Two years ago in 2012, our Teethsavers team in Malawi, led by Fredson Sambani and Laita Kaone, identified and treated a child with heavy calculus build up completely covering the teeth on one side of his mouth. This child's name is Christopher Kaputeni. Trained by Dr. Jack Rudd to document all children treated, the Teethsavers recorded his name, age, problem, school, problem, treatment, and date of treatment. In addition we document any other health issue we see. In this case, Christopher had some lesions on his legs and stomach. This type of calculus exists in only about 1% of all children seen by this team and the cause is unknown. Upon a follow up six months later, it was discovered that this calculus had returned. That is a huge problem and total red flag. Because of this, Teethsavers felt this child had some serious health issues and needed special attention.
A meeting at the Dowa District Health Clinic was arranged and several key people were present to examine young Christopher. I was present along with my wife Beverly, daughter Brenna, and grandson Jacob. Also present were Teethsavers Malawi Board Chair, Dr. Wiston Mukiwa, Teethsavers Malawi Country Director, Fredson Sambani, Malawi Asst. Director of Clinical Services/Dental, Enock Phale, and Dowa District Dental Therapist, Henz Kajadu. We all examined Christopher and spoke with his father about his general health. He told us that Christopher had been sickly all his life and that his brothers and sisters are all healthy. He was very concerned for his son. At Bev's request, we ALL prayed over Christopher in his native language and English. It was a very moving moment as he was scared to have all these people around him. We requested to the government to please run a complete blood chemistry on him to try to see what was going on with his health.
Over the past two years, we assumed this testing had been done, and that we just had not received the results yet.
Last month, August 2014, we were back in Malawi with a group of 14 visitors from the U.S. who had come to accompany and work alongside the Teethsavers team as they taught and treated children at various rural sites. Most of the team had already departed for home, but Fred took the five remaining people (myself, Bev, Mary Zickefoose, Gary Pillars, and Phil Anthony... all from Lubbock, Texas) to the Dowa District Hospital to see the Dental Therapist, Henz Kajadu. As we sat in the parking lot waiting to go in, I shared with them the story of Christopher. We then moved to Henz's office, a one room treatment center with a 1940s dental chair that ceased working long ago. It is permanently in the down position so Henz has to bend over ....far over... every patient. It was about 11:00 AM, and there were about 25 patients sitting outside the room on the sidewalk curb. Henz had two patients already in the room, but had not started treatment on them yet. All the patients are waiting for extractions. That is ALL he does. That is ALL he has time to do... EVERY DAY! Fred wanted the others to meet Henz and see the clinic, since Teethsavers works with him in this area. I thought we would be brief since he was so backed up. He told us that he was about halfway through seeing all his patients. WOW... that is a workload! After he spoke about his work and needs, I asked him if they had ever been able to run any tests on Christopher. He looked at me, and then down at the ground, and said that they had not due to a lack of resources. In fact, he said, "We're poor here." There was a pause. I was disappointed and sad, but then he said the unbelievable! He said " Christopher is here now."
It was true. By DIVINE appointment and through the power of the HOLY SPIRIT, Christopher's dad had hired a bicycle taxi at 7:00 AM that morning and rode three hours to cover the 14 kilometer journey to bring Christopher once again to the clinic. He was in the dermatology department. They went to get him and brought him over with his father. He remembered Fredson, but not Bev or I. He had not changed at all. He is a small boy, who two years ago was 13, but appeared to be 7. Once again his father told us he is 13, but he must be older. He still had sores on his body but in different areas. I asked Henz if there was somewhere that we might take Christopher for private care to run the tests necessary to determine his condition. He said, "Yes, there is Partners in Hope Hospital and ......and...... I didn't hear the rest. "Did you say Partners in Hope?" I asked. When he replied in the affirmative, I almost went to my knees! I looked at Fred and asked him to see if the father and Christopher would consent to come to Lilongwe to the hospital for testing, if we could arrange it. They both agreed. We ask if we could pray over Christopher again, and they said yes. After praying together for him, someone started singing "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know", as we laid hands on him.
Now, I need to interject some history here... Of the 14 people on this mission trip, five of them were members of the accappella singing group, Durant. Their names are Melissa Lancaster, Danielle Sprawling, Julie Tracy, William Gooch, and Dr. Stephanie Harding. They performed at every orphanage and school we treated and were the headliner act in a benefit concert to promote Teethsavers in Malawi. As we were planning the trip, John Danford ( the chaplain at Partners In Hope Hospital) had contacted Fredson about possibility of the singing group coming to the hospital to perform. At the same time, John's wife, Kamille, had connected with Durant on Face Book to request a performance for the HIV patients they treat there. It was a "no brainer," and we went there early one morning and had the pleasure of hearing Durant sing for the patients, and then sing for the staff as well. Following their performance, we all prayed together. It was a powerful experience! Kamille joined our Teethsavers team the next day in the field.
John and Kamille invited us to have dinner at their house the evening before we left to return to the United States. After a wonderful spaghetti dinner, I shared with them about Christopher. John offered to check on whether or not his hospital would be able to run some tests on him. We left for America the next day, and just a day later, I received an email from John stating that Partners in Hope Hospital would treat Christopher at NO CHARGE. PRAISE THE LORD! The next day Fred drove to his village and brought Christopher and his father back to the Teethsaver house to spend the night before his appointment. Christopher's father looked at the new sheets on the bed and asked Fredson if he could have some older bedding, because Christopher might soil the sheets with his sores. Fredson told him that Christopher could sleep on the new ones just like anyone else. The next morning the sheets were soiled, because some of his blisters had broken in the night. This is how Christopher lives every day.
Every test that was performed on Christopher came back negative. The Dr. who saw him is from Great Britain. His name is Dr. H.M. Friend. (What an appropriate name!) He has diagnosed Christopher with an unusual genetic disorder called Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa. There is no treatment for this disorder because it is genetic. This fits with his dental problems, too. Dr. Friend commended Teethsavers for a job well-done on the care his teeth. He said Christopher needs to be supported in this way often. Fred returned them to their village and purchased soap to cleanse Christopher's skin, as well as exercise booklets for his schooling.
Now for those of you who are disappointed at this outcome... please, don't short-change God. Let us praise Him for what He has done in providing this miracle for this young man to even be tested and have a diagnosis! I assure you that this story is not over. The Great Provider is not through here. Please join us in total praise for His "Miracle in Malawi" and prayer for complete and total healing for Christopher, so that He may be glorified.
I am reminded once again of a statement made by Dr. Mukiwa concerning Teethsavers. He said, "The most important thing we do is show the poorest children in the world that someone loves them as much as God does." That is exactly what Teethsavers, John and Kamille Danford, Partners in Hope Hospital, and Dr. H.M. Friend, together as the Body of Christ, have shown Christopher and his father.