Old Shoes, New Life


Bayone is a poor child from Mbigou, deep in the rain forest of Gabon. In the rainy season, the roads there are almost impassable. Bayone has a serious heart problem, and he could barely breathe when I met him.

I gave him a follow-up appointment, but he and his mom said they couldn’t come because of the cost of transportation. I promised if they could get to Bongolo Hospital, I’d personally pay their way home.

Bayone arrived for his visit, although he was two days late. It was an incredibly busy day. The pediatrician and I had been unsuccessful in resuscitating a child with cerebral malaria, and her mother was still wailing outside the office.

Bayone was breathing better than last time, and I was listening to his heart when I saw his shoes. They were much too small; in fact they were shoes for a small child. He must have borrowed them from another kid to come to the hospital. It occurred to me that this might be my only chance to speak with him about what is really important. He might not get another visit because of finances or because his heart might give out.

Bayone is a patient who accepted Christ at Bongolo Hospital. (Photo courtesy of Renee Valach)

I stopped everything, and I asked if he knew Jesus. He said no. I showed him the Wordless Book. He was excited about the gold page and how heaven is a place with streets paved with gold. His face beamed.

I told him how he could ask Jesus to forgive his sins and they’d be washed away. He was ready. He didn’t need for me to pray and to repeat after me. He prayed all on his own.

Afterward, I showed him a picture of the Alliance church in Mbigou on my phone. I told him how I had been there to speak to the kids in the Sunday school.

As we talked, a few of the people waiting on the other side of the door included a retired hospital worker with chest pain, a young man whose left lung has been completely eaten away from tuberculosis, and a pastor who had brought his wife stricken with advanced AIDS. All of these people had urgent problems.

It would have been easy not to stop and look at a child’s shoes and then not to take the time to share the good news. I wonder how many times I’ve missed someone whom the Holy Spirit had prepared in advance for me. At least this time, when the Holy Spirit yelled over the clamor of Outpatient Consultation, “Hey, look at the shoes!”, I paid attention.

The next day I had to drive to Libreville to renew my residency card. As I drove through small Gabonese villages, the poverty I saw was inescapable. I thought, God, it’s not fair. This child is sick and doesn’t even have shoes. I have so much. Why haven’t You provided for him?

It was like I heard back, “What he really needs isn’t shoes but Jesus. I have provided for him by sending you half way around the world to tell him.”

—Renee Valach, MD

FROM ISSUE: May/June 2018, Vol. 153 No. 3, Pg 23, “God Our Provider”

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