NORTH AFRICA (BP)–Allison Smith* knew why God brought her to North Africa the moment she came face to face with a girl named Munira.*
A burn nurse from North Carolina, Smith had just joined a team of Southern Baptist medical workers who ran a clinic in an isolated town near the Sahara Desert. She’d been with them for less than a week when she met 2-year-old Munira, one of the worst pediatric burn cases she’d ever seen.
Munira’s clothes had ignited while playing too close to her mother’s cooking, leaving the toddler with second- and third-degree burns covering her legs and chest. Munira’s mother, Halima,* came to Smith’s clinic in desperation after watching her daughter suffer at the town’s hospital for 10 agonizing days.
Known for corruption and poor patient care, the hospital’s staff virtually ignored Munira, neglecting to dress any of her burns or give her any pain medicine. They hadn’t even bothered to remove the burnt clothing stuck to her skin.
Smith was overwhelmed. She couldn’t imagine the excruciating pain Munira endured, but she wasn’t equipped to treat her at the clinic.
“In the U.S., she would have spent months in the ICU (intensive care unit),” Smith said. “And all I had to treat her was some hydrogen peroxide and gauze.”
So Smith did the best she could, cleaning and bandaging Munira’s raw skin. It was a painful process that would be repeated many times over the coming weeks. During those frequent visits to the clinic, Halima became friends with Smith. Though Smith knew only a few words of Arabic, the tenderness and compassion with which she cared for the Muslim woman’s daughter spoke volumes.
After three months of treatment, Munira was back to running, playing and laughing. Her wounds were closed, her scarring remarkably light. And though Munira’s weekly visits to the clinic ended, Smith and Halima’s friendship did not.
Today, the two women continue to meet weekly at each other’s homes. Despite her language limitations, Smith is taking baby steps to share the Gospel, asking to pray with Halima each time they meet.
“I would never have had that relationship without the clinic,” Smith said. “The Lord put me in a burn center for two years so I’d have the experience to take care of this little girl…. I’m begging God [to] give me the opportunity to one day tell Halima how I really think Munira got healed and Who really healed her.”
Smith has a unique reminder of just how special that relationship is. Halima was eight months pregnant the day she first brought Munira to the clinic; she gave birth to a healthy baby girl a few weeks later.
She named the child in Smith’s honor.
*Name changed. Don Graham writes for the International Mission Board.