Alliance News Feed – Ali’s Transformation, Part 1

by an Alliance medical worker serving in West Africa

Ali* came to our hospital in late 2014. It was a last-ditch effort to find healing for the wounds that had plagued the teenager’s legs for years. Other hospitals had recommended amputating them, since nothing had worked.

I happened upon him one day while checking in on our staff in the wound-care room. I sensed I should follow his case, even though my work was focused in a different department.

A few years prior I had helped treat a rare autoimmune disease case; I became convinced this was what Ali was suffering from. We started treatment, and ever so slowly we saw evidence of healing.


As I got to know Ali, I realized I was in the middle of an unfolding story God Himself was writing. There were just too many “coincidences”

  • My happening upon him at exactly the right moment on a busy day;
  • Conviction that I should follow his case;
  • My having seen this rare autoimmune disease before;
  • The fact that his family comes from a village I lived in for six months,
  • And that Ali’s father, though an adherent to a strict sect of the majority religion, really liked me and our Christian hospital.

I did not know how the storyline would progress, but I had a deep conviction God had total transformation in mind. Ali’s transformation—his healing, in the full sense of that word—would take years, happening layer by layer.

A Sense of Hope

The first thing to change was the return of Ali’s sense of hope. By the time he’d come to our hospital, Ali had been subjected to countless, painful interventions—all to no avail. He had completely lost any hope that his legs would heal. He skipped appointments because he figured it wouldn’t make any difference.

Our team saw the evidence of healing well before Ali allowed himself to believe it was possible. This required a lot of patience and encouragement to keep him on track with our treatment plan. But eventually, he could no longer deny the evidence that his wounds were healing. And he began to show up regularly and even showed us his smile on occasion.

Released from Burden of Shame

The next layer of healing was an off-loading of his burden of shame. After years of being “the kid with an incurable illness” and living as somewhat of an outcast since his wounds often smelled bad, Ali’s shame had taken on physical manifestations.

His posture was slumped over, he avoided all eye contact, and he spoke in such a fast mumble that he was nearly impossible to understand. In the early days, I would grab him by the shoulders and give him my biggest smile, talking to him the whole time as I worked on his dressings. He gave me no response, and if ever he did say something in return, a national teammate had to interpret for me.

But as his wounds healed, I noticed he looked at me more; then eventually, his appearance changed, evidence that he was taking better care of himself.

Physical Healing

The third step in Ali’s transformation was his physical healing. His wounds closed, and we stopped all treatment. The day we told Ali he didn’t need to return for any more appointments, he looked at me with disbelief.

A fourth layer of healing followed shortly, as we had to teach Ali about self-care. Since his bruises, scratches, and scraps had always turned into infected sores, Ali didn’t realize that early and proper treatment could prevent this.

Though his condition made this more difficult than it would be for the average teenager, he slowly felt empowered to take care of himself.


Just a few months after his wounds had healed, Ali ran away from home, abandoning school and his family. His father is verbally abusive, and Ali was looking to get out from under his authority and gain some independence.

I wondered if this was the end of the story. But as the Lord would have it, Ali contacted me to tell me his location.

*Name changed

“Ali‘s Transformation, Part 2” will be published on October, 5, 2018.

Source: Alliance News Feed – Ali’s Transformation, Part 1

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