by Daniel Fountain
When I went to the emergency room of the Vanga Evangelical Hospital in the Congo one morning in 1996, I saw a strange looking man lying on one of the beds. The head nurse told me, “This is Mr. A. He is Egyptian, and he is very sick.”
When I went to the emergency room of the Vanga Evangelical Hospital in the Congo one morning in 1996, I saw a strange looking man lying on one of the beds. The head nurse told me, "This is Mr. A. He is Egyptian, and he is very sick."
Mr. A., a Muslim told me he had fled Egypt 15 years ago for political reasons. He had been in the Congo ever since and was involved in the diamond trade. For the past year he had become increasingly ill, and was sure he had tuberculosis. After examining him, I requested a chest X-ray and blood serology for HIV infection. I asked Mrs. Matala, our hospital pastoral counselor, to visit him. She spent an hour with him in a time of spiritual counseling and he asked her to pray with him.
When I went to the radiology service later to look at Mr. A’s film the technician smiled and said, "Do you know what we call this man? We call him ‘Jesus.’" The staff thought that his ruddy brown complexion, his long, wavy black hair, and his beard resembled their conception of Jesus.
"OK, please show me Jesus’ X-ray film," I said. On examining it, I saw his lungs were clear. "Jesus" has no signs of tuberculosis.
I next went to the laboratory to inquire about his serology. The staff there said, "You mean the serology of the man we call ‘Jesus?’" When I opened the locked cabinet and looked at Mr. A’s blood sample number, the result was marked HIV positive.
I informed Mrs. Matala of Mr. A’s infection. Together we sat by his bedside. Gently, I told him the good news: He did not have tuberculosis. He did have another more serious infection, casued by the AIDS virus. The two of us explained to him the living hope available to all persons, even to those with HIV, the hope of real and eternal life with Jesus. His gratitude was amazing as he thanked us profusely for telling him the truth, and again he asked us to pray with him. He then asked if he could return to Kinshasa to be with his wife and children.
The following day I was to fly into Kinshasa on the Mission Aviation Fellowship plane, and one seat was available, so I invited Mr. A to make the flight with me. When we landed in Kinshasa, Mr. A’s family was there to meet him. After he thanked me again, we said goodbye and he disappeared into the crowd with his family. At that moment a familiar voice spoke quietly in the depths of my spirit. "Your nurses were right in caring for this man, you cared for me. Whenever you do this for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you do it for me!" (Matt. 25:40).
The tears that fell on the tarmac were those of grief mingled with thanksgiving. I hope to see Mr. A again.
Daniel Fountain was medical director of Vanga Baptist Hospital in the former Zaire from 1961 to 1987.
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