a dying soul and bring her to life again in all the fullness of HIS joy.
When I heard the news of Lahema’s death, I cried and cried and cried…I cried like I’ve never cried before, and I still cry when I think about her sweet and short-lived little life. I have had her picture on my desk right next to my computer since 2003 and I look at her beautiful face every single day. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about my precious child.
I really miss Lahema. I didn’t even get to see her that final year…I thought about Lahema and prayed for her all year long, and then I was all the way over in her country on the other side of the world and just one week away from seeing her beautiful face one more time. It nearly crushed me. But, by God’s grace and strength, I have made it through.
On the night of Lahema’s death, in the midst of my pain and tears, I heard the Lord tell me to transform Lahema’s Cry into Lahema’s Legacy by raising funds to rescue so many other children just like her. Specifically, God gave me a vision of building a house in Lahema’s memory at the Tree of Life Children’s Village. Part of our vision at Family Legacy is to build 25 Family Life Homes, which will rescue a total of 300 children from the cruelty that surrounds them, in addition to a full-scale medical clinic. Had Lahema been born in America, promise and hope would have filled her days and her life would have known relative safety and opportunity. But, sadly, Lahema was not born in America…she was born in Zambia…a land of great pain and sadness where so often the cries of a child are never heard.
And so in honor and memory of my sweet Lahema, I established Lahema’s Legacy Fund at FLMI to build as many homes as possible and the clinic at the Tree of Life Children’s Village so that other children will be safe from the rape, the abuse, the beatings, the disease, and the child labor that hits over 1,000,000 orphans every year in Zambia. Each one of these homes costs $72,000 to build and will rescue 12 children now and many more over the years ahead. This amount is way beyond my ability, but not beyond the Heart of God. So now my driving passion is to see Lahema’s Legacy live on through this fund that will change so many lives. You can donate here by selecting the Tree of Life Children’s Village and Lahema’s Legacy Fund.
On behalf of the orphans of Zambia who in many ways are faceless and voiceless, please allow me to be their Ambassador of Hope as I beg of you to give anything you can towards this project. Please help me change Lahema’s Cry into Lahema’s Legacy that will bring life, joy, safety, and love to countless other children who even today are crying throughout Zambia wondering if anyone hears them at all.
Blessings to each and every one of you as you seek to make a difference with the life God has given you. “Freely you have received, now, freely give…”
Living for Jesus and Running towards the Goal,
“Never again will Lahema hunger; never again will she thirst. The sun will not beat down on her, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be Lahema’s Shepherd; He has led her to Springs of Living Water. And God has wiped away every tear from Lahema’s eyes.”