The Difference a Day Made

(HLI Tanzania) – HLI saves lives at the grassroots level. It’s that important to us.

Emil Hagamu, HLI Regional Director for English-speaking Africa, began receiving some text or email messages about a year ago. They came from a young woman, and he couldn’t recall where he’d met her. But her messages were full of good will, such as that of October 21st, 2017: “Praise be to Jesus Christ…Good afternoon Sir…God is good all the time.” So, Emil responded in the same spirit.

Emil at work on an HLI mission trip to the African nation of Mauritius

Then, not long after, he received a much longer message. This one shocked his memory, and he has translated the words into English:

Praise be to Jesus Christ…let me take this opportunity to thank you in person and pro-life Radio Maria program in general. I believe in many ways and to a great extent you have been able to save thousands of unborn children from abortion everywhere by people who listen to Radio Maria. I personally and sincerely thank you, my father, for your counseling which I will never forget. I pray Almighty God blesses you with more years so God may use you to save more souls. I believe God has entrusted in you a holy vocation. It was in November 2015 when I asked you to give me advice on a big problem I was facing. I ran away from home after discovering I was pregnant….

At first, 23-year-old Judith Leonard was in fear. She said the man she was with did not accept responsibility for the child. In fact, Judith had been raped, but she was afraid to disclose the details.

Judith had thought she was safe. A young man from her church in the Catholic Diocese of Mbeya, Tanzanaia, had asked her to tea. Tea was the last thing on his mind. When she learned she was pregnant, she feared telling her Catholic parents and ran away scared, feeling forced to live elsewhere. She reached out to Emil after hearing him speak, as he does regularly, on Radio Maria’s radio show. He had been talking about the humanity of the unborn child, and how abortion also hurts the mother in so many ways. She did not tell him about the rape, and disguised other details – even lying about the sex of her child, trying to protect her identity. He eventually learned she had been a student, but had to leave Dodoma University. She was living in a foreign village, in poverty. Frustrated, torn apart and humiliated, she landed in the hands of an old woman, who gave her a place to sleep. Judith was forced to work in order to stay alive.

Still, Emil sensed her need immediately and began counseling her. His words:

I asked her to go back to her parents and appeal for their forgiveness which she did. Due to the deep traumatic condition she was facing, the counseling session (over the phone) covered a period of three months. She was especially damaged by thoughts of loss of her university scholarship, her deeply religious parents, being judged and the shame of being raped.

Fast forward. Judith went to stay with her aunt. She became reconciled with her parents and is now back at a different university. The local Catholic parish has even provided her with housing. Now her handsome daughter, Jenista, is two years old.

Judith Leonard with her daughter, Jenista

Concluding her longer message, Judith Leonard wrote to Emil:

After the counseling and advice you gave, I went to stay with my aunt until I gave birth. I still remember the words you said, “Human life is precious. We are all created in the image of God. Your parents may be angry today, but when they see the image of God in their grandchild, they will love it and receive it.” God is good. Last year I gave birth. Thank you for saving my child’s life. May God continue to bless you and your life saving work.

And as Emil so aptly comments, “Let us celebrate. HLI has saved another life.”

About Deborah M. Piroch

Deborah M. Piroch graduated from Mount Holyoke College, the nation’s oldest women’s college, with a double major in German and English Literature. She studied abroad and earned her M.A. in English Literature from Indiana University. Fluent in German, she began her career in international journalism working for Radio Deutsche Welle in Cologne, Germany. Returning to the States after a three-year contract, she worked as arts reporter and producer on prime time shows for WQED-FM in Pittsburgh, then a top 20 market. After another three years, she was hired by EWTN Global Catholic Network as news director, anchor and writer for “Catholic World Today,” but soon transitioned into television. Highlights of her 15 years at EWTN include co-anchoring the U.S. March for Life with Marcus Grodi on more than one occasion, live translating the election of Pope Benedict XVI into German, interviewing two former U.S. Presidential candidates and producing Father Benedict Groeschel’s prime time program from its inception for six years. Named the Network’s first International Production Coordinator, she also proposed, budgeted and executed TV shoots in Scotland, England, Norway, Sweden and Germany. Most recently she served as Director of PR for Human Life International.

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