I had stopped by our Heavenly Zion church to check on the Bible Institute class meeting there as I needed to talk with the teacher for a few minutes. I missed the teacher and, after chatting a little bit with some of the students, I was starting to leave. Just then one of them asked me if I could stay a few minutes as there was a family problem. I agreed wondering what the issue could be but as I followed him into the house I saw right away what was happening. Lying on the bed was 11 year old Mitzraín. This young boy had had several severe health crises during the past one to two years. Now he looked extremely fragile lying on the bed. He looked dehydrated and worn. Had his parents had him to a doctor recently? Yes, that morning, they thought. Didn't he need to be hospitalized? His father did not want to do that again because of the financial strain on the family and the demand for time that a hospitalization would require. Being with the child in the hospital would prevent the father working and having the money necessary for the bill. What did the doctor say? He just needed to be given natural minerals from fruit juice. I tried to tactfully tell them that the mission would come up with financing if only they would take the child to the emergency room of a good clinic. They would tell the father when he came to get Mitzraín and give me a call. After a bit more discussion we had prayer together for the boy and I left with a heavy heart thinking that the little guy could not last much longer without better care. I waited at home for the phone call which never came and so I gave up and went to bed. At 2:30 that morning I received a call. Mitzraín had slipped from this world and was now in the arms of Jesus. On Monday morning, the next day, he was buried with much love, tenderness and many tears.
Another child has died that probably did not need to die. I was reminded of another of our believer's who lost their young daughter because they did not get her to the doctor soon enough and the dehydration had already taken its toll on her body. An intern doctor once told me that diarrhea is the leading cause of infant death in Bolivia. Parents do not take their children to the doctor until it is too late. The lack of money to pay for basic treatment is to blame.
From my western point of view I do not understand at all how a parent can contribute, albeit many times unknowingly, to the death of a child by refusing to seek basic medical care. I admit, my initial reaction to Mitzraín's situation included anger at his dad. And yet I know his dad loved him very much and was an attentive parent. After my initial anger I finally began to understand that I don't understand the vicious cycle of poverty that holds so many Bolivians in its grip. When providing food on the table is a struggle it is hard to justify money spent on doctors who may or may not be trusted.
So Mitzraín becomes another victim of poverty. His parents will struggle with grief and possible feelings of guilt. I pray for understanding of their plight, I pray for them to find hope in their grief, that their marriage will remain strong and that they will take comfort that Mitzraín is indeed safe in the arms of Jesus.
Who am I?
- gordon elliott
- Monrovia, Liberia
- I live in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa with my wife and youngest son. We are recently arrived in Liberia where we are serving as missionaries with Evangelical Church Missions working under the Liberia Evangelical Mission. For most of the last thirty years we have served under ECM in Bolivia, South America. We are the happy parents of four children and the proud grandparents of two grandchildren.