Ghana (HCJB) — Emmanuel wasn’t always called Emmanuel. His name today reflects a change that has come about in his life. Emmanuel means “God with us.” He didn’t always know or acknowledge that God was with him.
Emmanuel–or Tome as he was previously known–lives in a small village in New Bakpa in Ghana’s Volta region. For many years he suffered from lymphatic filariasis, a tropical disease more commonly known as elephantiasis. The illness is transmitted by mosquitoes carrying parasites that cause abnormal enlargement of body parts, resulting in pain and severe disability.
Emmanuel’s leg was swollen, and the skin had broken down, forming a large ulcerated area covering the bottom third of his leg. He believed that his suffering was caused by evil spirits. His family had abandoned him and his wife had divorced him, blaming his condition on his worship of idols.
In June a team of HCJB Global summer interns and medical professionals joined with staff members from Ghana-based partner Theovision International and traveled to the country’s Volta region. That’s where they first met Emmanuel, standing in the hot sun, waiting to be seen by doctors. Sheila Leech, HCJB Global Vice President of International Healthcare and a registered nurse, decided to clean his leg.
“I saw that his lower leg was covered with filthy rags, so I decided to clean it up to make it easier for the doctors to see what the problem was,” she said.
“As I took the rags away, my heart sank at the sight of what looked to be a huge necrotic sore on Emmanuel’s leg and foot. Necrosis usually needs to be surgically removed, and I was fearful that Emmanuel would lose his foot.”
However, as she gently cleaned the wound, she realized that the black appearance had to do with local remedies and leaves that had been applied. “There was a huge sore there, but maybe this leg could be saved,” Leech thought.
As doctors attended to him, Emmanuel shared his story with them. “Abandoned by family and friends because of the ugly malodorous leg that afflicted him, he literally had nobody to take him to the hospital and nobody to help pay his bills,” Leech explained.
Emmanuel was quoted as saying, “I inherited idols from my fathers. After years of practice, I realized that my leg was swelling up. There was nobody to take me to the hospital because my immediate family had abandoned me due to my idol worship.” Emmanuel was now living with a friend who also worshiped idols.
Two of the staff members from Theovision accompanied Emmanuel to the local hospital where he was given a clean dressing for his leg. However, Emmanuel would need further hospital visits for his dressing to be changed.
“Thankfully, the Theovision Bible listening club was able to continue supporting him with the help of HCJB Global donors who covered the costs of dressing changes and his bus fare to the hospital each week.
Four months later, HCJB Global missionary doctors Mark and Laurie Nelson and engineer Adeline McCartney were able to do a follow-up visit. They were astonished to find a man radiant and praising God. It was Emmanuel. His leg was healed, and through receiving love and kindness from members of the Bible-listening club, he had listened to the Word of God and committed his life to Christ.
“Now the elephantiasis–the disease that he thought was caused by evil spirits and threatened to consume him–had been conquered,” said McCartney. “And through this united witness, he has given his life to Christ and has been baptized with a new name: Emmanuel.”
Emmanuel is now attending a Bible-listening club and services at New Bakpa Baptist Church, but McCartney stressed the need for people to continue praying that he “wouldn’t be tempted to return to idol worship and that he’d be a witness to his idol-worshiping friend.”
“Emmanuel is a testimony to Jesus’ saving and healing power,” said Leech. “Emmanuel. God with us? Yes, all the time; not just at Christmas!”