Respect brings healing too

Sakoba was a happy and energetic boy but by the age of three, he had developed severely bowed legs. His mother, Kadiatou, struggled to keep up with him due to her own painful hindrance. She also had bowed legs.

One day, a neighbour told Kadiatou that doctors from a big hospital ship were examining children with leg problems the very next day. Hurrying, she arrived just in time : Sakoba was one of the last children among hundreds to be examined. And he got accepted!

One day before surgery day, Kadiatou bundled up her one year-old Ibrahim and accompanied Sakoba to the ship. Her husband Mouctar, who suffered from leprosy, stayed home. He assumed he would not be allowed on board.

Kadiatou basked in the loving environment of the hospital ward. She confided to Marie, a Mercy Ships volunteer, „I am cursed with bad legs, and my husband is cursed with leprosy. Because we are cursed and useless, our children will have lives of suffering too.“ This was not the first time Marie had heard deeply fatalistic beliefs that strangled so many lives.

But Kadiatou’s sadness began to lift during Sakoba’s recovery. She recalls, „For the first time, we were accepted. We did not feel like cripples and outcasts.“ And, as Mouctar’s leprosy was being treated, he could even come to visit his son on board the ship.

Marie greeted him and asked: „What business are you in, Mouctar? Isn’t it wonderful there is now treatment for leprosy? What plans do you have for the family now that Sakoba has straight legs?“

Mouctar gazed intently at Marie. „You speak to me like I am a human being; like I am worth something and can give my family a better future,“ he said. Mouctar took a deep breath: „People tell us that all we are good for is begging and we will never support ourselves. Kadiatou inherited a good piece of land from her mother. People tell us to sell it because beggars will never have use for land. Before we came, I almost believed that. I almost sold the land. But now? You showed us respect. You gave us reason to hope.“ <