In the Face of A stranger

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By Maddie Godfredsen

I spent this summer on an SOS in Kasei, Ghana. Every morning, before the clinic day started, devotions were held for patients and staff. For the first couple of weeks, the same woman and her baby attended. I never knew her name, but her faith in God and the way she worshipped him through singing and dancing was something special. 

On the Friday of our second week working the clinic, I went to the pediatric unit to meet the nurses. Unsurprisingly, the woman and her baby were still there. On that sacred day, I learned this woman’s story is filled with hope and spontaneous acts of grace. 

The woman was working as a trader at the market one day when a young teenager approached her with a newborn baby in hand. The young girl asked the woman to watch her newborn son while she got what she needed from the market. The woman gladly agreed to help out. What she didn’t expect, though, was how her life would change that day. 

The young girl never came back. Rather than contacting social services (the laws on adoption and guardianship are much different there), the trader took this baby home to her husband and two children. She put aside her personal need and interest and decided to care for the baby as her own. She did everything she could to give him what he needed, but it just wasn’t enough. Formula is a luxury in Ghana and money isn’t something this woman had in excess. She began to ration the baby boy’s formula, which led to severe malnutrition by the time he was eight months old. He was hospitalized for two weeks before being discharged back into this woman’s home. A couple weeks after discharge, she returned with him for a follow-up appointment and he was thriving. I saw the most raw, genuine joy in this sweet woman’s eyes. Even in the hardest moments, when she could have given this baby up to make life easier, I witnessed her worship the only God she knew and give this perfect child of God hope. How amazing is that? Had she not made the sacrifice or shown the young girl grace, this little boy would never have survived. 

Heading into my SOS, I was so ready to be the hands and feet of Jesus through nursing. I expected the need for healthcare to be great and my presence to be beneficial. I had a plan. However, God showed me that none of it was up to me and that was okay because he was working anyway. God opened my eyes to see the lives of those living in the village. God opened my heart to love a little more like he loves. God opened my hands to receive more of his gentle and incredible grace in the midst of one of the most amazing experiences of my life. 

God spoke to me so clearly through the woman and her life of sacrifice. He showed me what it means to sacrifice nearly everything for those we don’t even know. He showed me what unconditional, never-ending grace is through a woman I never even got to know beyond a smile, a story, and wave. On this trip, where I had expectations of what I would experience, God showed up; I saw God in the face of a stranger. 

 

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