Life in Africa, just before we came back to the US for this brief fundraising visit, was pretty busy, as you can imagine. Between locating our new property, making arrangements to be gone for 4 months, and moving all our belongings - all on top of packing and preparing for our return here - kept us quite busy.
The last Sunday before we left Amber & I were finishing up a few packing chores, just before a farewell tea that had been arranged for us. I have a tendency to get into "the zone" when I'm trying to get a project done, and I don't like any distraction. Amber can attest to this (ie: when I dropped an air conditioner on her head because I didn't want to wait for Brian to return to help me). So on this particular afternoon we were frantically moving things into our container in anticipation of our departure 2 days hence.
Lucky is the one smiling in the middle. This was his first week with us at Bible Study.
As I was arranging various unnecessary items "vital" for daily living, I received a phone call from JT. He is one of the boys from our Bible Study in Thabong. In fact, he is probably the leader of that gang, spiritually speaking. One of the boys, Lucky Philip, who had joined us in early August had been ill for the past couple weeks. That day at school JT had this nagging suspicion that Lucky was really sick and maybe had been admitted to the hospital. It was just a thought, as JT doesn't have a phone so had no way of knowing, but he followed through on that feeling and walked the mile or so from school to the hospital to check things out. Sure enough, Lucky had been admitted late the day before for problems with his liver.
JT didn't know the details but the doctors had given a very grim prognosis - as in possibly only a matter of days or weeks. He phoned me immediately and told me. This time, as opposed to the air conditioner incident, I had enough wisdom to drop what I was doing (maybe a bad choice of words) and head out to the hospital. I arrived to see JT waiting there with his Bible, and together we scoured the hospital looking for Lucky.
Lucky is the one on the left - wearing an orange striped shirt.
Eventually we found him in the "B" ward, and although he brightened significantly when he saw us, it was clear he was in some pretty significant pain. After talking to him for a bit we learned the prognosis wasn't as grim as originally communicated. While the doctors were still seriously concerned for him, they didn't actually put any timeframe on things. We could see his stomach, and it was pretty clear there is something wrong with his liver. His stomach is swollen so badly that he almost looks pregnant, and it was streched as tight as a drum. When I inquired as to whether he may indeed be pregnant he vehemently denied it. Joking aside, he put on a strong face but underneath you could tell there was pain, fear, and anxiety. His biggest concern was that this illness struck right as the boys were preparing to take their matric exams - the equivalent of our ACT/SAT. The main hope for an improved life for any of these boys is additional education beyond high school. The only hope for that education is scholarships, which are based on matric results. So the Matric exams are of utmost importance.
Lucky is on the right, again in the orange striped shirt. Like all the boys he likes to eat, so we try to have them over about once or twice per month for church and Sunday lunch.
Lucky had only been with us less than two months. I knew that he had clearly heard the Gospel of salvation from sin and eternal life within that timeframe. However, I'd never had a chance to speak with him on an individual basis before. Standing there beside the hospital bed, with this young man so clearly concerned about his immediate future, there was an undeniable pull from the Holy Spirit to discuss his eternal destiny. I asked him if he had ever dealt with his sins. He knew from Bible study that our sins must be paid for. He said he never had before. After a quick discussion it was clear he understood that Jesus died to pay for our sins, and that he personally needed to make that decision to trust Christ. JT prayed first, then I did, then Lucky prayed silently for a minute or so. When he raised his head he said "No matter what happens, I know from this day forward that my sins are forgiven."
I visited him the next day and when I arrived he was in tears because of the pain. On Tuesday, before we could visit (because of our whole VISA fiasco) he was transferred to Bloemfontein. Bloem is the provincial capital of the Free State, and they have a university hospital there. We have maintained contact with him and he has been seen by several specialists. I spoke with him early this morning and he said the pain is minimal now, and he said the doctors are doing a great job, but it was unclear as to the status of his return to health.
We covet greatly your prayers for healing, not just for Lucky but for the land of South Africa. Physical healing is needed, but greater still is the need for spiritual restoration. Every one of us carries in ourselves the sickness of sin. Without the healing and restoration supplied in Jesus Christ we have no hope. I trust that Lucky is sincere, and we praise God for allowing us the opportunity to know this young man, and for bringing Lucky to faith in His Son. Continue to pray for the children at The Pines, and for the youth with whom God has allowed us to serve.