By Ilona Palomba, MedSend
As a two-year-old, Sambo had an abscessed tooth. Because he lives in West Africa and his parents were too poor to get good medical care, the infection spread. It fused his jaw joint, which meant that he could not open his mouth.
When MedSend physician Suja B.*, MD, and her husband, Tom, met Sambo in 2013, he was a timid 25-year-old. He didn’t talk much because his speech was hard to understand. At 5’8” and 97 pounds, he was always hungry. He survived by forcing food through a two-millimeter gap in his front teeth. Ridiculed because he couldn’t chew his food, he ate alone.
Sambo was also very poor. He earned less than $1.00 per day cutting sticks in the bush. On top of all this, he did not know Jesus. “As we looked at Sambo’s medical, economic, and spiritual needs, we asked ourselves, ‘What can we possibly do?’” Dr. B. recalls.
Tom and Dr. B. decided to teach Sambo and his friends how to make and sell kettle popcorn. Today, Sambo averages about $60.00 per month selling kettle corn – more than double his earlier income. With Tom’s guidance, he also learned how to make and sell soap, and he helps Tom teach subsistence farmers in his community how to improve their farming techniques.
Sambo had another need – the need for a Savior. He met with Dr. B. regularly to learn about how to have a right relationship with God. He started attending a local church, asking questions, reading the Bible and developing relationships with other believers. In February 2014, Sambo made Jesus his Lord and was baptized.
But what about Sambo’s jaw? Could anything be done to help him? After doing research and talking to colleagues, Dr. B. discovered that from time to time, an oral surgeon would visit a mission hospital about four hours away. It was a long shot, but Dr. B., Tom, Sambo and others began to pray for God “to remove the mountains” so Sambo could get the surgery he needed.
To their great joy, God did just that! In May 2015, Dr. B. and Tom traveled with Sambo to a neighboring country. Dr. Tim Bartholomew – a MedSend grant recipient whose educational loans were paid off in 2015 – removed Sambo’s fused jaw and replaced it with a titanium joint.
The surgery transformed Sambo’s life. He can now open and close his mouth, eat meals with others, and speak more clearly. But Sambo’s story does not end with him. The testimony of Christ’s love shown to him has opened a door into the lives of others in his community.
Dr. B. started sharing Bible stories with the women in Sambo’s courtyard. Now Sambo’s mother and his neighbor’s wife want to become followers of Jesus. Some of Sambo’s friends have become believers, and his uncle has also heard the Good News of Jesus’ love.
“Our friend Sambo is just one man living in West Africa, but his story is a testimony of God’s goodness,” Dr. B. says. “It is because of the ‘Sambos’ in our world that we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. We wouldn’t want to miss out on what God is continuing to do in West Africa.”
Since 1992, MedSend has been making it possible for Christian healthcare professionals to serve spiritually and physically needy people around the world. We do this by making their monthly educational loan payments while they serve.
MedSend, a Mission Nexus member, provided this article. Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.