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God cheats waiting vultures, rescues girl from certain death

CONAKRY, Guinea (BP)–Flies swarm around sweaty bodies as people walk up the rocky incline to the village market. People laugh and talk as they climb. A little girl, still getting used to her prosthetic leg, leads the pack. Exuding a joy of life, she swings the leg out and up to avoid the ruts and holes. The leg is a little big — to give her room to grow into it — but it’s not as big as her smile.
Only a year ago Mariama never smiled. Only a year ago, at age 12, she was given up for dead. A tumor below her right knee had picked up a staph infection and the flesh was decaying. Neighbors complained of the smell. Her family thought she was cursed. Vultures waited on the tin roof of her hut. Mariama was bedridden and defeated.
Then a miracle happened.
A prayer team from Phoenix, Ariz., visited Mariama’s village and was asked to pray over her. Estel Willet, a missionary with Pioneer Bible Translators, knew immediate action was called for. The group prayed for Mariama, then Willet took the girl to the capital, Conakry, for medical attention.
Bounced from place to place because clinics didn’t want a patient who would die on them, Mariama finally ended up a week later with an Assemblies of God missionary doctor.
The doctor declared surgery the only solution, but full-blown tetanus set in. Mariama’s back arched so high she wasn’t touching the bed. Her mouth locked shut, and a look of sheer horror covered her face, said Heather Rehn, an International Mission Board missionary to the Susu people of Guinea.
“The doctor said, ‘Humanly speaking, there is nothing we can do. But we as Christians believe there’s always hope,'” Rehn said. The doctor, concerned with Mariama’s spiritual life, asked Willet and Rehn to prepare Mariama for death. While getting ready, Rehn’s attention was directed to the Gospel of Luke. The story of Jairus’ 12-year-old daughter stood out.
“I said, ‘I think God is telling us to pray for a miracle,'” Rehn recalled.
So Rehn, Willet, the doctor, a nurse and Mariama’s Christian uncle crowded into the room.
“We talked to her mother, told her we were believers and that we believed a miracle could happen. I read the story to her, the nurse told it in her own words, then the men retold it,” Rehn said.
“We prayed with permission from her mother and encouraged her to ask Jesus to heal her daughter like Jairus had.”
Rehn visited the next Saturday, not knowing what she would find.
“Mariama’s body was so soft on the bed, not arched at all. Her mother said it was the day after we prayed that she could start to close her mouth and her body softened. The expression of horror was replaced by peace.”
That scare behind them, the doctor operated on Mariama’s leg and removed the bottom half.
“Mariama did so well. She was happy to have the stinky thing off,” Willet said.
The Southern Baptist missionaries rented a place for Mariama and her mother to stay while she healed and in three weeks she gained more than 20 pounds. No infections, no phantom pains. Easter arrived, and six months after being found, Mariama went home.
Mariama learned to get around on crutches, and in October upgraded to a prosthetic leg Willet had commissioned for her.
“At first, she wouldn’t put any weight on her leg and used her crutches. I came to visit and took the crutches away, making her hold my hand instead. She almost tore my hand off, but she learned to balance,” Willet said, a smile lighting up her face.
“She knows about God,” Rehn said. “We’ll continue working and witnessing, and praying that the seed we planted grows.”
Mariama is almost at the top of the hill now and hears someone call her name. Another little girl, her leg shriveled with polio, asks Mariama to wait for her.
The friend reaches Mariama and together they make it to the market, laughing and chattering like schoolgirls — girls with something to live for.

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  • Heidi Soderstrom