When Alou asked us through a mutual friend if we could help his profoundly disabled daughter, we didn’t know what to do. Little Umu was about five years old and appeared to have cerebral palsy. Her parents didn’t know where to begin searching for treatment options.
With my background at a rehabilitation hospital in the States, I knew there were endless resources available there for disabled children. But here in Mali, one of the world’s poorest nations? Though we didn’t know what to do, we knew God did, so we prayed in faith that He would give us an answer in His time.
I decided to post Umu’s need to a web group for missionaries in Mali. There are many missionaries working with various organizations here in Mali, some for 30 years or more. They are a wealth of information, and we utilize the resource frequently. “I’m checking on rehabilitation options for a young girl whom we suspect has cerebral palsy,” I typed. “We have no idea what is available. Any suggestions would be appreciated.”
When I checked my email later, I was thrilled to discover quite a few responses. One suggestion in particular caught my attention—a non-Malian charity that specialized in rehabilitation therapy for children with cerebral palsy. The charity was located in Djicoroni, a neighborhood in Bamako.
While I was checking into treatment options, Neil was busy, too. He took Alou and Umu to the small hospital in Kangaba so Uma could be evaluated by a doctor. The doctor confirmed that she was suffering from cerebral palsy. He had heard of the charity and thought it would be a good option for her.
We still had many questions about the charity. Did it still exist? Did Umu need a physician’s referral? Should we just show up? Neil called the phone number and found it had been disconnected. Now what? Bamako is a city of several million people. Where should be begin looking for this charity? I looked up the charity’s name online and was able to find articles referring to it being in Bamako, but there was no mention of an address or phone number. However, I did read the name of the charity’s director, and it stuck in my memory.
The following week, our family went to do some banking in Bamako. After finishing our transactions, we prepared to return home. “Wait,” Neil said to me. “Do you still have the name of that cerebral palsy charity? Djicoroni is just up the road. Why don’t we drive over there and see what we can find?”
“Sounds great,” I said, “But let’s pray first.” We bowed our heads and asked God to lead us.
As we drove through the chaotic Bamako traffic, my eyes moved quickly from one side of the four-lane road to the other. I prayed silently as I scanned dusty blocks of shops and supermarkets, trying to read every sign in French. All of a sudden, I saw the name of the charity’s director on a large white sign that said something about prosthetics. “There!” I said to Neil. “The charity must be nearby!” We turned onto a lovely, wide side street. In front of a large, well-kept building, we saw a large sign with the name of the charity. “Praise the Lord!” I breathed. “He brought us right to it.” I was so thankful to God for cementing the charity director’s name in my memory.
Neil went into the building and soon returned with a smile on his face. “The receptionist told me they see new patients every Tuesday and Thursday at 1 p.m.,” he said. “So hopefully I can bring Umu in on Thursday.” We rejoiced again and thanked God for leading us to just the right place. As soon as we got back to Kangaba, Neil called Alou and arranged to pick up him and Umu on Thursday.
After evaluating Umu, the doctors at the charity were optimistic that they could help her. Each treatment session cost 500 CFA, about one dollar, so Neil prepaid for 20 sessions. (One dollar per session might not sound like much, but it can be prohibitively expensive to a Malian family that might make only a dollar a day.) Neil told Alou that if they wanted to continue beyond 20 sessions, he would be glad to pay for more. It turned out that Alou had a relative who lived within walking distance of the charity, so Umu and her mother went to live there for the duration of the treatment. God had it all worked out!
Several weeks later, Alou came to our house with a status report. “Umu is sitting up by herself!” he announced with a grin.
We continue to pray for Umu and her family. Umu has a long road ahead of her as she works with the therapists to recover what muscle control she can. We don’t know if the family will be able to stick with the treatment regime for the long haul, but we are thankful to God for allowing us to be able to help them for now. We pray that many more good things will result from our interaction with this family.