Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Working on a miracle

There’s an 11-year-old boy in Freetown, Sierra Leone, named Musa Kabba who needs our help. I have blogged about him twice before (here and here), and although I have never met him in person, he and his family became very important to me in the fall of 2007 when they opened their hearts and home to my sister, Robyn, who was at the time a college junior living in Freetown for five months. Musa also happens to be the nephew of a friend at my church, Tom.

Musa has a condition called Hirschprung’s Disease. In the United States, a child diagnosed with Hirschprung’s Disease can often be treated with a pull-through procedure, in which a portion of the colon is removed then re-sectioned. Many children with this disease go on to live normal lives, with modified diet and good healthcare.

Sadly, Musa has undergone five painful surgeries in Sierra Leone, a country where the doctor to patient ratio is roughly 1 to 300,000; Sierra Leone simply lacks the medical infrastructure, professionals, and technology needed to treat Musa properly. Musa’s last surgery almost two years ago left him with a colostomy that is unlike anything we see here in the U.S.: a portion of his intestine protrudes from his body into a colostomy bag, into which all his waste is collected also. Obviously this puts him at a terrible risk for infection and greatly affects his quality of life and that of his family. His family has been told there is nothing more that can be done in Sierra Leone. Tom, who has been here in the U.S. for over 10 years, had been sending the family money—until he lost his job and has had a hard enough time just supporting his immediate family here in Delaware.


When I heard Musa’s story and saw a few photos that my sister had taken, I was compelled to try to help. I couldn’t imagine the pain his mother, Ruth, lives through each time she has to clean him and dress his colostomy. Immediately when I presented this to my pastor in December 2007, my church raised funds to send a shipment of colostomy bags to Musa. I then was able to procure an ongoing supply of bags for Musa, thanks to Hollister International, the bag manufacturer. This alone was a huge answer to prayer, and a great relief to Musa, Tom, and the family.

Phase 2 of Project Musa was much bigger and more complex. I and a few friends from my church worked for over a year to find a hospital in the U.S. to treat Musa, ideally a hospital that would donate its services. We looked for grants and sponsorships, and we were able to raise almost $2,000 through individual appeals, which we hoped would be enough to at least pay for transportation to the U.S. I approached six hospitals in a number of regions of the country, and unfortunately, I was told by countless doctors and social workers that the expense and risk involved with bringing Musa here for treatment was far greater than the benefit. Meaning, there’s no guarantee, because we don’t have any kind of written medical records, that Musa actually has Hirschprung’s, and there’s no guarantee that his condition is actually treatable, and there’s no guarantee that bringing him and his mother here for six to eight months would not be more harmful to him and the family than it would be good.

Although this was disappointing, I have continued to pray, in the hopes that the Lord would show a new direction, give us a viable answer. We decided to turn over the funds we had been granted to Tom and the family, for Musa’s continued care.


Tom’s other sister, Bernadine, started researching hospitals in Accra, Ghana, where she is currently living and studying theology. She found a team of doctors at the children’s hospital in Accra who were willing to take a look at Musa. Tom purchased plane tickets and passports, and within a week, Musa and Ruth were delivered to the hospital in Accra. The remaining money paid for tests, and the doctors determined that with two surgeries, Musa’s colon can be resectioned—and there’s a very good chance he will live a normal, healthy life.

Soak that in for a moment, would you? After all this time, this child is two surgeries and about three weeks away living a normal, healthy life!

As is so often the case with very good news, there’s a bad-news side to this tale: The surgeries and post-op care will cost an additional $5,000. Of course Ruth does not have $5,000, and frankly, neither does my church, so Ruth has been able to negotiate them down to $3,500. And because he is from another country and can’t spend months in Ghana, the hospital is willing to move Musa ahead of all the others waiting for surgery—if Ruth can guarantee by the end of this week that she can pay. They would like to do the first surgery this weekend, in fact, then observe him for a week before doing the second. Ruth is not telling them that her funding is coming from an American church.

OK. I know what you’re thinking: This sounds very much like those spam e-mails I receive every week. However, this is real and this is happening very fast—and the life of a little boy depends on us.

I am currently trying to find extra change in the couch cushions of my house and all my friends’ houses—and all the houses of my friends’ friends! Just this morning we have come up with another $2,000 from my church and a few people who have continued to contribute to the fund we set up for Musa. This is huge!

Now what I’m wondering is, if 10 people would donate $10, then pass this message along to 10 other people who might donate $10, how much amazing could we do?

If you can find some spare change in your couch cushions, do you think you could donate $10 to Musa’s health care? If you can’t donate, do you think you can pass this message on to friends and family, perhaps reach out to your own minister to see if this might fall into your church’s call to mission giving?

If you do feel called to donate, I don’t want you to send money to me. Please send checks payable to Trinity Presbyterian Church at 1120 Darley Rd, Wilmington DE 19810. If you have any questions about how this money will be handled, please contact either of my pastors, Brad Martin (bradmartin@trinitypresby.org) or Barbara Price-Martin (barbarapricemartin@trinitypresby.org). We have set up a fund for Musa's medical needs specifically, and every penny will go to him and his family in Sierra Leone.

Or, you can donate through PayPal by clicking the button in the top right-hand corner of this blog. Every penny counts! And I know we are all stretched to capacity, so again, if you don't feel you can give money, that's OK -- pass this on to as many people as you can. Donations of prayers and good wishes count, too.

God speaks to us in many ways. Sometimes His voice is a whisper, others it’s shouting through a megaphone. This past year has been one of those megaphone times for me. When my sister left for Sierra Leone in September 2007, I was terrified. I prayed more earnestly than I have every prayed before. I was scared to have her so far away, and I prayed for her health and safety almost hourly; I prayed for my family’s courage and comfort while she was away from us.

At the same time, there was a family in Sierra Leone praying for their little boy, praying to keep him as healthy as possible, safe from infection, comfortable in his illness. And there was a family here in Delaware praying for the means to help their family so far away. They have been praying for a miracle.

It’s clear the Lord has heard all our prayers, and it’s clear He put Tom and me and Musa and Ruth and Robyn together for a reason. I believe that just the fact that Musa is still alive means the Lord has a great plan for him, too. I believe that Musa and his family have been forever changed already by the love and support they’ve received from people across the world that they will never meet.

If you can’t donate any money now, I completely understand. What I will ask for, though, is your prayers. Pray for Musa’s continued care, pray for his mother who is constantly battling for him. Pray for me and my friends in the church as we continue to scrape this mission together. Pray that your own children remain healthy, and pray that if ever you need support, someone is willing to reach out to you and your family, too. That is my underlying reason for taking this on in the first place: I pray each day that my family remains healthy, and I hope that if there’s ever a time when we need help, someone somewhere reaches out a hand.

And if you’re not into prayer, that’s ok too. I just need you to do whatever it is you can to help this child. We all need to help each other. That’s what being a citizen of this planet is all about, and it’s summed up beautifully in the African philosophy of ubuntu: I am what I am because of who we all are.

Nothing is impossible. Please help in whatever way you can—donate, pray, or simply pass this message on. Whatever you do for Musa is an act of complete love and generosity, and we are grateful. Thank you.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mara, is there a way to use PayPal to expedite the delivery to the church? It sounds like time is of the essence. --Garon

Rose said...

This is an amazingly touching story and I would love to help beyond the small check that I could send.
Is there any way that someone at your church could set up a PayPal fund so that we can rally people across the blogosphere? People find it so much easier to donate by clicking than by writing a check.

TallGirl said...

Thank you for your help! I am looking into setting up a PayPal account through my church, but I'm thinking I might just direct folks to my PayPal, then write a big check to the church when it's done. Checking with the church money people right now...stay tuned!

Keep spreading the word about this mission. I am amazed at how quickly so many people have rallied together. We are very close to our goal! THANK YOU!