Extreme stress can cause physical sickness, and that is what I believe happened to Ben.
Ben is a man in our village whose son did something that brought shame upon the whole family. In a drunken stupor, Ben’s son pushed his way into the missionaries’ house and accosted the missionary. Ben had attended many Bible classes by the missionary and was extremely upset about what his son had done. He loved the missionaries and had come to know and love God through them. But now the villagers held Ben and his family in contempt. It seemed like the whole world was against him. He felt stress that was nearly unbearable.
Not long after the incident, Ben noticed a bump on his back, just over his left shoulder blade. The bump grew and became painful. It was a boil. Tropical ulcers (or boils) are not uncommon in this humid region. As the sore opened up, other bumps appeared on his lower back and buttocks. Soon he had numerous oozing sores on his backside that hurt so much, he could barely get out of bed. Day after day he lay in his house moaning in agony, too ashamed to ask for help.
Then one day Ben’s wife came quietly over to the mat where he was lying. “The missionaries are here and they want to see you,” she whispered. “Can you come?” Ben lay motionless, not wanting to move. His wife went back outside to inform the missionaries that he was sleeping. But Ben, mustering all his strength, got up from his mat and went out to meet them.
One look at Ben, and we knew he needed help. Laurie asked him to show her the sore on his shoulder blade. “Oh Ben!” she exclaimed when she saw the two-inch-wide open wound. “You need to come to our house tomorrow so I can dress that sore.”
Ben showed up the next day, and the next, and the next, getting his wound dressed and taking the antibiotics Laurie gave him. After the second or third day, he gathered the courage to show Laurie the sores on his bottom, which were causing him the most pain. She was alarmed at what she saw. His bottom was pocked with clusters of pus-filled craters that seemed to be interconnected under the skin. We wondered if the infection had progressed too far to cure.
We set up a small treatment room for Ben, and Laurie and I did what we could every day to clean out, pack and dress the sores. We also prayed for Ben. As the days went by, slowly the sores got smaller, and Ben started to feel better. He was thankful to God and to us for relieving his pain. The day after his last treatment, Ben was baptized. Now he sits comfortably in church and happily shares what Jesus has done for him.
On the day of his baptism, Ben told me that he believed his son would eventually be baptized, too. Well, he got his wish! Just three months later, his son made the decision to give his heart to Jesus and was baptized.
As this new year begins, we invite you to give more people like Ben the opportunity to choose Jesus.