NORTH AFRICA (BP)–Curses cast by Islamic witch doctors weren’t on the curriculum when Chuck Castle* went to medical school. Neither were miracles. Little did the family doctor know he’d be dealing with both when he traveled to North Africa as a Southern Baptist worker.
When his friend Ali* suddenly became seriously ill one afternoon, Castle took him to the town’s hospital because the clinic Castle runs near the Sahara Desert can perform only minor surgery.
Hospital doctors discovered that Ali had a perforated colon — an extremely rare condition in younger men without trauma or previous infection, and Ali had neither. Castle couldn’t explain how it happened, but Ali had a theory: He believed his illness was the product of a curse placed on him by an Islamic witch doctor.
Things got worse after the surgery. Ali’s abdomen became infected, so swollen and inflamed that he looked pregnant. He needed to go to another hospital in the country’s capital, but it was a 12-hour drive over rough, dangerous roads. Castle turned the family’s SUV into a makeshift ambulance and loaded Ali inside. IVs hung from the roof, pumping him with fluids. Ali’s wife was with them for the ride. At one point, Castle remembers her placing Quranic amulets around Ali’s neck.
“He immediately started vomiting blood,” Castle said, “but stopped as soon as the amulets were removed…. That’s not something they teach you about in medical school.”
It was nearly midnight by the time they reached the hospital, but its pharmacy was already closed and most of the staff had gone home. Castle realized Ali probably wouldn’t see a doctor until the morning, and he knew his friend would be dead by then. Exhausted, desperate and out of options, all Castle could do was pray and beg Ali to consider Christ. He refused.
The next day, it was obvious a miracle had taken place. Ali’s abdomen was flat as a pancake and he was sitting up in bed, talking. “Jesus healed me,” he announced matter-of-factly. He had received no drugs or treatment of any kind overnight.
“As medical people we’re very highly trained to be in control. We have to be,” Castle said. “But one of the perks of living in North Africa is that you learn you’re not in control … that you don’t have answers for a lot of things and you see God work in ways that you really don’t understand.
“In the Western world there is no spiritual cause of physical sickness, period. But there’s no intellectual way I can describe how Ali got sick and how he got well…. It’s a humbling lesson.”
Despite his miraculous healing — and even acknowledging that Jesus had saved him in front of the entire town — it took two more years before Ali finally accepted Christ as his Savior. Castle said it shows just how much patience is required to share the Gospel here.
“In folk Islam, there’s a lot of distrust of outsiders,” he said. “And when people are already suspicious of you, relationship is critical. That takes an incredible amount of time in a culture like this. … But once a relationship is developed, you can talk about deeper things…. You’re able to earn the right to share the Gospel.”
*Name changed. Don Graham writes for the International Mission Board.