Reflections from Dakar: I Will Not Believe
A highlight in Dakar was going to church with our patients, either in the hospital on Deck 3 or at the Hope Center. On this morning, we piled into the Mercy Ships vehicles and started the bumpy 15 minute drive to the Hope Center. Sunday must be goat washing day as we saw many people giving their goats a good bath as we drove through the streets! When we pulled into the compound where our patients stayed while waiting for surgery, or came to stay post-op for rehab, children started running to the cars. Any fears or insecurities I had about not speaking their language or truly not knowing what was and was not appropriate, quickly melted away at the sound of children shouting with smiles bigger than a full moon.
This particular morning, the patients and their care givers had the opportunity to share testimony of what God had done for them. One woman’s testimony really hit me.
This beautiful African woman stood up and slowly walked to the front of the room. Three African men stood beside her to translate her words into 2 other languages. She spoke Wolof. One man translated into Pular and the other man translated into English. She began by telling about her daughter who was born with some deformities. Everything seemed ok until she began to walk and her legs went in two different directions. She tried to take her daughter to the local hospital, but no one could help. Her doctor told her of a ship that was coming to Dakar where patients would receive free surgery and they could help her daughter! This woman went home and told her husband, but he said, “No, I don’t believe these people.” He could not imagine anyone would be able to help his daughter, let alone do it for free. As time passed, the little girl’s legs got worse.
One day, the doctor called to tell the mother that the ship was almost here! She told her husband and again he replied, “No, I don’t believe these people.” But the mother was desperate for her daughter to get help because now the little girl couldn’t go to school as other children mocked her relentlessly. This mother went to seek an appointment to go to the ship and when she got an appointment, her husband said, “No, I do not believe these people.” The mother continued to persist even though her husband was against it.
The day came for the mother and daughter to go to the ship for surgery and they were so excited. Shortly after they got on the ship, the girl received surgery to straighten her legs. The mother stayed with her daughter in the hospital on the ship and she took pictures with her phone and sent them to her husband, proving that her daughter received free surgery. But still he said, “No, I do not believe these people. I will not believe until the casts are taken off her legs.”
Weeks passed and the casts did come off the little girl’s legs. Her mother took photos and sent them to her husband, proof that his daughter’s legs were now straight but his disbelief was so great, he still said, “No, I do not believe these people. I will not believe until I see her walk.” As the girl began rehab to learn to walk on her new legs, the mother asked the physical therapist if she could take a video of her daughter walking to send her husband? He agreed and the mother pulled out her phone and videoed her daughter walking on straight legs. She sent the video to her husband. When he watched the video, tears ran down his face. He was so filled with joy. He now believed!
Sometimes it’s really hard to believe something that we cannot see or even imagine. We won’t believe until we have proof, but sometimes even the proof is hard to believe. Our doubts and fears can be great, sometimes greater than the reality of what is true.
This reminds me of the story of Thomas found in John 20:24-29. Jesus was crucified and buried, but on the third day he rose again, just as he promised. He had appeared to the other disciples, but Thomas was not with them when this happened.
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” Wow! Sounds a lot like the little girl’s dad!
Later on, Jesus came into the house and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Jesus takes our doubts head on. “Come to me,” he says. “Deal with me! Tell me your doubts.”
I love that our God is not shaken by our doubts. He is not empowered or belittled by our faith or doubts. He IS God, no matter what! Whether I believe Him or doubt Him has no bearing on His being. It only has bearing on me and if I live a life empowered or belittled.