Story of Zakael

Freed from a burden

Zakael before and after the surgery.
Dr. Gary Parker, volunteer surgeon on board for 28 years, is providing a life-changing surgery to Zakael.
Zakael and his father.

Zakael grins from ear to ear. On a very hot summer day in Madagascar, the seven-year-old wears his shirt open, revealing a small surgical scar just above his left collarbone. He wears the scar proudly... a symbol of where he has been and where he is going.

A week earlier, Zakael’s shirt was buttoned to the top in an attempt to hide a tennis ball-sized cyst that had been slowly growing since birth. A week earlier, Zakael wasn’t smiling. In fact, his gaze was sullen and withdrawn. A week earlier, he wasn’t sure anyone could remove the cyst that stood in the way of his dreams.
Soon after Zakael’s birth, his father noticed a bump at the base of his son’s neck. Zakael’s father was desperate to have the bump removed, but he could not afford the costly surgery his son needed. With each passing year, the cyst grew, and hope faded a little more.

Then he heard that Mercy Ships was sending ahospital ship to Madagascar! Armed with state-of-the-art medical equipment and healthcare professionals, including specialized surgeons, from around the world - the Africa Mercy offered Zakael his last hope for healing.

But a couple of challenges still had to be confronted. The trip from their village in Mampikony to the ship was a two-day journey by vehicle, and it would cost more money than the family of Zakael had. At the same time, people in their community tried to frighten them by telling them that the „foreigners would harm Zakael“ and that „they would never be seen or heard from again.“However, the father ignored them and set his sights on the hospital ship and the only hope for healing for his son.

„I don’t trust anything else apart from God,“ he shared confidently. Holding onto that trust, Zakael’s father sold the family’s last remaining treasures - a goose and a chicken. It was just enough to cover the cost of transportation to the ship. But it was a wonderful investment . . . it purchased a new life for Zakael.

After the successful surgery, they prepared to depart the ship. Zakael’s father watched his son - grinning, no longer ashamed, ready to step into his new life - and he knew that the last week had made all the difference in his son’s future.


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