Eight year old Alba comes from a village in rural northern Benin. Two years ago a tumour started to grow in her mouth, but her family didn't have the money to pay for an expensive operation in Cotonou. Her mother, Ankosua, tried less expensive local medicines, but to no avail...and in their poverty there were no other options. All she could do was pray that the herbs would begin to work...
"When the tumor first appeared, my husband and I took Alba to the hospital, but we didn’t have money to pay for it, so they wouldn’t treat her. We had to use traditional medicine,” said Ankosua. Alba was taken out of school so her mother could give her the traditional medicine daily. When asked how the community treated Alba, Ankosua stared at the floor and remained silent. After a 10-second pause, she looked up, her eyes filled with tears, and she painfully replied, “Some people received Alba with good hands. They prayed for her and encouraged me. But others shunned her. They said, ‘Go away, we don’t want to see you.’” Whenever it was time to eat or drink, Alba hid herself from other people. If she went out in public, she kept the tumor covered with a rag. It served as a disguise and caught the foul-smelling and constant drainage." After two years of watching her daughter struggle, a woman in her village told Ankosua of a hospital in Benin that was performing free surgery. Finally – a glimmer of hope! They scrounged to get enough money for transportation and traveled to the hospital, which was hours away. However, Ankosua’s new-found hope quickly morphed into deep disappointment. “We were there for two days, and nobody attended to us. I asked a woman who worked there why we weren’t being helped. She said, ‘They don’t do surgery for free, you have to deposit money.’ I trembled when she told me that. I had come with nothing,” said Ankosua sadly. After Ankosua explained that she had no money for treatment, the woman told her about Mercy Ships. “This woman had heard Mercy Ships was in town, helping people and healing people for free. She gave me directions to the Africa Mercy, and I immediately went,” Ankosua added.
Still attached to noisy monitors and IV fluids, Alba had been dozing in and out of sleep since returning to the Africa Mercy ward. Finally, a few hours after surgery, she opened her eyes and sat up. Seeing she was awake, Becca, her nurse, came to Alba’s bedside and handed her a small mirror.Alba looked down, paused in a state of bewilderment, and began touching the empty space on her mouth. The tumor was gone.
After 20 seconds of staring, a single tear rolled down her cheek. With great determination, she tried not to cry. But another and then another tear soon followed. Finally, she gave up trying to hold them back and cried freely. Alba’s tears were earned through years of heartache and rejection. They were mature and raw – heavy tears for an eight-year-old to cry. Ankosua stood next to her bed the entire time, carefully observing her daughter. When Alba began crying, she turned away. Ankosua couldn’t bear looking into her tear-stained eyes. After two hopeless years of discouragement and depression, healing had finally come. The mixture of joy and pain in that moment expressed itself in tears. When Alba regained her composure, Ankosua returned to the bedside. Carefully, she wrapped her arm around Alba, who then buried her head on Ankosua’s chest. As Alba’s tears collected on her shirt, Ankosua did her best to be strong. But her heart was too overwhelmed with joy. Tears of relief and joy flooded her eyes as well. They sat and cried together, each tear serving as a testimony to the transforming power of God’s mercy.