It was the summer of 2003 when Lahema first attended our annual Camp LIFE program. Family Legacy staff members were up-front leading the life-filled songs for an excited sea of children. But there she was, a solemn little girl with a blank stare standing at the back of the concrete room void of emotion and unwilling to participate in the activities.
Hugs, smiles, love, and heart-warming words made no difference. She continued most of the week in a state so often to see in Zambia called the “walking dead” – alive physically, but dead in spirit, emotion, and mind.
Later, a teacher explained why Lahema was devoid of any hope. Both of her parents died when she was a young girl, and a few years later at the age of eight, with no one to look after her or protect her, she became a victim of abuse. The Cry of Lahema was seen by no one except her Heavenly Father.
Lahema’s arrived at camp looking young and very thin. Our staff discovered that she was ill, and while she told us she was 16 she looked to be way younger than she was.
Change soon came when Lahema received Jesus Christ as her personal Savior, and for the first time in her life since the loss of her parents, she began to hope. The Cry of Lahema had been heard by her Heavenly Father. Smiles and joy replaced the pain and sadness, and vibrant life beamed from her face and heart.
When Family Legacy held Camp Life in 2004, Lahema’s heart was hopeful, and although her health had improved, she was still very ill. In her picture, the light of Christ is shining through her eyes, yet her body still suffered the devastating effects of an incurable disease.
By 2005, Lahema had gained a lot of very healthy weight and started to look like a vibrant and joyful teenager.
The theme for camp that year was to “Go Light their World,” and become the Light of Jesus to others. Lahema went around her community and prayed for God to heal other sick children and adults. The Cry of Lahema had been replaced by the Prayers of Lahema!
In 2006, Lahema was doing very well health-wise. However, when the time was nearing for Camp LIFE to start, something happened that no one anticipated.
Lahema’s elderly grandmother who cared for 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. On Wednesday, Lahema started having breathing problems. She somehow found her way to the main hospital in Zambia, but when she arrived, they turned her away because they were on “holiday”.
Without any help, Lahema was still having breathing problems the following day. Her orphanage director gave money to the grandmother’s friend to pay for their transportation back to the hospital. Well, just like the hospital workers that were unwilling to help, the grandmother’s friend acted selfishly and pocketed the money.
And so, on that Thursday, Lahema, too weak to stand any longer, surrendered her body and lay down in the dirt. She was crying and praying for help. With neighbors all around, staring and standing idly by, Lahema left this world.
No one on earth was willing to listen to the cry of Lahema, so her Heavenly Father leaned down, gently picked up her suffering body, and took her home into His loving arms. Now she is forever freed from abandonment, safe and secure from all evil, loved so purely and deeply, and never to cry again!
Virtually no one showed up to the funeral for Lahema, apart from her grandmother, no relative, no neighbors, and no friends attended. There were no gravestones, no appealing trees, or green grass—just seemingly tens of thousands of mounds at every turn.
Lahema’s grandmother spoke on how Lahema spent her last days. She said every day Lahema would go out and pray for the sick people like she had been taught the year before at camp. An orphan child sick herself praying for other sick people…how much purer could a child be? And when she was the one who needed prayer and attention, no one cared to help her. Lahema, who was counting down the months until Camp LIFE, missed it by just one week! However, she was ushered into the most glorious camp anyone of us could ever imagine!
After the funeral, a staff member took food to Lahema’s grandmother’s house and sat on the dirt floor with about ten of the older ladies who were still crying. In the midst of their sadness, Holly was able to share with the Good News— that they could see Lahema again by coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
On the same day, Lahema’s body was placed in the earth, ten elderly ladies prayed and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, including the woman who had pocketed the money. Lahema’s life and her passing into the next life were already making a difference. God was already doing what only He could do—reverse death to life, use the young to impact the old, and give love to those who had refused it.
Because of Lahema’s profound impact on the lives of those she touched in our ministry and to Holly, the dream of the Tree of Life Children’s Village started to take form. In Lahema’s memory, a house was built to provide 15 children with the love and care she, unfortunately, did not receive and so desperately needed. The initial vision was to build a total of 25 homes to rescue a total of 300 children from the cruelty surrounding them, in addition to a full-scale medical clinic.
To date, the Tree of Life Children’s Village now brings healing and restoration to more than 800 children with 64 houses built to carry on the legacies of those with hearts of gold, much like Lahema.