Monday, November 02, 2009

A second chance to help

A chance meeting with a disfigured Tanzanian boy effected a Baptist Bishop so much that it completely changed her worldview. Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves has since guided her entire church to raising funds for the boy's village.

From The Santa Cruz Sentinel, comes writer Kathy Kelly's touching story of the Bishop meeting Sadiki, the lesson learned, and the help that followed.

The woman who heads the area Anglican diocese has a question nagging at her, a question she spoke about passionately during a recent sermon at St. John's the Baptist Episcopal Church in the Seacliff area.

That question is whether a 12-year-old Tanzanian boy named Sadiki would still be alive if she had not encountered him one day, in March, in a remote area of that East African country.

Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves told of that brief encounter movingly and with self-reproach.

It is a story that changed her life, the boy's life and struck a chord with many others, Gray-Reeves said. It is undeniably tragic, yet growth has sprung from it.

The chance meeting with a disfigured child -- an epileptic scarred and infected after falling into a cooking fire during a seizure -- has led to a campaign by church members in the diocese to provide solar cooking classes, scholarships and other help to the boy's village.

The Sadiki story begins in March, as three bishops were visiting Africa after a partnership pact among congregations on the Central Coast, in England and in West Tanganyika.

As they drove a heavily rutted road and the driver stopped to adjust a window, a boy suddenly ran up to the Jeep, Gray-Reeves said. Later, they realized he had been holding a stick of sugar cane he wanted them to buy, but his face was like an open wound and it was somehow so frightening that they drove away.

"I gasped; it scared me," she said in a recent telephone interview. "It was devastating to me, I thought, what kind of Christian am I? I was overcome by it, and by not doing anything."

Gray-Reeves said she could see him running after them in the rear-view mirror.

Soon afterward, as Gray-Reeves preached and wrote about it, Bishop Gerard Mpango vowed to find the boy and located him, his parents and six siblings, arranging for medical care near his village.

They learned that Sadiki was an epileptic who had a seizure and fell into a fire near his family's mud hut, burning his face and causing a wound that became infected. Such fire-related accidents are fairly common there, Gray-Reeves said, adding that she spoke to one Saratoga doctor who said he came home after 20 years of treating such patients, as he "couldn't take it anymore."

On Oct. 25, the same Sunday the diocese kicked-off a fundraising campaign, President Obama's senior adviser, David Axelrod, and his wife, Susan, appeared on "60 Minutes," describing 20-plus years of severe seizures experienced by their daughter.

For information, call 394-4465 or visit Write or send donations to PO Box 1903, Monterey, CA 93942. Send scholarship donations to St. John's, 125 Canterbury Drive, Aptos, CA 95003. Call the Aptos church at 708-2278.

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