Mercy Ships’ vision statement is that it “follows the 2000-year-old model of Jesus, bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.” So that we never forget it, the vision statement is written in stone above reception as the first thing you see when you board the ship.
One of the ways that Mercy ships is following Jesus’ model is by helping the lame to walk. In addition to providing surgeries for severe leg deformities, Mercy Ships also treats and trains local doctors to treat clubfoot. Clubfoot is a deformity that causes either or both feet to twist inward, downward or upward, causing the child to walk on his/her ankles. If left untreated (which it usually is here), it will result in lifelong disability. Every year, about 160,000 babies are born with clubfoot. Although most are born in the developing world, in 1979, I was one of those babies.
I was fortunate to be born in the developed world to parents willing and able to pay for the expensive treatment. (Thanks Mom and Dad!!) Here in Benin, the vast majority can’t afford the treatment. Even if they could afford it, it is unlikely that they could find a doctor trained to treat it.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of visiting Mercy Ships’ clinic where they treat clubfoot with the Ponseti method. The Ponseti method is similar to the treatment I received as a baby and involves a small surgical procedure, a couple sets of casts and foot braces. In addition to providing treatment to fill immediate needs, Mercy Ships staff are working to train up a whole team capable of treating and providing therapy for kids with club feet. This capacity building program extends our impact way past the ten months we’re staying in Benin.
Having your foot treated can be very scary for a toddler. So, while Mercy Ships’ staff members and the Benin trainees assessed deformities, put on and removed casts, and fit kids with foot braces, I had a very important job–blowing bubbles!! The kids laughed and poked at the bubbles, forgetting that a cast was being cut from their leg.
I also enjoyed being a “foot model.” Doctors Nick and Marina were quick to point out my feet to the parents of the children being treated. Since the treatment and therapy take a long time, this was a great source of hope for parents that their children will be able to walk normally one day.
Please pray for the work of Nick, Marina, and the rest of the Ponseti clinic crew.