In 1999, Juddo was born into a Malawian family riddled with sickness. Before his fourth birthday, both of Juddo’s parents had died from AIDS-related illnesses. He went to live with and be raised by his grandmother, aunt and cousins in the slum of Chilomi, Blantyre.
From the first day Juddo walked into the Sports Friends yard, he was loved. His smile, his sense of humor, his care for others and his ability to run and play football of course made him lovable by his coaches.
Juddo was in the group who named the team Lyzee United after the coach’s 5 year old daughter. She now refers to Juddo as her “big brother” right along with the rest of the boys on the team.
About a year into time on the team, Juddo approached his coaches about Christ. After weeks of discussions and questions, Juddo decided to devote himself to the Christian faith. His lively spirit and enthusiasm was contagious.
His coach, would’ve never known he had only 22 months to live. In September 2014, he received a call from Juddo’s aunt that the “sickness” he’d inherited from his parents was rapidly worsening; Juddo had been admitted to the local hospital.
As any parent would do, he sprung into action in a frantic effort to help. After ruling out the idea of transferring him to a more-equipped private hospital, he collected a few vials of Juddo’s blood and prepared to purchase any medications the private hospital could recommend after running tests. On his way out of the room, he urged Juddo to hang in there and keep on breathing. The last words he spoke to him were, “I love you.”
Juddo died just hours later.
The pain was almost too much. Through helpless and frustrated tears, coach and his wife lamented Juddo’s death, so angered by the many injustices surrounding his fate.
Although the situation seemed devastating, we prepared for Juddo’s funeral and somehow found a bit of light in the preparations. On the morning of the service, Lyzee United coaches found over 40 of Juddo’s brothers gathered in the yard with one request. “We want to wear our jerseys today. We want everyone to know that we were Juddo’s family and how much he meant to us. We want to hold his #7 jersey.”
Coaches knew then that this day would not be marked by sadness, but by the truth that God’s love redeems the most broken, hopeless stories.
Juddo’s pastor gave a moving testimony about the way Juddo lived. Afterward, over 800 people were present as his body was gently placed into his coaches minibus.
The boys of Lyzee United stepped forward to guide the large crowd to the cemetery. The coaches wept as they drove behind their boys, their family, leading the slow journey through town. Even though hearts were broken, they knew something beautiful and significant was taking place. God was using this group of young men to show the community that the soccer team was a family deeply in love with Christ and each other.
The day finished with the boys burying Juddo’s body in the ground with their own hands and makeshift shovels. Finally, the coaches were asked to place a wreath of flowers on his grave. As they stumbled through the crowd, thankfulness for Juddo’s life overwhelmed them.
Fatherless Juddo may have been an orphan but God gave him hope, joy and a family in Christ. Furthermore, on October 8, 2014, Juddo met his real Father forever.
Juddo is an orphan no more.
You turned my wailing into dancing;
You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
That my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
Post originally written by Ashley Sullivan for Sports Friends.