Malea’s Good Name

In the darkening Gulu evening, my son, Opiyo Martin, and I stood outside, our bellies full of pork and cassava. I smiled at the laughter coming from my mom and my other sons, Otim Geoffrey and Oryem William, seated only a few feet away, their bellies full of pork and cassava, too.

I kept Martin aside for a few minutes. On our walk back from dinner we’d been talking about the chicken farm project and I told him about the people who had donated to make their chicken farm a reality.

“Opiyo, I have to tell you the story of Malea, a darling, blond-haired, six-year-old girl from my city. She loves swimming, she collects rocks and shells, and she’s one of your chicken farm donors.”

I began to tell Martin Malea’s story and his singular response was, “Oh my God, Mum, oh my God, oh my God.” His words weren’t the bubblegum OMG, used so often today. They were reverent, a sacred recognition of the providence of God.

Before I tell you the story, grab a mug of your favorite something, put your phone on silent, and sit down for five minutes to read Malea’s story. You’ll be glad you did.

A few weeks ago Malea’s mom, Anna, Facebooked this photo of Malea, who had emptied out her piggy bank with the express purpose of using her money to help someone in need. Anna was searching for an avenue for Malea to do just that. I told her about Vigilante Kindness, specifically about our chicken farm project because Malea’s savings would be nearly enough to purchase two chickens. Anna talked it over with Malea and Malea agreed that buying a pair of chickens was a worthy use of her eight dollars and change.

Can’t you just picture her sorting precious dimes and pennies, smoothing out her dollar bills and counting it all up? See that envelope Malea is holding in the photo? She made it and tucked her money carefully inside. It gets me every darn time.

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As if that wasn’t enough, a couple of days before I left for Uganda, Anna texted me and asked if there was still time for Malea to donate. I told her yes, that I was making a final deposit of a few last local donations that same day.

Malea had sold rocks and shells from her collection. She’d sold enough of her collection to buy herself a new toy and to buy a third chicken. A third chicken. I can’t even.

Sometimes I can’t believe I get to be part of this work, this work where piggy bank dimes and a little girl’s rocks and shell collection become chickens for a chicken farm in Uganda, a farm that will allow my sons and other students to earn their own school fees and to tithe chickens to take care of widows and orphans.

Never in my life could I have dreamed up such a thing.

I understand Martin’s response to Malea’s story because it’s been the entirety of my prayer life this past week. I’m overwhelmed both by your generosity, sweet Vigilantes, and the providence of God working through you. In the face of such sacrifice and such kindness, I, too am lost for words save for, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.”

Malea picked out names for her chickens. Her third chicken will be named Jasmine. Her second chicken will be named, Chickaketta, which is quite possibly the most perfect chicken name ever. Her first chicken will be named, Malea, because, in the words of a blond six-year-old who loves swimming and now has a much smaller rock and shell collection, “Malea is a good name.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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