It was yet another morning of screening patients when the doctor walked in and asked, “Did you hear that we have an emergency case coming? They said it has taken four men to carry him so we’ll be needing that bed.” Upon realizing that the group was already at the door, I excused the patient I was screening back to the waiting room and went to see if they needed help. Four men carried in a narrow, make-shift stretcher bearing a young man laying hidden in the midst of it with his head turned to the right. Placing him up on the bed, stretcher and all, one man explained that the young man could not turn his head. At first glance, we could already see the changes brought on by left-sided paralysis. The blood pressure cuff consistently read an elevated pressure of 140-150s/90-100s and an accelerated heart rate in the 120s.
As the doctor began to collect the story, the diagnosis became clear and the outcome not so good. Two months ago, the young man had suddenly been struck with one-sided paralysis on his left side and how had weakness on his right side, having moved very little since that day. He’d lost weight and was not eating much. He’d suffered a brain bleed of some sort—most likely a stroke or an aneurysm. His father had brought him to a pastor friend of ours who had then brought him directly to us. This was not a sickness we can fix. Even with the best hospitals and surgeons the world can provide, this is not a sickness we can fix. One more ruptured aneurysm or one more stroke, an infection…any of these things and more and he would die.
The pastor confided that the young man, his father and his family were not Christians but that the families surrounding them were. You see, in any culture it is natural for the parents and families to want to blame someone, to be able to direct their anger at the injustice of a life altered at so young an age at someone else. But in this culture it can mean a witch hunt to find and kill the person who [allegedly] placed a curse on him. Or to take out their anger against those they believed were able to help but didn’t. Or to accuse those who were nearby when things happened of foul play. These are all risks with the news we had to give. The doctor and the pastor worked carefully to stress the fact that this “old person’s sickness” was not a curse, just something that happens to people of all ages naturally. That there is nothing to fix it with, no medicine to give, and that time is limited. The news was heard and understood but perhaps not entirely accepted. But who can accept the news that their life is almost over? That the life of their child is almost over?
Upon leaving, the family decided that they were no longer able to provide the constant care that this young man needed so the pastor and his wife took him into their home. The pastor said that he spent most days talking to this young man about the gospel and what Jesus had done for him. Because he knew he didn’t have much time, he said, “I cut straight to the head of story.” He shared how we are sinners not deserving anything but hell, how God in His great love sent His own Son to pay sin’s death penalty so that we can be set free from sin, loved, accepted and forgiven by God for all of eternity. After about a week of this talk, the young man came to believe and made a clear statement of what he believed—that Jesus had saved him!
At one point, the young man’s father sent a witch doctor to chant over his son to release him from the evil spirit that held him in this sickness but the pastor firmly sent the man away. “We have God and what you do is not the truth. We have God. We do not need you.”
The young man was quickly weakening and soon after his statement of belief, he became so still they were convinced he had died. But after an hour or so he roused again, woke up a final time and with great clarity said, “I am so happy! Jesus has saved me! I see a bright light but I am so happy! I am going to see His face!” Then, looking over at the pastor’s grown children gathered around, he said, “You must listen to your father. This man speaks truth. He knows what he is talking about. You must listen to him and believe in God.” And then he died.
Such faith! Such beautiful redemption! How sweet to know we have a Savior who can do all—has done all—for us! How precious to hear of the young man’s response to the truth before he died! What a testimony to give at such a time!
I sat down and prayed as the doctor and pastor were giving the family the news. I prayed all that week, knowing that so much strife could be stirred up by this. I prayed for the family—that they would hear and understand and believe the gospel. For the pastor—that he would have the wisdom to know how to respond to this young man and his family and all that would arise with it. One week after seeing him in the clinic, someone saw a truck go by with a coffin in it and I was given the tentative news of a death, that it might be this young man, and the implications that would bring with it. And I cried and continued to pray. That evening, I got to hear the whole of his testimony and found myself so relieved and praising God for His salvation while still mourning the young life ended and the pain of his family. The next day, his death was confirmed to me but his testimony shared again! Yes, we lost a patient but we gained a brother!
God’s peace has continued to rule in the situation and the family’s anger has gone nowhere but into understandable grief. Pray for the comfort of this young man’s family, for provision as they must provide a sari mumu (funeral dinner) for all of the mourners who have come, and for salvation—that the light of their son’s testimony will open their hearts to hearing and accepting the Gospel. Pray also for the salvation of the pastor’s children who heard his testimony. Several of them might be Christians, one or two are, and two who were absent at the time are probably not but will have heard of the young man’s amazing story. Praise the Lord for the faithfulness and lovingkindness of this pastor and his wife and how He’s working through them! Praise the Lord for His salvation! And praise Him for the peace!
Yes, we lost a patient but we gained a brother! Praise the Lord for that!