Africans Join CJTF-HOA Chaplain to Help Disabled Man
It is not unusual for a Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) chaplain and team to travel more than 1,000 miles to minister to forward-deployed troops, but at the end of one particular trip to Uganda, the chaplain's team members found themselves on a whole new mission ... this time to help an African man.
On November 1, 2009, just outside a hotel in the Ugandan capitol city of Kampala, Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel) Michael Warner, took a stroll down a busy street while waiting for his flight back to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. Right away he noticed Seterema Stanislau - a man missing both of his legs. The chaplain felt something inside telling him to seek the man out.
"His hands were extended. I gave him some Ugandan schillings," said Warner. "But it was pretty clear God was telling me, 'No, I don't want you to give money. I want you to change his circumstances. I want to bring a whole new life to this man.'"
Warner would later find out that Stanislau is a homeless Rwandan refugee. Through an interpreter, Stanislau told Warner that his village was attacked during a civil war. He saw his family killed by rebels, and they left him for dead after they cut off his legs. A young man in his 20s, Stanislau moved to Kampala about a year ago.
The day after meeting Stanislau, Warner was on a new mission. With his flight layover through that evening, Warner knew he needed to get this man a wheelchair quickly. He began to network.
"I told a couple of military folks who were a part of the team. I talked with a couple of Ugandans about the vision. Immediately I knew that [vision] meant a wheelchair, a job and a home so that he could be self sufficient and on his own instead of begging on the streets in Uganda," said Warner.
Getting a wheelchair was the first hurdle, since they are hard to find. But the hunt for a wheelchair didn't take long; a Ugandan knew where to get one. According to Warner, when he asked Stanislau if he wanted one, he was "ecstatic and said 'yes, it'll help me.'" It was delivered within the hour.
Warner noted that events continued to unfold. The delivery of the wheelchair became a spectacle in itself and drew a crowd. But instead of self-seeking or being resentful, the crowd seemed to be filled with compassion.
"There must have been 25 to 30 people that saw what was going on and wanted to know what it was all about," said Warner. "And they got excited and got involved with the conversation. And the whole community began to talk back and forth and dialog with him about what he might be able to do."
Warner describes the scene as Africans helping Africans. They didn't see a man so much with a disability, or a foreigner from another country, but someone who just needed a chance.
"It was so cool to see all of this start weaving together. I just stood back and watched. They asked him, 'If you could have a job, what would you like to do considering your circumstances?' And they decided with his input that he would sell airtime minutes for cell phones," said Warner.
As illustrated by Warner, the most improbable continued to happen. "It wasn't too long after that, that a person came by and he happened to own a [cell phone] franchise," he said. "Really it was just a miracle that this person came by at this particular time, with a franchise selling minutes. He was willing to mentor [Stanislau] with a job, provide him the minutes to sell, mentor him to run the business, and worked it so he received twice as much income as anybody else selling minutes, and had free reign to go wherever he wanted."
The mission wasn't quite complete. Those involved knew Stanislau still needed a home, and yet another person stepped up. According to Warner, one of the Ugandans said, "None of this is going to do him any good if he's homeless and he can't take care of himself. I know a place!"
Warner explained what happen next. The locals helped load Stanislau into a truck and drove him to a place where he could stay. The community helped him get into a room for three months for free.
"In five hours, this guy went from being homeless, to having a wheelchair, a job, and having a roof over his head. And it was done with Ugandans and with military members. And it all started with a simple vision," said Warner.
Warner says he's not the only one responsible for this vision, which played out in miraculous ways. "God had to provide the vision of what needed to be done, and once that was provided, the people just said, 'let me help.'"
The chaplain team, assigned to CJTF-HOA, a component of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), completed a six-day planned mission to provide spiritual counselling to troops in Uganda, but one day later, this same team engaged in an unplanned mission that personified the greater U.S. mission in Africa - assisting Africans in helping themselves.