June 2022: Making room for Ordinary Miracles
Alex Kabende is a 26-year-old man whose situation personifies the story of many in Malawi’s Dzaleka refugee camp. Less than three years ago, he was thrown into a pit in his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. This traumatic event severed his spinal cord and he has been unable to move or feel his legs since. He can’t even control his bodily functions and needs to constantly exchange a urinary catheter. Now, not many of the 55,000 refugees in Dzaleka are paralyzed like Alex, but many share his outlook. He sought refuge in another country with the hope that he could receive better medical attention, that he might be resettled and that he might regain use of his legs. Some foreign visitors over the years have visited him and have even promised that they would bring him to a place where he could get surgery with miraculous results. Years later, he remained in the same bed, the same room, with the same hope that someone from the outside would bring a miracle and change his life for the better.
The thing is, Alex has already experienced several ordinary miracles. A year ago, he had deep ulcers from laying in the bed. These ulcers would be hard to treat in any situation, even in America where we have special wound creams and wound nurses and ulcer-preventing hospital beds. But Alex had none of that, just a mother and father who loved him and cleaned his wounds constantly, even though they didn’t have access to running water or regular supplies of soap. They committed to moving him every 3 hours, and by the time I met him last week, his deep ulcers were already completely healed. Alex also almost died from urine infections which went into his blood stream multiple times. But his family watched him closely and called a friend with a car to drive him to the hospital every two or three weeks to change his catheter. To me, the first miracle is the fact that Alex has such a committed community that he is receiving better care than some people with on-call nurses in America.
Of course, we still pray for more miraculous healing for Alex. When my mother-in-law Jude and I visited him, we acknowledged that healing of his nerves would take a miracle, but we also acknowledged that our God can do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine. While we were there, we also discussed ways that Alex could start strengthening his upper body and ways that he could keep his bag of urine clean and ways that he could be more comfortable in with his bodily functions. By the time we left, our YWAM translator pulled us aside to clarify any medical treatments which might restore the function in his legs. She said that this family had been hoping for a miracle from the outside for so long that they hadn’t been able to move forward with ideas about what Alex would do if he wasn’t healed.
The next week, I visited with my friend Margaret, a Malawian physical therapist. By that time, the family had hung a rope from the room’s main beam and Alex was able to do about ten pullups. Margaret helped stretch his legs to reduce the spasticity and improve blood flow. She reiterated that Alex was unlikely to walk again without a supernatural miracle, but she did share with him stories and pictures of people like him who had rich and full lives even without the use of their legs. She talked with him about the business he did before and imagined what he could do again if he gained the strength to sit up and transfer to his wheelchair and propel himself. Margaret is an experienced health coach, and even talked about how forgiving the people who did this to him would be one of Alex’s most critical steps in healing.
There are still many miracles I hope to see for Alex. My friend Roberta donated some exercise straps to help him strengthen his arms, and Margaret encouraged him to use them every hour, until he could do 100 repetitions and become quite strong. Roberta has arranged for him to receive a Swahili Bible soon, which will be his first Bible since he became a refugee. His entire face lit up when he talked about having a Bible of his own and being able to read it in his own language. Our friend Elizabeth has connected us with her husband, who is willing to build a metal structure which can help support Alex and his exercises better than the current wooden beam in the middle of his bedroom. And the YWAM staff who visit him weekly and pray for him are looking into ways to repair his wheelchair, or to use local resources to start building sustainable all-terrain wheelchairs for Alex and others like him.
We still pray for a miracle for Alex, but whether or not he receives supernatural healing, it has been encouraging to see church members bringing hope, healing, and ordinary miracles which are expanding his opportunities and outlook.
This month, pray for wisdom and direction for community trainings and work in the refugee camp. We also have a story of transformation in our local Malawian community which we would love to share with you at MalawiMillers.com/post/transformational-development
Thank you for your prayers and support, - Greg + Christina