Woodson’s first steps

Denis James and Francois Guerson make adjustments to a prosthetic leg that will enable a man from Montrouis, Haiti to take the first steps he has ever taken.

As they are for any child learning to walk, Woodson’s first steps were tentative and shaky. Without something to hold onto, he would surely have fallen into a heap on the tile floor. And even with something to help his balance, it was clear that it would take him some time to work out all the mechanics of this new way of getting around. Of course, toddlers have been learning to do this since Adam and Eve had their first children.

But Woodson is no child. He’s a young man, probably in his early 20s, and on Wednesday, I watched him take his very first steps, thanks to a last-minute donation of $25 from one of my wife’s co-workers the day before she came to visit me in Haiti last month.

Woodson takes his first steps on his new leg.

The gentleman had told Annette that I should use the money however I saw fit, and she told me that he wished he could have done more, but $25 is what he and his wife could afford to give at the time, and they felt led to do something.

And now I sit here in front of my computer, marveling at how God blesses faithful obedience. Because of this man’s obedient gift — because of his expectation that God would use it somehow to His glory — Woodson took the first steps of his life today.

Woodson was born with clubfoot, a condition for which he was never treated. He first came to the attention of Supply and Multiply when he was brought to a medical clinic we held in the community near our first Matthew 25 House in 2015.

Our missionary in Haiti at the time described that first encounter as shocking and humbling. Most of the patients we see at such clinics are dealing with problems from high blood pressure, parasitic infestations, fungal infections, scabies, malnutrition and the like. We give some antibiotics, ibuprofen and antifungal creams, hand them a bag of water and pray for them. Occasionally we will see someone who needs to go to the hospital, and we generally follow up a day or two later to arrange to take them there.

Woodson showed up at that first clinic with a gaping wound on his leg, the result of dragging it along as he pulled himself across the ground with his hands. That’s what ambulation had always been like for him, and that’s what it’s like for most children who grow up here with this problem. There are few children born this way in Haiti who get the medical care they need to correct the problem.

Open sores are a dangerous thing in Haiti, where the floor of the average home is dirt and where dirt is almost always contaminated with lots of things you’d never want to have access to your bloodstream. Open sores in Haiti can be quite literally life-threatening. Woodson’s case had not progressed to that point, but the maggots our missionary found in his wound were evidence that things were terribly bad.

After cleaning the wound and removing the maggots, our missionary did the only other thing she could do: She prayed for him.

Woodson gets help fitting his new prosthetic leg at Hôpital L’Eglise de Dieu Reformee in Saintard, Haiti, while his cousin watches.

Since then, she and other Supply and Multiply representatives who have visited the community have seen Woodson a couple of times a year. On each visit, we noted that his leg was in worse shape than the time before. And on each visit, we prayed with him. Finally, Woodson had to be taken to a hospital in the fall of 2017. There, doctors were forced to amputate his leg. The truth is that some of us considered the amputation to have been an act of mercy, an answer to prayers. But still we prayed for him — we prayed that God would alleviate his suffering, that He would help Woodson know he is loved and that God would somehow demonstrate His mercy and goodness in the life of this young man who has known so little of such things in his short, hard life.

Last week, we saw a message in a Facebook group for missionaries serving in Haiti: A team of prostheticists at a hospital mission in nearby Saintard — Hôpital L’Eglise de Dieu Reformee — had rare openings in its schedule and was offering to see potential patients on a first-come, first-served basis.

Many prosthetic feet and one prosthetic leg await potential new patients in the prosthetics lab at
the Hôpital L’Eglise de Dieu Reformee in Saintard.

Gary, who is the Haitian director of Supply and Multiply, got in touch with Woodson, and we all made the drive to Saintard on Monday. I watched as the two prosthetic technicians, Denis and Francois, checked him out, warily looking at the thin, atrophied “good” leg that had never been exercised, and I wondered whether they’d be able to help. But by the end of the visit, they had taken a mold of Woodson’s stump and told us to return on Wednesday.

Later that evening, we exchanged messages with Mark Fulton, the director of the hospital and a missionary in Haiti for the last 25 years. We needed to know how much the prosthetic leg would cost. The answer was almost too hard to believe: $25. About the same as a quarter of a tank of gas. Haiti’s crazy that way. Soon, I remembered the $25 that I’d had in my wallet, waiting for the right thing to come along, ever since my wife delivered that co-worker’s gift late last month.

I’m sure my wife’s friend never could have imagined that his $25 would literally change a young man’s life. I doubt it ever crossed his mind that it would provide us such a wide opening to tell someone about the love of a Savior who still makes the lame walk. But as I chatted with Dr. Fulton while we all waited for the prosthetic technicians to make adjustments to Woodson’s new leg, he stopped me, momentarily turning our attention to Gary, speaking in Creole to Woodson, who had just thanked us all for what “we” had done. I recognized a small part of Gary’s reply — “No, thank Jesus” — and then Dr. Fulton confirmed for me that Gary was taking advantage of this great opportunity to tell this young man about something he needs far more than he needed a new leg.

Some days in Haiti are terrible, and some days are beautiful. Wednesday was one of the best. And it all came down to a lot of prayer and the obedient sacrifice of a man I have never met.

God bless.

— Res Spears

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