A Heart for God

June 30, 2011 • Uganda

The Children’s Heart Project helps bring about physical and spiritual healing for two Ugandan families

On Sept. 30 last year, Caroline Nakimuli found out that her 3-year-old son, Kato, was going to die. The little Ugandan boy had a hole in his heart that could only be repaired through surgery, and Caroline didn’t have enough money for the operation.

“This news made me so fearful, and I ran out of the hospital, knowing for sure that my baby had no hope for the future and would die soon because I would not manage to raise the money for this operation,” she said.

Two hundred miles away, Leocadia Kyomukama was keeping a close eye on her 6-year-old son, John. He had been going to the same hospital for treatments for his heart condition since 2008. Although doctors had given him medication to help him, he had been struggling with his condition since birth and was so limited that he couldn’t even attend school.

“He would get tired quickly, run short of breath and would be restless at night with a lot of sweating and coughing, sometimes with nose bleed and frequent fevers,” Leocadia said.

Early this year, both Caroline and Leocadia received calls from Samaritan’s Purse. Our doctors had examined Kato and John, and they had decided the boys should be flown to the United States for surgery. Arrangements were already being made to find a hospital and family to host them.

“This was exciting news to us as a family because our sources had run dry and we did not know where else to turn for help so as to make the health of our boy better,” Leocadia said. “At this point, we had only surrendered him into God’s hands because we had sold everything to get him treated only to be informed that his problem could not be handled in Uganda.”

With tremendous joy and a small bit of fear, Leocadia, Caroline, Kato, John and an interpreter boarded a plane destined for North Carolina. Twenty-four hours later, they landed in an area completely unfamiliar to them. But it wasn’t unfamiliar for long. Their host family immediately welcomed them.

“The first week that they’re here, you’re trying to break down the culture barrier and just become their family because you will be their family through major heart surgery,” said Lorraine Rucker, the host mother.

The Ruckers took John and Kato to their hospital appointments and experimented with making Ugandan dishes. The families grew close.

About a week before the boys’ surgeries, the Ruckers showed the Ugandans the Jesus film. When it was over, Caroline said she wanted to accept Christ as her savior. After she prayed with the interpreter, Leocadia decided she wanted to rededicate her life to God.

“I thank God for renewing my faith and hope through this experience,” she said. “What he has done for me has increased my love and trust in His saving grace.”

The interpreter then asked John if he understood the message of the film. He said that he did, and he also wanted to accept Christ.

“Jesus is no longer in the grave; He is risen,” John said.

A week later, John and Kato went into surgery. Both of their heart defects were fixed. When John woke up, he said that Jesus was carrying him on His back. Since that time, he has sung songs about Jesus and listened to Bible stories.

“When I get back home, I will tell all the children and the big people in my village about the great things God has done for me!” John said with wide eyes. “My heart has been healed and I can now be able to go back to school and run with other children and even overtake them!”

Although John had a fever for several nights after his surgery, both boys are recovering. They left Uganda with holes in their heart, but they will return with healed hearts full of Jesus.

“Before I came, I did not know Jesus as my Savior, but while staying at the Ruckers, I accepted Jesus into my heart and I am now a new person,” Caroline said. “Now I go back home knowing that he has forgiven my sins and I am his child.”