A promise from God

A promise from God

In 2013, during a visit to Bartholomew’s Orphanage in Kajo Keji , MAF Reporter Jill Vine noticed a rusting wheelchair frame that belonged to a teenage orphan.

 When I first saw Jackson Mataya, he was crawling in the dirt. I was told that he had a five-mile journey to school every day. 

 Story Jill Vine Photos Clare Wise de Wet 

During childhood, Jackson contracted polio – a simple disease which can be easily avoided with one simple injection. Yet, in spite of the severe disability of a chronically twisted spine, Jackson radiated a remarkable, positive attitude and a smile to match. 

A call to MAF Operations Manager Dave Rogers back in Uganda established that MAF would be happy to fly Jackson's damaged wheelchair frame back to Kampala for repair. Terrific news, except that I wasn’t certain what the next step would be! 

Fortunately, a group called Katelemwa had helped me in the past to provide a wheelchair. One of their volunteers Liz Oliver collected Jackson’s three-wheeled chair from the airport and took it to Katelemwa for it to be made roadworthy. 

Jackson continues to thank God for the faithfulness He has always shown him.

God’s timing, God’s promise

MAF then flew the repaired wheelchair back to South Sudan – kindly covering the freight cost as another goodwill gesture. But, unable to make contact with partners in Kajo Keji before landing there, I couldn’t be sure if anyone would be there to meet us. 

However, God faithfully answered our prayers. Pastor David from the orphanage was waiting on our arrival to transport all of us and the wheelchair to Jackson. 

At the orphanage, we were told that Jackson wasn’t there! Due to MAF’s flight programme, we had less than an hour to handover the newly restored three-wheeler. Finally, we found Jackson at a school close to the airstrip where he took delivery of his precious new wheels.  The elation on the face of a young man who’d been given back his mobility will remain with me forever. 

Five years later 

As happy as that ‘ending’ was, Jackson’s fate weighed on my mind after hearing Kajo Keji had largely been evacuated in January 2017 following militia attacks that had devastated the region.

On top of this, I wondered what future was there for a severely disabled person in a country wracked with poverty? 

In September, another prayer was answered when I finally made contact with some South Sudanese pastors from Kajo Keji. Ahead of my flight to a refugee settlement in Uganda, they relayed the wonderful news that Jackson’s school had been relocated to Arua, Uganda. He’s been living there safely since last January.

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With great joy, the two of us were reunited on Friday 22 September. Looking dapper in a shirt and very smart shoes – I’d last seen him in flip-flops – Jackson told me he’s studying to be a doctor! 

Undaunted 

Yet, but for the grace of God, Jackson’s ‘story’ could have been very different indeed.  Almost exactly a year before, 12 armed militia entered his school in Kajo Keji and began shooting indiscriminately. ‘We had nowhere to run, so we had to lay on the floor,’ he told me. ‘One boy was shot right next to me.

Two of Jackson’s fellow students were killed during the 15-minute ordeal. Practically everything was stolen by the militia, including the school bag we’d given Jackson in 2013. 

But he was able to grab his wheelchair and get home.  Orphanage Director Mama Susan prayed for and counselled Jackson before he was taken the 90 miles from Kajo Keji to safety in Uganda. 

‘My wheelchair was tied behind a boda boda (motorbike taxi) with me on top of all my belongings!’ he recalls. Once he arrived in Arua, Jackson completed the exams he and his classmates had been sitting when they were attacked. 

Jackson continues to thank God for the faithfulness He has always shown him. 

Undaunted by the crippling effects of polio and the loss of his parents during South Sudan’s tragic conflict, this young man remains utterly determined to gain a PhD in medicine and serve his people. 

It is a relief and a joy to report that Jackson is safe and excelling at his medical school in Uganda. I’m absolutely certain that your prayers made it possible for this story to be told.

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'But for the grace of God, Jackson’s ‘story’ could have been very different indeed...' Jill Vine