Feature

A Longing Fulfilled

Hope and healing in Mali

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Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Prov. 13:12).

At the Koutiala Hospital for Women and Children in Mali, an international team of doctors, nurses and medical technicians is privileged to see God’s plan of spiritual and physical healing unfold in the lives of women, children and their families. As the people we serve find hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ, a tree of life springs up in this poor nation.

Committed to Christ

Fana had carried eight children to delivery only to have all die on the first day of life. As a child she had had strep throat and, due to the lack of treatment available in Mali, developed the rare complication of rheumatic heart disease. Now as an adult, each time she tried to deliver her babies she became too weak during labor to push. By the time her child was born, the little one was too fatigued to breathe well and died.

For her ninth pregnancy, however, she came to our hospital. Olive Gifford, our now-retired midwife, recognized the problem and didn’t allow Fana to push. Instead, Olive slowly delivered the baby by suction. As a result, Fana had a healthy child, and through her interactions with our hospital staff, she became a follower of Christ as well.

As is often the case in Mali, this decision was not well received by the family. Fana’s husband refused to provide for her or their child, not even giving them food. However, now two years later, Fana continues to follow Christ. She returns to the hospital each month to greet the workers and to receive a small allowance. When we realized that she lived in the same courtyard with her husband, who continues persecuting her, we asked if we could find her another home. She explained that if she moves away, it would give Christ a bad name because most outsiders are unaware of her husband’s harsh treatment. What a testimony of perseverance and the willingness to suffer for the Name of Christ!

New Life, New Name

During the past six months we have diagnosed our first three juvenile (insulin-dependent) diabetics. Childhoodonset diabetes requires precise management that is difficult under the best of conditions. Diet must be controlled, exact quantities of (preferably) refrigerated insulin must be injected at least twice a day and blood sugar levels analyzed to determine whether doses need adjustment.

Imagine that scenario taking place in one of the world’s poorest nations, where patients and their relatives are illiterate, where electricity is rare and where the quantity of food depends on the time of the year in relation to the harvest. As a result, childhood diabetes is almost always fatal in countries like Mali.

Fatoumata, 14, arrived in rough shape. She was living in neighboring Burkina Faso and was wasting away despite constantly eating and drinking. She didn’t have the strength to get out of bed except to use the bathroom hourly. Fatoumata asked to return to Mali to see her mother, Awa, and die in her homeland. Fatoumata was Awa’s only child so she brought her to our hospital in desperation. Thankfully, we were able to diagnose her diabetes, and within a few days of starting insulin, life returned to her face. Fatoumata was hospitalized for more than four months so that she could learn how to read, give herself insulin shots and check her blood sugar levels.

During this time Fatoumata interacted with our staff members, who are all followers of Christ, and she desired to follow Him as well. She changed her name from Fatoumata to Elizabeth as a symbol of her inward change. Since her family lives too far away from Koutiala for good medical follow-up, we found nearby lodging for her and a job at the hospital gate preparing food for workers and patients’ families to buy. Elizabeth attends church weekly and her reading continues to improve, enabling her to study the Bible in the Bambara language. We thank God for His powerful work in Elizabeth both physically and spiritually!

Conquering Cancer

In the last year, we have greatly increased our care of children with cancer at the Koutiala hospital. Through God’s working, many children have had their cancers go into remission, including two with leukemia, one with kidney cancer, one with colon cancer and two with lymphoma. Long hospitalizations have given us the opportunity to show the love and power of Christ to these children and their parents. For others who have incurable cancers, we have been able to provide hospice care that allows them to die in dignity.

Because little Balla lives too far from Koutiala for weekly chemotherapy, he is staying at the hospital for six months. Despite the side effects, Balla is always full of energy, running between our hospital offices and holding our hands as we walk. Also, he comes every morning to chapel to listen to the singing and hear the good news. Since no one in his village has ever become a follower of Christ, we pray that Balla would be a light allowing us to declare the gospel in his home region.

François and Kadia have leukemia but are in remission. Having arrived with frequent bleeding and swollen abdomens, they have come a long way! They are now happy, healthy children and have returned to their home villages.

Many people would say that treating cancer in rural Mali, where patients live in mud homes and sleep on dirt floors, is impossible. But to that we respond, “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).

At Koutiala, we treat many patients every day. Everyone is given the opportunity to begin the journey of spiritual healing; all are given equal care and respect, whether they choose to follow Jesus or not. Thank you for your gifts to the Great Commission Fund; without your giving and your prayers, the longing of Fana, Elizabeth, Balla and dozens of other Malians to find healing and hope in Christ might not have been fulfilled.

2011 Be Light Christmas Offereing

Blessed

I met Chatou in the village one Sunday. We had just finished a church service under a little shelter with a small group of believers and several interested onlookers when Pastor Samuel asked if our group from the hospital could pray for several who had physical problems.

Chatou had been struggling with leg ulcers for 20 (!) years, since age 18. She had been treated by local health workers many times, but the ulcers persisted. Her family members, believing the ulcers were a result of sorcery, brought her to Pastor Samuel for help. We prayed for Chatou and asked her to come to Koutiala Hospital for an extended period of treatment. The pastor told us her family was no longer willing to pay, so we said that we would cover the bill if she could find a place to stay.

Later that week, Chatou came. She had a very large infected ulcer on one leg and a small one on the other. We ran tests and began daily dressing changes and antibiotics. A few weeks later, she was ready for a skin graft. Within several weeks, she had healed well.

When we first got to know her, Chatou was a defeated woman. She had been carrying the weight of health problems for a long time, along with the belief that it was caused by a curse someone had placed on her. During her stay at the hospital, we prayed with and for Chatou many times. She learned of Jesus and His love for her.

As Chatou began to find physical healing and gain an understanding of Jesus’ love for her, her countenance changed. The face of emptiness and uncertainty was replaced with a beautiful smile and a sense of peace. A few weeks after her return to the village, Chatou went with her husband and brother-in-law (followers of the majority religion) to visit the pastor. “Can you help Chatou become a Christian?” her husband asked Pastor Samuel. That day, with the blessing of her family, she prayed to receive Christ.

Chatou’s physical wounds return from time to time . . . very small flare ups compared with her original presentation, but frustrating all the same. But Chatou has found what is most important—spiritual healing. Her hope and joy are in her Savior and Healer.

—Jessica Schaeffer, nurse

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