Josephat’s small fingers trembled as he slowly removed the plastic bags tied about his waist; a putrid smell, ever present, intensified as each nauseating layer fell away. His mother often found herself wishing her son were like all the other boys. If only he were normal, she lamented.
But her son didn’t understand what normal even meant. Just 2 years of age, Josephat only knew that he was different from the other children—neighborhood children that used the outdoor latrine when their bodies told them they had business to take care of. Instead, stench was his constant companion, and waste came with no warning. The label “outcast” became the young boy’s identity from the start.
Josephat was born with a rare congenital defect known as either anorectal malformation or imperforate anus. This essentially means he was born without an anal opening and therefore could not defecate. To save his life, a doctor in poor, rural Uganda, where Josephat lives, created a hole in his abdomen soon after he was born.
From that day forward, Josephat was condemned to excrete solid waste through this gaping hole.
He didn’t suffer alone. In his tiny, rural village near the town of Lira, Uganda, more than 40 others have been born with this defect. That is a huge percentage of the population, considering anal malformation affects just one in 5,000 babies worldwide. Inbreeding is the suspected cause for the high incidence rates in Josephat’s village.
Impoverished sufferers like Josephat must keep their abdomens wrapped in rags or plastic bags to block the random, uncontrolled excretion of feces—and keeping such exposed areas clean in rural Africa is virtually impossible. Infection and sepsis are constant threats that shorten the life expectancy of those affected. Sanitary colostomy bags, which would greatly improve hygiene, are a luxury few can afford—certainly not Josephat’s family.
Like the others in his village with the condition, Josephat was condemned to be a social outcast into his old age—if he lived that long.
What little Josephat didn’t know was that the abnormality could be corrected with routine surgery that would enable him to use the toilet just like any other boy. Nor did his mother ever dare hope for such a blessing, as the cost of paying for such a procedure would require several years’ wages.
But God provided a way. Through Victoria Namusisi, a trusted Heaven’s Family partner in Uganda, the Critical Medical Needs Ministry learned about Josephat’s disability. As Jesus’ hands and feet, we knew there would be many members of our spiritual family around the world who would happily give to help fix Josephat’s broken body. We also desired to give something even greater to Josephat and his mother than mere corrective surgery—we wanted to show them, and their village, how much Jesus loves them. If we can draw others into relationship with Christ by helping to heal their physical bodies, we feel our God-given purpose has been met.
So we communicated Josephat’s need, many responded generously, and we were able to offer the medical procedure that has changed this little boy’s life! In April of this year, Josephat underwent his first surgery to create an anal opening. And now, as you read this, Josephat is recovering from his second surgery, which took place just a few weeks ago in August, to close up the abdominal opening and make sure the colon is in correct alignment.
Josephat’s stitches in his side are a reminder of the pain and discomfort he has endured as a result of his surgery to close up the hole he’s never known life without. But soon he’ll forget that pain as he learns to use the latrine, just like the other boys. And as he grows, he’ll have a story to tell about the scar in his side—the story of a loving God who chose an impoverished little Ugandan boy to receive the gift of wholeness in his body. He’ll also grow up hearing the words of eternal life under the influence of our partner, and that’s the greatest gift of all.