A friend I never met

Raphael Mudenda was a good man, a great inspiration, and a dear friend.

I wish I’d met him.

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I got to know Raphael by Facebook and email about a year and a half ago, when he became director of the orphanage I had visited in Choma, Zambia six months earlier.  The previous director had left suddenly, so Raphael inherited a big mess.  There was no money for food, let alone school fees and workers’ wages.  There was no working vehicle.  One building was still being repaired after an arson.

Facebook chat, February 19, 2013:
Hello Brian, Thank you for asking [for prayer needs]. We have run out of food supplies completely and we don’t know what they will eat tomorrow. The little cash we had was used for the two funerals and we are now in serious food need. Pray for us that the Lord meets this need in a special way. Raphael

Despite the challenges, though, Raphael worked tirelessly to provide for the children and the “aunties” who took care of them.  He solicited donations not just to pay the orphanage’s bills but also to provide for its future.  He got funds to begin a chicken coop, helping the children learn useful skills while providing much-needed nutrition affordably.  He arranged sponsorships and ensured school fees.  He did what he could, and when that wasn’t enough, he endured troubles with humility and dedication, even when local authorities seemed more concerned with rules and technicalities than with helping fund the orphanage.

As for Raphael, he struggled with health problems that impeded and complicated his work, especially in a healthcare system less developed than ours.

Facebook chat, March 3, 2013:
Yes, my health has improved a lot and I am now able to do a lot of work at the orphanage. I am diabatic and I have hypertension too and when things around me are not fine, the two tends to bring a lot of problems in my body. The financial challenges which we have continued to experience at the orphanage have been contributing a lot to my poor health of late but I am feeling better now. I am sure when our financial status improves, I will have less stress.

Email, April 28, 2013:
… It was really sad to see the little girl agonizing with a lot of pain and I tried to speak to some Hospital Authority who just said, “wait for the Doctors after Easter holiday”. In Zambia we die not because we supposed to but because of negligence by some hospital personnel. Those that have money go to private hospitals for immediate and better services but poor people like me and Ruth depend on government’s free but poor services.

Because of those challenges and his health problems, Raphael was in my prayers every week.  I also wrote him periodically to encourage him, and I was humbled, encouraged, and inspired by his replies.

Email, August 13, 2013:
Hi Brian,
Your email was great my friend. I rarely receive such encouraging mails such as yours. My spirit was so uplifted and I really feel so humbled to know that there people that value the work I do so much. This does encourage me so much to continue serving God through this ministry.
Yes, the work I do here has been really hard but thank God for people like you who have indeed continued praying for us as well as supporting the orphanage financially. Lack of finances has been our greatest challenge. Many thanks to Crosswinds for the huge financial support that has been coming our way. This kind of love to us put a smile on our faces.
I am looking forward to the day I will meet with you my brother. I always feel like I have met you before because of the way we chat on emails and facebook. I will be the happiest to meet with you one day and have you place your hands on my shoulders as you pray for me and kids. I value your prayers so much.

Facebook post, July 17, 2014:
(Thank) you brothers and sisters for all your prayers. Please know that, I appreciate your prayers so much because without your prayers I would have been history. Thank you also for being a source of encouragement to me and my family. Many are times when things have been terrible in my life and my SURVIVAL entirely depends on Christ and friends like you. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. I am not SHAKEN in anyway because I know whom I trust.

Raphael’s last email to me, June 30, 2014:
Thank you for praying for my protection and my family’s protection. A number of times I thought of quitting being in charge of the orphanage because of the trials that my family and I have gone through. Humanly speaking I have cried loudly a number of times asking God as to why he permits all these bad things that I face instead of him (God) helping me carry out the children’s ministry but his voice has always whispered to me saying, “my grace is more than sufficient for you and your situations”. Each time I hear this, I stop crying and start rejoicing knowing very well that there is a reason why God gave me this assignment here at the orphanage.… 

I can assure you that I no longer have plans of quitting and I am here to do carry out God’s assignment of serving children and at his own time when God feels I should leave, I will leave as a happy person and rejoicing the great work God has done through me and my team.

Wanting very much to meet him and encourage him in person, I was excited for Tracy to have that chance during her visit there earlier this month.  Unfortunately, his health had worsened again, and the team was not able to visit him.

Last night, Raphael passed away.  My heart is heavy with grief at his passing and concern both for the children and staff and for his own family.  The world needs more people like Raphael, and it needs to hear more about them.

Goodbye, my friend.  I’m blessed to have known you, and I look forward to meeting you.


Please join me in praying for his family and all those at the orphanage in their grief and the hardships sure to follow.  Please pray that the new director for the orphanage would share his commitment and compassion for those in his care.  Please pray for a world so full of love and generosity that it no longer needs orphanages.

 

Children’s Nest Trust – c/o Crosswinds Wesleyan Church – 3360 Middle Cheshire Road – Canandaigua, NY 14424

US email: childrensnestzambia@gmail.com

to give online go to www.crosswindsonline.org/give-online

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