This is a photograph of Peter, probably taken around his second birthday. It’s hung on the wall of his family’s rented two rooms that house ten family members. You can almost sense the pride and hopes that his parents must have had. “What would Peter become? Would Peter grow up to help support our family?” I honestly don’t know if this photo was hung before or after his accident. Not knowing if it was hung as a reminder of what could have been.
This video was taken by our friend Abu on the first day he met Peter this past April. Abu is a 22-year-old young man that Brooke and Mark Phillips have cared for the past ten years after going to Sierra Leone on a mission trip. Abu was an extremely vulnerable boy who had lost both his parents and was being taken care of by his uncle. So when Abu saw Peter that day on the way to play soccer with his friends, he could have kept walking. Sadly this is something that most Sierra Leoneans see frequently. I could only imagine what went through Abu’s mind. “Could I do something for this boy?” Did Abu see himself in Peter as a young boy, hoping someone would help him? Did Abu reflect on the love and support that his US family has been doing for him this past decade? Abu decided to act! To be an example of the Good Samaritan, we read about in Luke 10:25-37. Abu engaged this lonely boy on the street. He noticed the immense open sores on his knees and ankles and knew he needed to do something. He reached out to Brooke, who is also on the board of Princess Project, and we quickly got involved. Brooke texted about eight of her friends, and she was able to raise about $400. The next day, we got one of our staff members involved, and they purchased a wheelchair for Peter. We also met with his family to make sure it was okay for us to get involved. We were able to take him to the hospital to start to heal his infected wounds. Over the next three months to four months, we took him back to the hospital every two weeks to ensure everything was healing correctly.
Sometime after Peter’s second birthday, while his parents worked in the village, Peter had taken a fall. Peter cried for days, and his mother took him to the hospital. She didn’t have enough money to see the doctor or get any help. Being part of the Limba tribe, they believe in traditional healers and medicines. They took him to a remote village in the “bush” to meet with a healer. After that encounter, Peter hasn’t walked since. For the past four years, he has been either carried or drags himself on the ground. Peter was being dropped by the market and sat there all day. I know this is so hard to comprehend for us to read this in the United States, but we can never understand until we are faced with extreme poverty.
This past September, while I was in Sierra Leone, we visited Peter at his home to meet him for the first time. We were able to bring some rice, cooking oil, bread, and some cookies for a treat. While we visited with his mother, we asked if it would be okay to take Peter to get an X-ray on his back. She agreed, and we picked them up a few days later. The X-Rays revealed an exaggerated thoracic kyphosis at T7 and that T2 to T7 vertebra are extremely crowded. He was diagnosed with Congenital Kyphotic Deformity and Pneumonia.
We took the X-Rays back to the United States and researched any doctors who specialize in spinal surgery in that area of the world. From a post to a Sierra Leonean Facebook group, we received a few leads. After a month of reaching out, we were able to track down Tom Johnson who has a non-profit called Africa Surgery (http://www.africasurgery.org ). They provide health care and surgical services to needy people in Sierra Leone and had great success in 150 cases.
After reviewing our emailed X-rays with his Spinal surgeon in Ghana, Africa (three counties southeast of Sierra Leone), they made some recommendations for us. He first said this was caused by TB. Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria attacked Peter’s spine which caused it to break. It’s common for the back to break with this infection. He recommended that we start with a back and leg brace, treat the TB with bi-weekly medicine, and add vitamins and protein to his diet for the best chance of success. So that’s what we did.
We check weekly on his progress but only time will tell how his body is responding to the treatment. In the meantime, we enrolled Peter in school. He has never been to school, and we made special provisions for his teachers to give him some extra attention. We provide lunch for him so we know he is getting the food he needs. He proudly sits in front of the class, learning in first grade.
So this is just the beginning of the story. We know and trust that God has something special planned for Peter and his family. That is our God! He knows us by name! He desires to rescue and save His hurting children. Our hope and I know his family’s hope is that Peter would one day walk again but ultimately we would love Christ to work in Peter’s life to bring Glory to the Father! It’s a long road ahead for Peter.
The focus of our ministry is to vulnerable girls but you can’t work in a country like Sierra Leone without serving other needs. Peter is one of five other projects we provide for outside of our girls. Your one-time and monthly gifts allow us to be a part of serving His children. Would you join us as we walk with Peter and his family?