In the 1950’s, God called my parents to Africa as missionaries. Dad, a medical doctor, and Mom, a schoolteacher built a small hospital in Ghana and preached the Word to the natives. My twin brother Ken, I, and several other missionary children received our elementary and secondary education from Mom. She also taught us the Fante language. After our graduation, Ken and I returned to our hometown of Cleveland, Ohio where he attended seminary school and I studied nursing. Three years later, I returned to Ghana as a new nurse to work at the hospital with my father.
One hot and sticky afternoon a young native man, named Kofi, arrived with a message from his Chief. In the Fanta language, he told Dad that Chief Kobina wanted a healing man to come to the village. Dad nodded and instructed him to wait outside the hospital for us.
“I have been trying to reach the village of Akolinga with the Gospel for years, Karen. God has opened up an opportunity for us to bring light into their world of darkness. Let’s pray before we go.”
“Father God protect and guide us as we travel, provide medical care, and speak your words of life to these poor lost souls. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
“Amen,” I said.
We gathered a few medical supplies, left the hospital, and followed our guide closely through the overgrown jungle for two miles. Suddenly he stopped, pointed a black finger to a cone-shaped hut with a golden thatched roof, and told us that was where Chief Kobina lived. The village sangoma was the first person we met.
The white-haired, toothless witch doctor squatted beside four small fires in front of the Chief’s hut. He rocked back and forth, chanted, and prayed for his god to keep the evil spirits away. Strange ornaments hung around his neck, waist, and arms; snake skins, a small skull, lion’s claws, and several tiger’s teeth. He stood, waved the lion claws at Dad, and told him to leave.
Unintimidated, Dad maintained eye contact and told him he would not leave until he saw the Chief. A man who emerged from the hut wearing a bushy headdress interrupted their discussion. Chief Kobina snapped at the witch doctor reminding him of his decision to let an outsider treat his son Lumusi. With a wave of his hand, he ordered the sangoma to leave and told us to come with him.
Once inside the hut our eyes quickly adjusted to the dim light. A boy of ten or eleven lay on a rug made of tiger skins. He moaned and pushed away Dad’s hands as he pressed on his stomach.
“It’s his appendix, Karen. I’m afraid it may rupture if surgery isn’t done as soon as possible."
Dad explained to the Chief that his son needed surgery right away or he might die.
At first the Chief told him no. He felt his son Lumusi would die if he left the hut. Dad again told him he would die without the procedure. Chief Kobina reluctantly agreed but warned Dad that if his son died, he would die also. He instructed several of his people to carry Limusi to the hospital. He and his wife accompanied us.
Later that day at the hospital, Dad and I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked the Lord for the successful operation. He had removed the inflamed appendix just in time. Lumusi regained consciousness forty-five minutes later with his parents at his side.
“We give thanks to God for sparing your son’s life. May I tell you about the one true God, Chief Kobina?” Dad asked.
A smile appeared on Chief Kobina’s face as he told Dad he was a great doctor because he had saved his son. He would listen to his words.
“Thank you, Lord.” Dad prayed as he invited the Chief to sit with him at the table in the room.
A week later Lumusi’s people took him home. As we walked to the door to say goodbye, the sangoma stood at the end of the walkway. He chanted and waved the skull on his belt. Chief Kobina strolled up to him, jerked the skull from his hands, and tossed it in the weeds.
He pointed to Dad and the sky as he declared to the witch doctor that from now on he would trust Dad and his God. The speechless sangoma watched his Chief march toward their village before he slowly shuffled after him.
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