As the ladies arrived back home from our lumu outing, Wade was ready to head over to the hospital. He, Lalas and Eric had been working construction under the brutal sun all morning, and after a drink of water they piled in the truck along with Tonya and me. It was so hot I wondered what manner of grace enabled the two white men to labor so hard without being overcome by the sun. At noon the thermometer was already close to 120 degrees, and after lunch and a short rest they would be back at it with their shovels and wheelbarrows.
Entering Mansoa on lumu day was more chaotic and congested than even the usual bedlam in the streets of the busy town. People everywhere with something to sell or looking for something to buy seemed almost oblivious to the motor vehicle pushing through the throng. A man covered in sweat on top of a toka-toka was securing a squealing pig struggling to escape from the ropes, while her piglets were tied, each by a rear leg, to a tree in the shade below. Vendors' displays had migrated so far into the road on each side that they had to be pulled back in order for the truck to have room to pass. And somewhere beyond this cauldron of humanity was a hospital where the sick hoped to find healing after the ministrations of the local witchdoctor or their pleas to Allah had left them worse off than before.
Every image I ever had of a hospital vanished from my mind the moment we pulled in and parked the truck in a patch of dirt outside a low sprawling complex of buildings that looked more like an ancient military barracks than a place where medical care might be dispensed to the sick and dying. Chickens, pigs and goats wandered freely between the buildings, while women and children with baskets of food sat on the edges of the concrete walkways in front of open doors into small, dark rooms. A woman with a huge plastic tub on the ground beside her threw a dozen identical large, dark green cloths over a clothesline, and a queue of people stood waiting to enter a room at one end of the first building. It was so hot I was anxious to get out of the sun, and it occurred to me that the sick people in these buildings must be stifling in the heat of their tiny rooms without so much as an electric fan to cool them.
After Wade got clearance from someone in authority to visit patients, he sent Lalas & Tonya in one direction, Paulu & Eric in another direction, and took me with him. He explained that it wouldn't be a good idea to have such a big group of white visitors descending on people, and by breaking up we could cover more ground and pray for more patients.
Wade and I walked past a lot of curious eyes on our way around to another barracks-style building, across the dirt yard and over to a particular destination he had in mind. Passing by a series of closed doors, we came to an open door on an inside hallway where three concerned women sat on the edge of a bed with bundles of food, while an older woman sat on another bed next to a beautiful young woman who was obviously the patient. My first thought upon seeing this lovely woman lying on the bed with her eyes closed was that she was waiting for her facial at our salon. In the previous three days I had seen nearly twenty dark-skinned women lying just like this on a small bed with their eyes closed, enjoying the pampering we were lavishing on them. But this was not the Jesus Spa, and this young lady was not waiting for a facial. Her family members told Wade that she had been like this for two days, and they couldn't get her to wake up or eat or talk. It was apparent from their explanation of her condition that they didn't understand that she was in a coma. Wade asked their permission for us to pray for her, and we kneeled on the concrete beside her bed and laid our hands on her and prayed. After a few minutes Wade spoke with the mother again, and then we prayed some more. After repeating this a third time without seeing any change, Wade told the family he would come back and check on her later and pray for her again.
Then we made our way around to a different building looking for another open door with a patient who would welcome prayers for healing. In spite of the conflict of religions, those who are sick with little hope of recovery generally welcome any compassionate offer to help them find relief. Through this ministry Wade has had the opportunity to lead several Islamic or animist people to faith in Jesus Christ after they or a family member or friend had been instantly healed. And for those who have been healed but didn't choose to put their trust in Christ at that time, they have the physical testimony in their bodies that will forever remind them of where their restored health came from, and perhaps they will eventually respond to the wooing of the Holy Spirit to draw them in. Deafness being replaced by hearing, large tumors disappearing within minutes, pain leaving a body as prayers are going up to heaven, muscles and bones mending and being useful again - these are undeniable manifestations of a loving Father's compassion for the suffering, and it gets the attention of many who might otherwise have no interest in hearing the Gospel message.
The next room we entered, just like the first, was about twelve feet square with five beds lined up around the walls. The only other furnishings in the room were two small tables. Each metal bed with thin mattress had long sticks wrapped around the four corner posts, which I eventually figured out must have been to hold up mosquito nets during the rainy season. On one of these beds sat an older woman holding her left hand in her right hand, looking worried. Wade had a conversation with her in Creole and learned that her left hand was swollen and nearly useless, while her right shoulder and upper chest were in so much pain so that she couldn't move her right shoulder or arm. She gave us permission to pray for her in the name of Jesus, so Wade placed his hand on her swollen left hand while I placed my hand on her right shoulder as we kneeled on the concrete and prayed. When Wade asked her to try moving the fingers on her bad hand, there was an obvious increase in movement from before the prayer. When he told her to try moving her right shoulder and arm she actually stretched her right arm clear behind her back, stretching and bending over and over, demonstrating that she had full range of movement in that shoulder with no pain! He prayed for her hand again, and again she demonstrated an increase in strength and movement in that hand. After the third time she was able to gently grip Wade's hand, whereas she had had no grip at all when we first met her less than ten minutes before. Wade then shared the message of Jesus with this animist lady and invited her to put her trust in Him. She didn't do that at the time, but seeds were planted as her body received a touch of healing and her heart heard a message of love and hope.
Later in the day Wade made a trip back to the hospital to check on the young woman in the coma. He found her sitting up in her bed eating dinner! Glory to God!
Since Wade and his companions began their weekly hospital visits a couple years ago, the Mansoa hospital has risen in national ratings to the position of #1 in the country for patients experiencing healing of their illnesses, and for having the least number of infections develop while in the hospital. Needless to say, the staff are always happy to see them come. Jesus is making a name for Himself in this place.
Once again, through my hospital visit this time, I was confronted with some harsh realities that provided perspective to my ingrained sense of entitlement toward expected availability of goods and services in my own country. At least in U.S. hospitals I can expect there will be linens on the bed, air conditioning in the summer, a high level of sanitation, meals delivered three times a day, and actual American Board Certified medical doctors running tests, making diagnoses, and prescribing appropriate treatment. The hospital in Mansoa was more like a warehouse for the sick, making do the best they could with crude conditions and one doctor for every 20,000 residents. God help these poor people.