Thanks to ABC News for this uplifting story. Wisconsin National Guard Captain Scott Southworth, formerly of the 32nd Military Police Company, while on a 14-month tour in Iraq, volunteered at an orphanage for disabled children.
That is where Capt. Southworth met Ala'a (pronounced "Allah"), an eight-year-old boy who was abandoned at age 3 or 4, who cannot walk because he has cerebral palsy (for more info on CP). The Atlanta Constitution Journal (free registration required) has a very good account of the story that gives far more of the story than the ABC News piece:
"Southworth grew up in a military family, raised with love of God and country. He graduated from law school at the University of Wisconsin with honors and planned to run for Juneau County district attorney at the end of his deployment.
As for Ala'a (pronounced "Allah"), when he was 3 or 4, an Iraqi police officer found him alone on the streets of Baghdad. The officer brought him to the orphanage, run by the Catholic Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa.
By the time Southworth started visiting him there, Ala'a was about 10. The nuns who cared for him had taught him to pray and to speak English.
Face to face, Ala'a called Southworth by his first name, Scott. But the nuns told Southworth they saw a stronger bond beginning to form.
Ala'a was always concerned about what he would wear when Southworth came to visit. He was suddenly interested in learning to walk. At night when Ala'a lay down in his crib, he would pray not for himself but for Southworth, whom he felt was in danger.
And when he talked about his new friend from America, he called him "Baba," which means "Daddy" in his native Arabic.
'At first, it was just kind of cute, kind of nice,' said Southworth, 32, who felt more like Ala'a's big brother than his father.
Then he started to realize what a difference he was making in the boy's life. Sure, Ala'a had always been loved by the nuns, but they loved everyone. This little boy had likely been abandoned by his parents. He'd never had anyone to make him feel valuable as an individual. Now, he did.
'Everybody on the planet needs to feel special to somebody, and I could see that happening for him,' Southworth said."
What motivated Captain Southworth, as a single man, with a future in law as a District Attorney (he later won election to the position) to adopt little Ala'a? Ala'a was getting too old for the orphanage and would soon be sent to a state run institution that would have meant most likely a terrible future, if one at all, without the care and love the boy needed.
Captain Southworth was also convicted by his faith:
"Southworth had heard about the home. By all reports, it was horrible. The doctor confirmed his fears.
"If he goes there, his life is over," the doctor said, speaking more than figuratively.
"Then I'll adopt him," Southworth said. The words came out in a rush. Only after he'd spoken them did he begin to think things through.
Could he really adopt this boy? Southworth started to pray, trying to figure out the Lord's plan for him.
The first sign he received was a bootleg DVD of "The Passion of the Christ," sent to a fellow soldier in a care package from home. The film's quality was poor, but its message was clear.
"I thought, 'If He can do that for me, surely I can (adopt Ala'a)."'
Every time a friend or family member pointed out one of the challenges, Southworth thought about the distant future.
He imagined meeting Ala'a in heaven. In his vision, Ala'a came to him and asked, "Scott, why didn't you come back for me?"
Southworth went through all the answers. He pictured himself saying, "Well, I didn't have a lot of money." Or: "I'm a single guy, I don't know anything about taking care of a child with cerebral palsy." Or: "I have a very demanding career."
"Every time I thought of a reason (not to adopt him), it quickly turned into an excuse, and I was absolutely ashamed and embarrassed," Southworth said. "I thought, 'Well, I can sacrifice a little bit here and make some adjustments, or I can spend the rest of my life ashamed and embarrassed."'
However, Southworth's tour ended before he could overcome the obstacles of bringing the boy home with him to the United States. There was no legal way, it appeared, to adopt him, and being dedicated to the rule of law, he was not going to bribe a local judge to win custody in Iraq.
Read the whole AJC piece. It is an amazing story of courage, sacrifice, the love of a boy and faith in God. It is a story that brings hope out of chaos. It is possible that Ala'a may yet walk again.