Here is the latest news on James, the hearing impaired boy we delivered to a deaf school in Mbale. Our latest report from the school is that he lost his temper with one of the other deaf kids and actually tore the other child’s mattress. The mattresses are roll-up mattresses that they put down at night in their dorm room.

It was reported to us that the reason the uncles sent him away to a distant island to be with his “drunkard” father was his increasingly hard-to-handle temper tantrums. As I said in an earlier blog, here is an intelligent ten-year old boy who can make you understand him if you try to understand him. However, we have not seen anyone really trying to understand him except for the Bishop we often travel with and ourselves. I think this level of disregard and rejection has been building up in him for some time, and now it is beginning to come out as anger.

Tomali riding in the car.

Tomali riding in the car.

This disregard is widely cultural. Mostly those with disabilities seem to be considered in the village culture to be “less than” and are “despised” in many ways by the superstitious  people. We have seen this attitude exhibited in otherwise friendly Christians. On Buvuma Island we have a mentally challenged man named Tomali who always attends our training meetings, and I have consistently instructed the people and modeled to them how to love such a man. He is a true “innocent” though he must be about forty, and has a mental age of around six to ten, I would think.

Tomali loves to ride with us in our car. Once this trip he gestured to us for a ride from the side of the road as we passed. We loaded him into his normal place in the back seat and asked him where he wanted to go, which is always difficult to get out of him as his language is garbled and limited. He indicated that we should proceed forward. Then he motioned for us to stop, and he got out of the car proudly indicating that he had arrived at his destination – we had gone about ten yards.

I have witnessed Christian women crudely ordering this endearing little man to leave the training class or to get out of their way or to give them his front row seat as if he is so much debris or perhaps a dog who has strayed into the meeting by accident. He is the too frequent recipient of the scornful expression, the disdainful gesture motioning him away, or the angry voice raised in his direction, “Tomali, Tomili, get away!” To all of this, he grins, and keeps coming back for more. Alfred and I have grown to love Tomali, and we always look forward to seeing him again when we arrive on Buvuma.

Tomali and James dancing next to large speakers at a wedding. James is "feelin' the vibe."

Tomali and James dancing next to large speakers at a wedding. James is “feelin’ the vibe.”

This is what James has faced most of his short life as a functionally deaf child. So when Catherine, the head teacher of the deaf program, reported to us that James had torn the mattress of another child in a temper tantrum, we knew that this behavior is predictable and will have to work itself out as James adjusts to his new environment. We pray that his rescue did not come too late, and that he will be able to learn to control himself. Obviously, he is just now on the verge of being strong enough to do damage with his temper.

Alfred told Catherine that they had to discipline him. He had to be held accountable and to learn about consequences to his actions. As they discussed this, Alfred suggested that they give James the torn mattress and give James’ nice new mattress that we purchased for him to the boy he had attacked. Catherine seemed to find this a good solution, and as far as we know, implemented this plan. I suspect there will be a lot of discipline and accountability in the future for this wild child.

On the positive side, she said that James has now decided to sit in his class with the smaller kids and begin learning sign language. This is a major victory! When this bright child learns language and can begin to exchange actual ideas with his peers and his teachers, his potential is going to expand exponentially. I can’t wait to see it. I have seen this trapped potential in him, just waiting to burst the bonds that hold him captive. I imagine myself holding an actual conversation with James, and my hope for him just soars…