Last year, Laurie Smit and Isatta met a lady named Haja who had been an insulin-dependent diabetic for 12 years. There was a language barrier, but they were able to communicate to Haja everything she needed to know about her disease and how to treat it. It was a little bit frustrating for Laurie and my wife when they would check Haja’s blood sugar, and it would be higher than the previous day. Laurie would say, “I know it’s not easy to change what you eat, but you have to remember that your life depends on making those changes.”
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in Guinea. According to an International Diabetic Federation report, an estimated 3,965 Guinean adults died of diabetes in 2014. Diabetes is becoming especially prevalent in urban areas where traditional African foods are being replaced by Western foods with high fat and sugar, especially during the month of Ramadan and other festivities. People who are overweight have a higher risk of contracting diabetes. In many African cultures, plumpness is considered beautiful and a sign of good health, especially among women and men over the age of 40.
When Haja finally began following Laurie’s advice, her health started to improve, and she began telling her friends about this fouté (white woman) who had helped her without using any medications.
When a church member overheard a man complaining about his blood sugar, she took him to Laurie. Laurie and Isatta educated the man about the disease and its treatments. Overjoyed, he told them, “I work at the local education department, and most of my colleagues are diabetic. Would you be willing to teach them what you taught me?” Laurie and Isatta jumped at the opportunity to raise awareness at the local department of education about what our school teaches the children of Fria.
The education department arranged a health expo at the town library, and the workers invited many family members and friends, filling the hall. Our team was in good spirits as each of us played our part. Laurie taught, and Isatta interpreted for her. I ran the projector, and George Tooray took pictures. Several church members ushered people to their seats. I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as Isatta interpreted all the medical terminology for the audience. (People were impressed and came up to her afterwards to ask her where she had learned her French!)
The message was well received and well understood. Haja stood up and gave her testimony that the only lasting remedy for diabetes is a changed lifestyle. She outlined her struggle over the past 12 years, telling how she had struggled with her new diet but had overcome through prayer. Today, she is enjoying better health than ever. Her testimony was a home run.
The health expo brought us much closer to the local education department. It was an eye-opener for them, and they asked Laurie to discuss diabetes on a radio show and do another health expo at the town hall. Sadly, these plans were destroyed by the evil one when Laurie became ill, and she has since returned to her home in South Africa.
Our success with the health expo has convinced us to continue teaching the gospel through the health message in our school and in the community. In this context, we can freely teach about nutrition, exercise, water, sunlight, temperance, air, rest and trust in God (NEW START). I have started to work on a school curriculum using what I learned in 2001 at Wildwood’s lifestyle training in Guinea. I am also using the materials Laurie Smit left for this purpose. We would greatly appreciate your help and prayers for this work.