Frank* led a team from The Point Church of Charlottesville, Virginia, to Liberia for a short-term missions trip. When Frank noticed a woman collapsed near the medical team during a medical clinic, it was evident to him she needed help.
“I didn’t have a thought in my head about disease [or whether she was contagious], I just saw a woman in need, and I thought she might die right there,” Frank said. Later, he learned that the woman, named Anna, had taken nearly an hour to walk about 150 yards from where she was staying to the clinic. She was bent over, leaning on a staff, and taking small steps to reach the medical team. Her strength gave out. She then crawled on her hands and knees. Finally, she collapsed in the sun. She was in terrible pain and couldn’t walk any further.
Many people who had been lined up in the hot sun waiting to receive free vitamins and aspirin watched her ordeal but refused to leave the line to help her. Frank said, “She was skin and bones. It didn’t look like she had an ounce of liquid in her.”
Another team member said, “She had open wounds and smelled of death. Her leg was bandaged and terribly swollen.” Her needs were clearly beyond the basic medical care the missions team could provide.
Remembering the supplies that ANM had shipped to the local ministry earlier in the year, Frank quickly went to a shed, retrieved a wheelchair, picked Anna up, and put her in the chair. He took her to a room out of the sun and gave her a bottle of water. Frank later learned that rumors circulated that a spell had been cast on Anna, which is why no one would go near her. Even her own family had refused to help her.
Once she recovered her strength, Anna shared that she had not been able to keep food down for a month. Frank asked if she knew Jesus, and she said yes. He realized she had little understanding of Jesus, so he began to tell her about him. Frank said that he could not help her medically, but he could introduce her to the healer. He told her about Jesus being the healer, then prayed with her and led her in prayer. As he talked, great tears began to roll down her face. She was so dehydrated that he wasn’t sure how she could be producing tears. She accepted Jesus and His love for her.
Frank and another team member took Anna to the house where she was staying with an herbalist she had come to for help. The two men wheeled her up to the house, where about 15 people were sitting. When asked if she lived there, someone indicated yes, but no one stood up to help her. They seemed indifferent to her plight. When Frank suggested that she needed to go to a hospital, the response was that the hospital is too expensive. When Frank followed up the next day, he realized that Anna had told her housemates everything he had shared with her about Jesus. The housemates did not accept what Anna said, but it was clear that Anna had heard, received Jesus as her Savior, and shared about Jesus with her Muslim acquaintances.
Tony Weedor, a native Liberian with the local ministry, Petals of Hope, responded to the incident in this way, “An insignificant act on the part of the team opened the door for the gospel into the heart of a Muslim woman and her acquaintances. An American, Christian man lifting a Liberian, Muslim woman, putting her in a wheelchair, and taking her to her residence. ‘Who does that?’ Liberians in the community are asking. ‘A Christ-like man,’ we are answering.”
Two years later, a team from the same church returned to Liberia. Tony Weedor and his wife, Beth, shared that the story of what Frank did is still being told. Because a white man helped Anna, that act removed the curse, the hate, and the community’s fear. Because he helped her, she is now accepted. She is healed and can walk, no longer needing the wheelchair.
We hear the question, “Do short-term mission trips make a difference?” What do you think that lady in Liberia would say?
*Pseudonyms have been used in this story for security reasons.