In episode 25 of Simply 127, 127 Worldwide partner Odongo Geoffrey shares about his childhood experiences and how he came to know Jesus as a teenager. Woven throughout the stories of his past are repeated episodes of heartbreak as well as evidence of God’s compassion towards Geoffrey’s suffering.
When Geoffrey was a baby, his biological mother left him at his grandmother’s house and never returned. His grandmother then abandoned him and his older sister by the side of the road with all their belongings, hoping that someone would take them back to their father. Geoffrey was eventually reunited with his father, but tragedy in the family didn’t stop there.
When Geoffrey was thirteen years old, his father was poisoned to death. At this time, the woman Geoffrey believed to be his mother (his father’s second wife) revealed that she was not his biological mother. She subsequently left him alone, taking her biological children to the capital city of Kampala. Alone, Geoffrey searched for his father’s relatives in their hometown of Arua in hopes that one of them would take him in. Nobody did.
It is impossible to fully understand what this level of suffering and loneliness must have felt like, especially considering that Geoffrey endured it all as a young child. Even more, Geoffrey experienced this abandonment in a very dangerous time-- the civil war in Uganda was still raging as he tried to find a means of supporting himself.
Over the next two years, Geoffrey slowly began to succumb more and more to despair. Eventually, he decided to take his own life by orchestrating a fake boating accident. But just as he was about to jump from a boat into the Nile River to drown, two other fishing boats encircled his boat with their nets, leaving him nowhere to jump. God prevented Geoffrey from committing suicide in that moment, and later that afternoon he orchestrated a way for Geoffrey to hear the gospel through a local evangelism effort. That day, Geoffrey became a believer.
In Geoffrey’s story, the transformative power of God’s salvation in terrible circumstances is put on display. On the same day that Geoffrey had given up hope of life itself, God gave Geoffrey a new life in Christ. Even though Goeffrey’s earthly circumstances weren’t immediately changed after he became a believer, he knew that God would never leave or forsake him. He found comfort in the knowledge that even as the people in his world drew further away from him, God drew closer. Where others were inconsistent and unfaithful, God was faithful.
Over the following years, God enabled Geoffrey to gain an education, a steady source of income, and a community. God also worked in Geoffrey’s heart to increase his compassion for other young people in Uganda who had suffered difficult childhoods similar to his own. Eventually, Geoffrey founded Acres of Hope children’s home and school and later partnered with 127 Worldwide to restore hope to vulnerable members of his community.
Geoffrey’s childhood was filled with trauma and loss, but God saw Geoffrey in his suffering and drew near to him. Not only that, but God also redeemed Geoffrey’s sufferings to bring comfort to hundreds more young men and women in difficult circumstances. Both Geoffrey’s story and the stories of the vulnerable people he serves today proclaim the truth that “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).