THE ONE WHO HAS NEVER BETRAYED HER
Kari Miller is just an ordinary woman, a school teacher from Minnesota, who decided to take an extraordinary step. She left it all behind to move to Uganda. She wanted to learn to love as Jesus would the orphans and widows He would place in her life. During her time there, she met many women in desperate situations...but she's also seen how desperately these women love Jesus and truly depend on Him for their very lives. Here is one such story that Kari shared at her blog:
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…” Psalm 68: 5-6
Joyce grew up in the quiet peacefulness of village life. She loved her parents and they loved her taking god care of her. She learned to cook traditional Acholi food from her mother. Her mother was known as a great cook and neighbors loved to come to their home to eat her delicious food. When the whole village gathered she learned to dance their traditional dances. Her childhood was filled with love, laughter and joy. Her mother and father loved each other and she hoped to have a marriage as strong and loving as theirs someday.
One of her chores was to fetch water from the nearby well. It was a physically demanding task, but one she loved because the cutest boy she had ever seen was always on the road at the same time. To her great delight, he spoke to her and over time struck up a friendship with her. Quickly, Paul became her best friend and her heart would skip a best every time she saw him coming toward her. She found herself laughing at all his jokes and blushing every time he called her beautiful. Throughout secondary school, their childhood crush developed into true love. She truly loved him and he truly loved her.
One day she found her mother and father digging in the garden and decided to confess the love she had for Paul. Of course, her mother and father already knew how much her heart loved him. They had been watching them develop their friendship and love from afar all these years. Her mother and father liked Paul and his family and were willing to support their marriage to Joyce’s great delight. Joyce had found true love and it was breathtaking and filled her heart in a way she never had thought possible. She was sure that their life together would be full of love and joy just like her parents.
A few weeks before the wedding, her mother asked her to take a walk through their gardens. As they walked her mother told her all the things she liked about Paul and his family. Joyce was so delighted to hear her mother praise Paul and his family. She felt so proud that he had chosen her. Then as they reached the far end of their property, her mother stopped and turned to face her. “There is just one thing about Paul that causes me great worry…” her mother began. Joyce couldn’t believe her ears. How could there be anything about Paul that was less than honorable? She gave her mother a surprised and somewhat angry look. “He said that he wants to join the army and be a soldier. That could mean a lot of heartache for you. He could be gone for long periods of time. He could be killed in battle. The rebels are gaining strength and violence seems to be headed our way. Marrying him could be a very hard life, my dear.” Joyce was disgusted with her mother for even suggesting that Joyce was making a mistake in marrying him. She shouted at her mother telling her how wrong she was then ran off. “ How dare she say something like that? Didn’t she see how much they loved each other? How devoted Paul was to her? After all Paul wanted to provide for her…to build her a house and take care of their future children, so he had to have a good job. She decided that her mother was just being overprotective.”
Their wedding was so fun. She and Paul were so close. It seemed like they couldn’t get enough of each other. She knew she had made the right decision. He was the love of her life. She had never been with any other man but him. As his new wife, she was devoted to him. She organized their homestead, cooked food for their relatives and neighbors just like her mother had done, and encouraged his dreams. He trained hard to become a soldier in the Ugandan army and performed well in his duties. Then she became pregnant and they were both elated. Several months later she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Life was so good.
Then like a bad omen to come, the LRA rebels attacked a neighboring village a few months later. The fighting had now become intense and her husband was called to active duty. Every day he was gone she prayed for his safety…prayed he would come back to her healthy and whole. He came back when he could, but it was only for a day or two. Then came the day when he left and told her he may not be back for several months. He felt strongly that they had to fight these rebels. He had to protect her and his new daughter by beating this rebel army once and for all. She cried for days after he left. Her heart could barely stand the separation from him, but she had to be strong for their daughter.
In just a few short months, life became a terrifying game of hide and seek. The rebels came into her village on numerous occasions killing her neighbors. Each time she heard people screaming, she picked up her daughter and ran into the bush and hid until all seemed quiet again. Her nerves were raw and she missed Paul. She needed him; she needed his protection…his reassurance that they would live through this nightmare. Then one day tragedy came to her family. The rebels attacked her mother and father’s compound killing two of her brother’s and their wives. When the news reached her, she collapsed under the weight of the grief. When will this madness end?
Paul came back for the burial of her family members and she clung to him. She was devastated and terrified that she and her daughter could end up in the ground next to them. The stress of wondering whether you were next victim of rebel violence as well as trying to live this nightmare without her husband made her weak. Paul held her and comforted her. When he was with her, it took the edge off the intense pain she felt most of the time. But, he only stayed for few days and then left to rejoin his unit. It was unbearable to watch him leave. Joyce was now responsible for all of her brothers and sisters children. Now instead of taking care of herself and her daughter, she was taking care of 8 more children. How would she feed them? How would she keep them safe? How would she do this without Paul?
As the war dragged on, she learned to live without the love she had once swam in. Paul came home once or twice a year and only stayed for a couple days. When he was home, he was distant, never mean or rude, just mentally somewhere else. Still, Joyce prayed for the day when the war would be over and they could rebuild their lives and reclaim the love they once had. She still had childlike faith in God’s power to end the violence and to give her back all the years they had lost.
Several months later, tragedy struck again this time at Paul’s family compound. His parents had been slaughtered by rebel machetes. Joyce was there just minutes after it happened. It was horrific. She felt as if she might vomit and never stop, but she managed to pull their bodies to the side of the compound. Other family members began to prepare them for burial. The cries of grief seemed to never end…sometimes they were quiet cries…sometimes they were loud shrieks. Paul came back from the fighting to bury his parents and he seemed so heartbroken. He was so thin and the war had taken every emotion from his face. He seemed like the walking dead. Joyce tried to comfort him as he had comforted her, but he wouldn’t be comforted.
After his parent’s death, he refused to go back to his unit. He had had enough of war for one lifetime and he had been sick since he had arrived home. Joyce was glad he wasn’t going back. Finally, she would have her husband back. It would now be their love for each other that would bring him back emotionally. It was the first thing in years that felt right. Not too long after he arrived home, the army came looking for him. They accused him of deserting his post and put him in the local jail. Joyce went and pleaded with the commanding officer to please allow her husband to come home. She explained that he had been sick and she was caring for him. The commander told her to come back the next day for his decision.
She prayed that she would gain favor with him and that he would release Paul. War had stolen enough time, love and joy from them. It was time now to rebuild their lives. As she reached the army barracks where Paul was being held, the commander asked to see her. Their meeting was very brief. “You can take him home. He tested positive for HIV.” Suddenly, she felt dizzy…maybe she hadn’t heard him right. “What?” Joyce asked him again. “He has AIDS. He is of no use to us now. He is going to die.” Joyce felt like she couldn’t breathe. How could this be happening?
As she approached her husband’s cell, she saw him with new eyes. He was just skin draped on a skeleton. His eyes were red and he had terrible vomiting and diarrhea. Her mind couldn’t take it all in…my husband, the love of my life, has AIDS. But how? Slowly, her mind realized that the man she loved more than any other had slept with someone else. Due to the war, she had little emotional reserve and this pushed her over the edge. She started crying and couldn’t stop. Instead of taking him home, she ran to the clinic. While she cried they drew her blood and 20 minutes later told her that she too was HIV positive. At that point she collapsed. It was just all too much too bear. When she awoke, she went back home to the children, put on a brave face and cooked dinner. When they were all in bed, she prayed through intense sobs. She asked God why he had allowed this disease to enter her body. She kept telling God that she was innocent. ‘I have never slept with another man. I am faithful to my husband. I love you Jesus and worship you, so why, Lord, why?”
The next day, she returned to the barracks to see Paul. Her hands were shaking and she felt like she couldn’t breathe, still she knew she needed to talk to him. When she entered his cell, she found only a shell of the man she had once loved. He was dying and now she could really see it. She looked at him and felt such intense rage. He had cheated on her with another woman or maybe with many other women. He had betrayed her in the deepest place. She could barely look at him. Her heart now felt shattered into a million pieces. Yet, some part of her fractured heart still loved him. He had been her only love…her true love from childhood. How could she have been so stupid? How had she not known that he was sleeping with another? She stood silent before him staring at the ground. She thought for a long time before, she managed to say, “They say you have AIDS and that you are going to die.” Paul labored to nod his head. Then Joyce gathered her strength and said; “Now you have killed me too.” Paul looked up at her and then down at his hands. His lower lip quivered and his eyes filled with tears as he choked out, “I’m sorry…. so sorry.” At that Joyce turned and left him. She just couldn’t take him home, not yet.
It was only a few days later that a soldier arrived at her doorstep to tell her that Paul was dead. Even with the rage she felt toward him, she still wept bitterly. There was a time when they loved each other and that love was real and beautiful. Even though he had betrayed her and given her a deadly disease, she still missed him. He had always been her best friend. Those next few days were not easy. She buried her husband and her brother-in-law chased her away from her home. He had always wanted his brother’s property, so she left with nothing but the clothes on her back and the 9 children she was caring for.
“So, that is how I came to Kampala,” Joyce explained to me over tea one Monday afternoon. “I really loved my husband and I was so innocent,” she began to cry as she said, “now I am going to die. It is a daily constant reminder that my husband cheated on me. That he didn’t love me like I loved him.” Even 10 years after the death of her husband, Joyce is still reduced to sobs. I sat there stunned with tears in my eyes too. I rubbed her back as she said again, “AIDS is going to kill me.” My throat felt tight and tears were streaming down my face as I said, “yes, yes, it will.” I just couldn't say anymore, so I sat there and held her.
Suddenly, she said, “But do you know who has never betrayed me, who has always loved me and kept me alive these last 10 years? It is God. When my husband died, I decided to become Jesus’ wife, to know him and love him and you know what? I am still alive, I have a place to shelter these children and most days I have food to eat. He has never left me or betrayed me.” I nodded my head as I rubbed her back. “For so many years, I have been so lonely. But now, God has given me your friendship and the love of your family. I asked God to give me a friend, someone who I could share my pain with and now God has given me…you. I just wanted you to know that you are a blessing to me and I love you.” I held her tight and cried with her. “I love you too. God has given you to me and I am so grateful.”
It was a tender honest moment between friends—no big words—no big theology…Just someone who was caught in a nightmare sharing about the God who rescued her.
To find out more about Kari's life in Uganda and the financial emergency fund she has set up for widows in crisis, visit www.dorcaswidows.org .