Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"The Lady from Baga" by Dr. Vince Brawley

Dr. Vince Brawley was our team leader for the recent Togo Medical Mission June 21-30. Find one of the stories from the mission below which serves as an update of an ongoing story. I confess that I was one of the team that prayed through tears for this women in 2008 and none of us expected her to survive to see the new year.

"The Lady from Baga"
August 25, 2011 Mission Society News
Dr. Vince Brawley is an active member of Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church in Augusta, Georgia. He is also a supporter of Esaho and Beatrice Kipuke, Mission Society missionaries to Togo, West Africa. Here, he recounts his experience on a short-term medical mission trip to Togo and the miraculous healing he witnessed.

Kipuke Ministries in Togo, Africa is the realization of the prayers and dreams of Esaho and Beatrice Kipuke. The Kipukes are French-speaking Africans called back to their home continent to minister to the physical, emotional, economic, and spiritual needs of the poor and underserved people in the rural villages of Togo. Kipuke Ministries is administrated under The Mission Society and serves as a major international missions partner of Trinity on the Hill UMC. Speaking on behalf of the team members that participated in short-term mission trips in both June 2008 and June 2011, the progress made by Kipuke Ministries over three years is simply inexplicable apart from God's grace. The Kipukes have consistently under-promised and over-delivered. The following story represents just one of the countless blessings that have been witnessed as a fruit of this ministry.

Bernadette is a member of the Baga village near the northern Togo city of Kara. Her chief is a former witch doctor who, because of an ongoing relationship with the Kipukes, has opened his village to the teachings of Jesus Christ. When we first met Bernadette in June 2008, she was in her mid 30s and was a married mother of three young children. She presented to our make-shift medical clinic with complaints of large masses in both breasts and sores in her neck, above her collar bones and in her armpits. The rock hard mass in one breast was the size of a grapefruit and she had an orange-sized tumor in the other. The sores were likely multiple lymph nodes containing metastatic cancer. She had lost weight and appeared very ill. Without the benefit of modern pathology, a diagnosis of advanced, untreatable breast cancer was made. Even had she lived in the United Sates, her prognosis for survival would have been grim. We gave her the only medicines available in our limited clinic pharmacy (analgesics for pain and antibiotics for possible infection of the skin ulcers), then Beatrice Kipuke shared the difficult news with her - that she would almost surely die in a matter of months, if not weeks. We laid hands on her and prayed but then, having little faith in her healing, starting preparing for the support of the children after her death. For some time, our U.S. team did not receive follow up on her condition, and we could only hope and pray for the wellbeing of her family. We were not aware that the Kipukes were holding Bible studies in Bernadette’s home and continuing to pray for her. During this passage, they sensed that her faith was growing and getting stronger. Esaho reports that she was “not crying anymore, but enjoying the presence of the Lord in her.” Around that time, the Kipukes returned to the U.S. for a brief respite.

In 2010, during a later U.S. visit from Esaho Kipuke, I casually asked him about "the lady from Baga," and he shared the following account. After their return, he and Beatrice made a visit to Bernadette’s home. She appeared from her hut and fell at Beatrice's feet proclaiming the mighty power of God. She then stood to raise her shirt showing disease-free breasts and pointing to healed scars on her skin. Despite Esaho’s confident faith in this story, I simply did not believe and could only assume that he had her confused with another woman. During my medical practice, I had witnessed “unexplained” healing and should have believed. However, this "doubting Thomas" would definitely have to see for myself.

In preparing for the return medical mission trip scheduled for June 2011, still skeptical, I emailed Esaho to inquire about setting a follow-up exam for Bernadette. He made it happen. On Sunday, June 26, 2011, our team of 12 Americans, the Kipukes, and several of our other African brothers and sisters were witnesses to the mighty healing power of our awesome God. As if her humble living conditions were not overwhelming enough, the woman, who was easily recognized by me and several of my fellow team members, stood before us. She was healthy and standing beside a thankful husband and one of her beautiful daughters. I touched her. There were no masses in her breasts and there were only healed scars where there had once been festering ulcers. Just as Jesus had commanded Thomas, I felt Him saying, "Stop doubting and believe.” I could only reply, "My Lord and My God!" and lament, "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20, 27-29).

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