“Can you remember what it was like to be a kid between Thanksgiving and Christmas? For most of us, the anticipation of Christmas coming was all we could talk about. Some things are like that—they’re so good we can’t get them off our minds. That’s definitely the case with the story of a Sudanese orphan named Achu.
Even though the New Republic of Sudan seceded fromSudanin 2011, after five decades of Islamic invasion, slavery, and genocide, there is still no infrastructure within the fledgling country. In fact, much of it is still under attack and bombed on a daily basis.
Since there is no other medical care available, thousands of people walk for hours, and even days, in the unbearable heat to visit the small Make Way Partners open-air clinic. With our extremely limited staff and resources, each sunrise delivers two to three times more patients piled and waiting around our door than those we can actually treat in one day.
So, each morning the clinic staff passes out vouchers—first come, first serve—to the waiting number of patients which the medical team deems they can treat that day. As hard as it is to do, all others are mercifully sent away so that they do not wait all day—in vain—under the unforgiving sun.
Dr. Matt Mooreland, MWP mission-team member, was finishing his second day of serving in 130 degree heat on the border of Darfur, Sudan when his eyes fell upon a frail child sitting in the door way. She had no life-saving voucher to wave before Dr. Matt. Early in the morning Achu had been told that she could not be seen that day…no room in the inn…she was sent away.
Persistent as the woman in Mark 7, who begged Jesus to treat her like a dog who ate the crumbs falling from his plate, Achu didn’t leave. She curled into a fetal position on the sidelines, where MWP indigenous director Lual Atak found her, and helped her toward the front of the clinic.
The miracle happened. Dr. Matt met Achu.
Bad news accompanied the miracle, however. As Dr. Matt unwound the filthy cloth tied around Achu’s twig-thin leg, he found that three to four inches of Achu’s bone protruded through her skin just below her knee. Pus poured out of the swollen wound, and the foul stench of decaying flesh quickly filled the room, forcing most of the nonmedical staff to leave.
Dr. Matt learned that the injury had occurred a year earlier: “Achu stated that a little over a year ago she was wrestling with a friend by the borehole in her village and her leg got twisted up. Unable to bear weight, she crawled back home and stayed on the ground for almost two months straight. Her mother was dead, her father was a drunk, and the stepmother was refused any money for aid because all Achu’s father would do is drink it away. Because of her leg injury, Achu was not able to work, and her family blamed her for the loss of two otherwise healthy hands… After two months, she forced herself to start walking and moving around, and over time developed a way to function day to day, while completing her chores.”
But the story grew worse. Dr. Matt realized that the infection was so severe, that even with excellent medical care—which was not possible from our scantily-supplied-open-air clinic—Achu would surely lose her leg, if not her life.
In the words of Dr. Matt, “It was my duty to tell her there are no amount of medications to keep a dying piece of bone from eventually infecting her entire frail body. It was a devastating prognosis. Achu, who was without a smile already, dropped her head and stopped making eye contact with anyone. As medical professionals, we are taught to deliver bad news with honest, straight talk followed by a sincere attempt to show sympathy and hope. However, in this case, my response was long on sympathy and very short on hope. The facts are simply that the average citizen in this area of the world has no access to surgical services and no means to travel the hundreds of miles to obtain those services. I had just handed down Achu’s death sentence.”
The entire team remained in constant prayer for Achu. I’ve always been sort of a dragee when it came to social media, but I’d read a convincing article by John Piper a few months earlier about God using 140-character tweets just as powerfully as 30-minute sermons. We just have to work harder on getting them down to size! So I called on thousands of others to join in prayer, and realized John was right—God can indeed move through social media.
Thousand filled (and continue to fill) the no-man’s-land between Heaven and earth with prayer. Then, another miracle: Eternal Perspective Ministries wrote offering to cover Achu’s medical expenses, if Make Way Partners could coordinate it.
I called my friend Dr. Carol Spears at Tenwek Hospital inKenya and asked her if Tenwek would be able to treat Achu. Dr. Carol informed me that not only would they treat her, but also that Dr. Dan Galat, on staff, was a Mayo Clinic-trained orthopedic surgeon.
Miracle number too-many-to-count—a Mayo-trained orthopedic surgeon in the next country over, who was willing to operate on Achu! But we would need the stream of miracles to flow with whitewater power; getting Achu out ofSudanwould be no small task.
In order to justify not giving up any of his booze money, Achu’s father denied Achu needed help. So, even though we offered to cover all expenses from the private charter to get her out of war-tornSudan, to medical expenses inKenya, to food and lodging for her big sister to accompany her along the scary journey, Achu’s father refused. Drunken Sudanese men do not easily or usually change their minds, nor admit they are wrong.
Even if her father agreed to let us take Achu to Tenwek, we still only had a few days to create and file for approval the necessary travel and immigration documents to legally transport her across international borders. Achu is from a land where there are no birth certificates, identification papers, educational records, or immunization vaccines. She had never ridden in a car, much less flown on a plane.
Slowly-by-slowly, as they say inSudan, I kept making plans through Dr. Carol inKenya, and believers fromAlabamatoSwitzerlandandSudantoAustraliakept filling up that no-man’s-land with prayers. The stream of miracles raged on against the gates of evil, and Achu’s father suddenly agreed to let her go even as the local commissioner rushed together all the required travel documents.
This emaciated, abandoned orphan had every reason in the world to not trust anything we said. Yet, she boarded our plane in childlike faith, spreading her lips in a smile that lit all our hearts for the next eight hours of fly-time.
My seat sat backwards, like the old trains used to do, so that I was facing Achu. I studied her face as our World-War-II-era DC3 bounced down the trench-riddled dirt airstrip and rattled into ascension. I expected fear. I saw nothing but the pure unadulterated Hope that the One True Christmas is surely coming.
Achu had told Dr. Matt that a month before coming to the Make Way Partners clinic, she had started going into the local church and praying to God that she could find a way to get her leg fixed. When she and her sister heard about the clinic, they traveled in faith, hoping that someone there could help her. Achu then stated that God had answered her prayer and that now—for the first time—she had hope.
Hebrews chapter 13 comes to me. With passionate exhortation the author exhorts us to stop trying to live the privileged life, and to go outside the camp—where Jesus lived and died, where the action is. I have lived on four different continents and traveled to many others. I know of no other place farther “outside the camp” thanSudan.
Thank you for joining Achu—and many other unadoptable orphans “outside the gate” in prayer, financial support, and sharing her story so that others might join her, too. Miraculous stories of Hope are like experiencing a childlike Christmas all over again; you just can’t stop talking about them and sharing the hope with others!
Love, your sister along the journey,
Kimberly L. Smith”
For the rest of the story, read here: http://www.epm.org/blog/2012/Mar/23/god-who-sees-me-achus-hope