Once a month I take a small plane to Vanga Hospital in the interior of Congo where for 48 hours, I put aside the rigors of running a relief program and return to patient care.I give lectures to the medical residents, meet with staff, and see patients.
A young couple came to see me yesterday afternoon…..they were carrying a child who was wrapped up fully in a blanket which seemed odd on this 88 degree December day.
‘We were disobedient when we were young' they told me. I had taught them when they were in their 2nd year of nursing school eleven years ago, but it took me a while to remember.They were single and dating at the time; she got pregnant in her third year and had to drop out.There was an impromptu (civil) marriage, she lived with her parents, and he continued his studies. After the baby was born they lived in a single room in her parent's house, taking turns going to school until eventually both finished.He found work and they moved into a home of their own.
They became a family.She got pregnant again…another boy, and they were delighted.He was promoted to Supervisor on the pediatric ward and when she got pregnant a 3rd time they both prayed for a girl.The baby was born; an exceptionally beautiful girl the couple told me; they named her appropriately, ‘Parfait Bonté de Dieu' (perfect act of kindness from God).Clearly God had forgiven them and blessed them with three healthy children, a good job, and a home.
At age two months, it seemed the child's head was growing faster than the rest of her body and after consultation at our hospital, they learned the child had hydrocephalus, a congenital blockage of the drainage system of the brain causing the head to swell beyond the girth of the bones. If untreated, the excess fluid gradually increases pressure on the baby's brain, resulting in brain damage and loss of mental and physical abilities Young baby Parfait is developmentally normal at this stage of her life. While she cannot sit up due to the enormous weight of her head, she is quite determined and crawls on all fours with her head rubbing against the ground.Her condition without surgery however, will worsen and ultimately cause her demise.
They came to ask if I could help find treatment for their child.In the course of our conversation, they also shared with me the burden of guilt they carried from a sin, eleven years ago. "We did everything right after she became pregnant", he told me, "We had a civil wedding (they were too embarrassed to get married in the church), we wrote a letter of apology to the school, we lived apart in order to pursue our studies and we asked God for forgiveness.If this is God's way of punishing us", they told me, "we will accept it, for the wrong we did when we were young."
‘Who sinned", the disciples asked Jesus, "this man or his parents that he was born blind?Neither this man nor his parents sinned", said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me".
We cannot know God's purpose in allowing ‘Parfait Bonté de Dieu" to be afflicted with a problem we have little chance of repairing in the Democratic Republic of Congo.Parfait's only hope of a cure will come from afar………as our only hope too…..comes from afar.
Like this young couple, we have all sinned and deserve judgment for our shortcomings. Praise God that as believers, we are under grace and not under condemnation.This was the ‘prescription' that I gave to this young couple on a warm and bright December afternoon.
I wish I had a remedy to offer young baby Parfait…. but I don't. I am struck by Jesus' closing words in John 3: 9 above, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me". God sent Ann and me, through you, to a foreign land to minister to children such as these…..but even if I had the training of a neurosurgeon, the means to fix this problem is simply not available here.
But God knows that……. and only asks us to do each day….. that which is possible.
May our hearts be filled with both compassion and hope this Christmas Season,
Bill and Ann Clemmer
American Baptist Missionaries
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo