The most special moment for me in Ethiopia wasn’t water-related, but may have meaning to those of you who served with me on the Mercy Ship or followed the last two years of patient stories in West Africa. Early one morning last week, I took a walk in the dim morning light just before 6 a.m. and prayed quietly for the day. Moments after I finished, a man strolled out of the bush and joined me on my walk. As I looked into his face, I saw that he had a prominent cleft lip and must have been about 30 years old. I jumped inside, knowing from experience I’d be able to help him, as the nearby Christian hospital in Soddo boasted a world-class surgeon.
We walked for about a kilometer together in the growing dawn, unsuccessfully communicating in language but sharing smiles. He left me finally with a wave, and I took note of where he walked into the bush. Later that afternoon, I tracked him down with a translator and showed him a copy I had of Need Magazine where I’d recently published before and after photos of cleft surgeries done on the Mercy Ship. I learned the man’s name was Sulfiso, and he agreed to accept the surgery I’d arranged for. We discussed transport.
A few hours later, I learned God wasn’t happy with just one patient. Two years of experience. Well, I guess I’d better use it.
A nine-year-old boy, Tariku, turned up where I was staying and showed me his face. He was shy, bearing the stigma I’d so often seen of the common birth defect. Happily, I was able to schedule Tariku for surgery as well.
But two wasn’t enough. On my way back through town a week later, I learned that another three patients had surfaced at the house. Their treatments were arranged as well.
Five lives and faces changed forever by simple 45-minute surgeries that will cost me only about $200 each. It’s incredibly humbling.
– Scott Harrison