Saved from a life of rejection

Oscar and his mother Florentine sit together in the Africa Mercy ward before Oscar’s surgery. “I felt a very, very big pain in my heart when people teased him,” she said.
Oscar and his mother Florentine sit together in the Africa Mercy ward before Oscar’s surgery. “I felt a very, very big pain in my heart when people teased him,” she said.
Oscar’s family didn’t have to pay a penny for his operation. And now life is smiling at him!
Oscar’s family didn’t have to pay a penny for his operation. And now life is smiling at him!

Young Oscar was doomed to spend his life as an outcast — until the day his father heard about free operations onboard the Africa Mercy.

„He’s possessed,“ they thought

For the first 10 years of his life, Oscar Madohona lived with an unrepaired cleft lip. Born in West Africa where a cleft abnormality can be a life-threatening condition, Oscar also had to endure constant ridicule and rejection because of village superstition that people with clefts are possessed by evil spirits. To rid themselves of this evil spirit, the villagers had a simple solution - get rid of the problem by discarding or abandoning the child.

Of course, Oscar’s parents did not succumb to village fears. But caring for their cleft-lip child meant facing their own emotional upheavals in the midst of community rejection. And, on a practical level, they were ill-equipped to insure adequate feeding of a baby that could not suck the same as a „normal“ child.

„When Oscar was born, some people thought the child was a bad spirit and said I should abandon him,“ Oscar’s mother, Florentine, told Mercy Ships. „I thought he would die because I could not take care of him. I was scared I would not be able to feed him. But others encouraged me to try, so I gave everything to God. I trusted Him to help me take care of Oscar.“


Florentine succeeded in meeting Oscar’s physical needs, but she could not protect him from emotional pain and rejection.

„The other kids would tease and insult me,“ said Oscar. „When they teased me, I felt very bad.“

Kids teased him to the point where he didn’t want to go to school,“ added Florentine. „For a while, he stopped going. I felt a very, very big pain in my heart when people teased him.“ 

An unbelievable solution

While living in Côte d'Ivoire, Florentine’s husband heard about the Africa Mercy performing free operations in Benin. At first, he couldn’t help but be skeptical. But after further inquires, he learned that the hospital ship indeed offered free surgeries for problems like his son’s, so he sent Florentine and Oscar to meet the ship’s crew in Benin.

Florentine, originally from Benin, also had her suspicions about these so-called free surgeries. But when she and her son arrived at the Africa Mercy, Florentine’s fears evaporated under the honest care and attention of the ship’s staff.

Oscar underwent his free surgery and now boasts a beautiful smile. He no longer worries about the ridicule of his community or the teasing of school-mates.

I am very happy now. I will tell the other kids at school what God has done for me,“ said Oscar.