I arrived in Uganda the day before the the rest of the team, so Martin and I had some bonding time to ourselves. One of the first questions Martin asked me... virtually out of the blue was "what are you the most afraid of"after some thought I answered: not being able to provide for my family. When I returned the question his answer came without hesitation "going back to the streets".
The night before we left Laetitia and I went outside with Martin to hear his story. We both knew the main facts of his story, but sitting with him and hearing and watching him re-live his greatest fear as if he was still there was a completely different experience.
Martin has never celebrated a birthday, so even he is not sure of the acurate dates of the event of his own life.
Virtually his only memory of his father is that his father used to beat both him and his mother. His father and mother would regularly fight and his mother would often be kicked out. When he was about 8 years old Martin and his mother were permanently kicked out. that was the last time he ever saw his father. Although Martin does not have happy memories of his father. he told this part of the story with extreme respect and concern of not speaking badly of his father.
A few years later, he and his mother heard that his father had passed away. Martin's mother tried to arrange for him to go to the funeral, but the father had started another family and these people chased Martin and his mother away. Even here Martin kindly acknowledges that the family probably expected Martin was there to claim inheritance. Having seen Martin with the kids all week by this point it was impressive to see how he has become a father figure for so many children... without ever truly being fathered. This was just another testimony of Martin's Character.
The night they were kicked out Martin remembers walking virtually all night until they got to a village.
His mother being a gifted cook, she volunteered her skills in exchange for being able to eat the scraps. A few weeks later Martin's mother was able to get money together and rented a bedroom. She told Martin she was working in a bar, but Martin started noticing she would come back from the bar with a different Uncle every night. His Mother continued to promises she would make sure he would have a better life.
Martin's mother was infected with Aids. She passed away.
As Martin talked about this part large tears started glistening in the middle of the night rolling down his dark skin. He explained how to this day he still feels guilty for her death as she died to give him a better life... only to end up in the streets of Kampala. As a young boy (12 ish) Martin was alone and feeling like he failed his mother.
To the streets and back
Now an Orphan, Martin went to the streets of Kampala trying to do whatever he could to survive.sleeping in the streets, sometimes not eating for days. When he would eat it was often other people's garbage, or dirty bread found in the dirt of the road.
Martin started getting some work cleaning toilets in churches and other facilities. This is where he met Jen. He asked her for 100 shillings (less than 2cents US) when Jen asked him what he needed the money for Martin said he was an orphan, his mother had died trying to provide him with a better life and so he now had to honor his mother's memory and get an education. Expecting he wanted the money for food, which would have been perfectly legitimate Jen was impressed and invited Martin home with her. In a family of all girls, Martin ended up being the blessing from heaven to the family that had no boys. Martin had a new Family. When Martin Had finished his basic School and Jen asked him what he wanted to do, Martin Told her he wanted to dedicate his life to give a family to the kids still in the streets... just as she had Done for him. Martin started "His Mercy" street outreach ministries, that would later become Chances For Children.
This past fall, Martin married Agnes (photos above)
We had several talks about Agnes one of them was about how children in our culture would NEVER end up in the situations Martin lived... and should a child experience anything remotely as traumatizing they would most likely have severe disorders even as adults... Yet the children at the orphanage appear to not have the slightest sign of that.
Agnes is the first to say Martin wants them to think about the future, he wants them to hope and dream.
To watch Martin tell his story first hand check out this link