Have you stopped believing in miracles? Sometimes I find myself guilty of cynicism and loss of hope. Recently, I rediscovered my belief in miracles due to one remarkable family.
My church, Prince of Peace Episcopal in Woodland Hills, Ca., has a Ugandan Ministry, where we support a school and orphanage in that country, and we have several Ugandan members of our congregation. Our minister, Father Rand Reasoner, has always encouraged me to share my work as an advocate and activist in the autism world as well as our journey with our son with autism, Wyatt.
Not long ago, I was approached after service by a local couple originally from Uganda named Michael and Pross Bahinoza. They told me a story of their nephew, Criscent, age 9, who lived in a village in Uganda. I was shocked and saddened by what I heard.
They shared with me that their innocent young nephew had been badly beaten on many occasions due to his habit of wandering (common with children with autism) into villager’s homes where he was mistaken for a burglar stealing on behalf of the family. Furthermore, he was considered a “bad omen”, and locked up at school like an animal, given no help or treatment. Michael and Pross told me that if he did not get help here in America, he would surely die.
After learning about the symptoms of autism, they realized their nephew Criscent showed all the signs of having it, and had the family take him to the nearest city, Kampala, where he was diagnosed with the disorder by a neurologist in Kampala. I knew that if we could get Criscent to this country, we could get him the care and treatment he needed through a grant with ACT Today!
Letters were written to the Ugandan Embassy, and Pross and Michael were able to bring their nephew here, along with his father and sister. It did not matter to Michael and Pross that they would be sharing a 2-bedroom apartment with 8 family members, including their own severely disabled 6-year-old daughter Melissa, still in diapers and a wheel chair. What mattered to them was they had hope for the nephew they loved and the chance for not only a better life for him, but his very survival.
Criscent and Melissa both received a full assessment from CARD, (Center for Autism and Related Disorders) through a grant from ACT Today! A special education advocate was found for both children who will work to make sure they have everything they need to realize their full potential, funded by our church. Other non-profits have stepped forward to help.
Through it all, this remarkable family has shown gratitude and humility that has touched everyone who has met them and shown us that helping others in need can bring joy and comfort to us all. “You cannot know heaven until you have experienced hell,” Michael said to me one day. They believe a miracle has happened in the lives of their nephew and daughter, due to the generosity of others. One look at the happy face of a little boy named Criscent shows that miracles can come true.