The security guard barely noticed her in the deepening darkness—just a poor neighbor throwing her trash onto one of the neighborhood garbage heaps, he concluded. His thoughts drifted to other matters. It was a normal beginning to his nightly watch at one of the residences on the outskirts of Mombasa, Kenya.
It was March 26, 2006, and this security guard’s shift would prove to be anything but normal.
That was also the night when Alena was born. The guard first heard her newborn cry around 3 A.M., as he recalled, but by then she was already several hours old. As she continued to cry, he suddenly realized the sound came from the same garbage pile where he’d seen the woman earlier that evening. Rushing as quickly as he could in the darkness, he traced the cries to a bag on top of the pile. Ripping the bag open, he discovered beautiful little Alena, placenta and all.
Alena’s savior rushed her to a hospital, where caretakers soon began calling her “the beautiful one.” Over the course of the next 6 weeks Alena grew stronger, and the hospital staff made arrangements with the Baby Rescue Center, a Heaven’s Family partner, to take her. “She was indeed a beautiful girl,” Peter and Selpher Matua, the husband and wife directors of the center, told me.
After searching in vain to locate the mother of the infant girl they would later name Alena Upendo (Alena is Russian for “light,” and Upendo means “love” in their native Swahili), Peter and Selpher adopted her as their own. True to her name, she has “lit up” their lives, and they see Alena as a special gift of God’s love.
But 2 years later Alena developed a hoarse voice and difficulties breathing. Her parents took her to see a doctor, who diagnosed Alena with laryngeal papillomatosis—small tumor-like growths on her larynx. If left untreated, the doctor said, their daughter’s airway would become completely blocked.
The disease, Peter and Selpher further learned, develops from an infection of a strain of human papilloma virus (HPV), which Alena’s doctor said she likely contracted from her mother during birth. And, as with some other children with the disease, Alena’s condition has worsened into a recurrent form, meaning that the tumors keep growing back after they are surgically removed.
Now age 9, Alena has had to have 8 operations to open up her airway, each costing about $800, a very large sum in Kenya. Thanks to contributions to the Critical Medical Needs Ministry, Heaven’s Family has been able to pay for 2 of those surgeries, removing a large burden from Peter and Selpher. They are very grateful, but the road ahead looks long and bumpy.
Thankfully, Alena will very soon have the opportunity to travel to India to undergo laser treatments that her parents and doctors hope will provide a long-term improvement to her condition.
Alena’s life started out in a trash pile, and the Darkness then tried to snuff out her fragile life. But the Author of Light knows her name and the number of hairs on her head. The Darkness cannot overcome this “Light” of His, however, because God has her in the palm of His hand—and He has permitted many of you, through the Critical Medical Needs Ministry, to be His helping hands! Please pray for a miracle for Alena.