A letter from Nancy Dimmock in Lesotho
April 12, 2012
I remember my mom telling the story of a “missionary kid” who was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. His answer was, “a missionary on furlough”! Wonderful food at all those potluck suppers, meeting lots of nice people, being made over as someone special—truly a great “job” to aspire to!
We appreciate all of those things about actually being missionaries on furlough this year! We have spoken in 35 churches and a few presbytery meetings so far, and have many more to go. You have all been so wonderfully encouraging and interested and supportive. THANK YOU!
In our presentations we have shared the story of 9-year-old Sechaba. That precious boy is going under the knife for reconstructive back surgery in St. Louis, Mo., as I write. The tapestry of his life, so far, weaves us all together in truly amazing ways.
Sechaba means “nation” in the Sesotho language of his homeland. His mother was Masechaba, or “mother of Sechaba,” meaning that he was her firstborn. Their home was a tiny, ill-ventilated hut in the King’s village of Matsieng, but they were a family and there was joy at his birth. It is not known whether he was born with his back deformity or he developed it a bit later, contracting TB of the spine from his constantly coughing father.
His mother contracted pneumonia when he was 18 months old and passed away. His father succumbed to TB when Sechaba was about 3. The chief of the village gave him into the care of his paternal uncle, who did not give him enough to eat. He was then transferred to the care of an aunt, who also failed to care for him. He was found wandering the streets at night looking for scraps. He was 6 years old by this time, but tiny, hunched and emaciated.
A lady church elder in his village suggested that Sechaba be taken to the Ministry of Insured Salvation orphanage in the capital city of Maseru for care. He arrived in January 2009, weighing 22 lbs., and joined the rough-and-tumble of 35 toddlers in the toddler room. His charming, impish personality began to emerge as he gained a sense of security about his survival. He ate and laughed and played AND played tricks and snatched and hoarded food and treats from his much younger playmates! He grew slowly, still severely undernourished.
In October 2009 four visitors from North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta came to Lesotho on a short mission trip. They spent a week at Sechaba’s orphanage, interacting with and loving on the children there. In December 2009 a local partner church elder and PW (Presbyterian Women) president and I started Ministry of Hope Lesotho to help fill some perceived social service gaps for mothers and children. In January 2010 we received an email from one of the North Avenue visitors saying that the Holy Spirit had put Sechaba on their hearts and they wanted to know about his medical and family situation and how they could help him. I took the letter to the orphanage director, Pastor Mavis. She smiled and said, “God has a big plan for that child.” She gave me permission to take him to the hospital for a thorough checkup. The results of the checkup showed the need for six months of TB treatment, enhanced nutrition, and regular visits to the spine center in Bloemfontein, across the border in South Africa. She asked me to take him and give him the follow-up care he needed. Being officially registered for foster care, through Ministry of Hope, I was able to do this.
In February 2010 Ministry of Hope Lesotho was asked to develop a list of adoptable children from the orphanage, and because of Sechaba the director was open to the idea. More than 40 children have found families from this orphanage—among them, Sechaba himself.
Sechaba was impossible to place and his condition was impossible to correct in southern Africa. But God the Holy Spirit knew this, and the family in the U.S. who was concerned about him applied to adopt him. This was granted in December 2010, and he flew across the ocean to his new home in Atlanta. He became a part of a new family (with three younger but bigger sisters!) and a new church family. He was baptized in February 2011 and his church family takes their responsibility to pray for him and to help raise him very seriously!
The whole of 2011 was a year of huge adjustments for everyone and lots of doctor’s visits. The degree of curvature of his back was getting worse and beginning to threaten his life. The only specialist who didn’t wince or hesitate at the sight of the MRI of Sechaba’s back was in St. Louis, Missouri. So Sechaba’s Mom and Dad coordinated their schedules and their girls’ schedules and organized babysitters to make it happen. They have lived and agonized through two months of force-feeding, spine-stretching prep, and now the surgery is actually taking place. People are praying all over the world for the steady, gifted hands of the surgeon to do their healing work.
Bless you, Sechaba. We believe, with Pastor Mavis, that “God has a big plan for you!”
It’s evening now, and a text just came in from his mom: “He is out and in recovery. Responding perfectly neurologically and has a brand-new spine. They had to crack his spine where the apex of the kyphosis was and remove the damaged tissue. They used all screws, 20 in all. They had to break a few ribs to make the adjustment for the spine. He does not have the halo (weighted spine stretcher) and will wear a brace with a chin rest. Praise God! He answered every one of our prayers!”
Praise God, indeed! And good night.
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 111
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