Walking along the narrow dusty trail the lady approaching appears to be struggling. She is limping. Her face is contorted with pain as she fights to make the distance to where the pop-up clinic is situated under the shade of the leafy green mango trees. She is tall and elegant, beautifully dressed and, aside from the pained facial expression and limp, could easily be gracing the catwalks of Paris.
In this remote region of Ghana, healthcare is not readily available and Ruth (as her name turns out to be) has suffered a long time. With the grimacing determination on her face, it is plain that she feels the painful walk will be worthwhile and she has hopes for healing.
SO MANY QUESTIONS
Ruth finally takes her seat in front of Dr Martin and his translator. She tells her story. She is embarrassed and ashamed and although she has nothing to feel shame about, she insists that the doctor looks at her foot in complete privacy.
In the seclusion of a dark dusty abandoned schoolroom Ruth reveals a horrendous massive open sore which goes from the top of her foot all the way up her ankle and onto her leg.
Her face shows unbearable sadness and one wonders how this sore is affecting her life. Does her husband no longer want to be with her? Does her family shun and reject her? Do her friends and neighbours believe she is cursed? Do they think she is paying the price for some wrongdoing? Do they think she needs to see a fetish priest to be released from some kind of spell? These and so many other questions.
NO MORE HIDING
One thing is painfully clear; Ruth is ashamed of this condition and does not want anyone to know about it. Her shame only compounds her physical suffering.
The wound is cleaned and dressed. We suspect a Buruli ulcer, a condition caused initially by an insect bite which needs specialist treatment and close monitoring by the Ghana Health authorities. We make arrangements for Ruth to attend the district hospital in the closest town. Finally, she has a glimmer of hope; a hope that things will change, that she will be well once again, no longer to live in hiding, no longer to feel shame. “Madaase” she says with a shy smile as she raises eyes full of hope for the first time to look at us. “Thank you.”
THERE IS A DEEPER HEALING
We met many people like Ruth. Not all had ulcers or open sores or painful conditions. Many keep their conditions hidden and they feel the same shame. They know they are all suffering from similar conditions. Maybe it isn’t physical but perhaps worse - domestic violence, alcoholism, spirit worship and more. The things that the Bible refers to as sin. Sin is like an ugly ulcer which mars and disfigures, damages and destroys lives. Sin brings shame. Sin makes us hide.
Ruth received help when she came to the doctors, acknowledging her need and was willing to ask for help. Many people in her village received physical healing those days at the clinic. Some even asked for deeper healing. They received prayer and counselling as they brought their wounded and sinful hearts before the Lord Jesus Christ to ask for His help and forgiveness.
We are grateful to God for the opportunity to bring health care to this village. We are even more grateful for the opportunity to invite its people to receive the gift of God in Christ Jesus-eternal life, forgiveness, salvation and a place in heaven.