You know when you’re having one of those crazy I’m-not-going-to-make-it-out-with-my-sanity-intact seasons of life? And then you just happen*cough cough* to meet someone who puts in all in perspective, and makes you fess up to how miniscule your problems are? It’s kind of like a well-intentioned smack in the face, if such a thing were possible.
Anyway, I had such a moment when the daunting opportunity arose to interview Viola Lutara for SheLoves Magazine. And she, my friends, is a WOMAN. Viola is the Director for Living Hope, an organization very close to my heart. Their purpose is to restore dignity to abandoned and widowed women living in Kampala and Gulu, Uganda. These women may be pregnant, returnees from abduction, or have experienced brutal torture. Besides meeting a woman’s immediate need for food and medication, Living Hope also provides spiritual discipleship, assistance with setting up a self-sustainable income, and reconstructive surgery. I know. How incredible is that?
Although her work is obviously globe-impacting, it’s Viola’s personal story that really hit me; the tragedy and and physical struggles she’s experienced would have sent me into a tailspin and, most likely, an expletive filled stand-off with God. But her faith stayed rock solid, even when she didn’t know if she would survive the next month.
It’s essential that stories like these – and women like Viola – are heard and honored. . . so do settle in with a steaming hot something and join our conversation.
Q & A with Viola Lutara
Megan: Tell us a little of your story. What have been some of your defining moments?
Viola: Let’s start in in 1993. My husband had begun to fall ill with frequent bouts of malaria. In an effort to discover the underlying cause, we both went to get tested for HIV. Both of our tests came back positive. Throughout 1994 his illness continued, but because there was no medication available, he passed away in November of that year.
I was left jobless with three young children to support.
In June of 1997, my younger sister passed away and I began developing rashes due to the stress of yet another tragedy. By December, there were rashes all over my arms. My girlfriends collected long sleeved blouses for me so I could continue working.
I was terrified. I knew the rashes were one of the first signs of a decrease in my immunity.
All I could think was: “Is this the beginning of my death? What will happen to my children? How can I make sure I stay alive?”
I had heard of a medication that could suppress the HIV virus. However, it was only brought into the country by private doctors, and the cost was an exorbitant $1,500 US per month!
I could not afford it.
But then, the Holy Spirit asked me to take a huge step of faith. He laid on my heart that I needed to ask friends and family for help. At least twenty of them needed to donate 50,000 Uganda shillings a month to help me buy the medication.
I asked my friends one by one. At this point my arms were covered in sores. When I rolled up my sleeves I could see the pain on their faces. Within two weeks I had raised the funds to buy my first dose of medicine.
While taking the first dose I prayed, “God, please take away the rashes.” Within two weeks they were gone! But I didn’t know what was next. I could not sustain the payments, despite how many friends were committed to keeping me alive.