In a dusty prosthetic clinic in Ghana, I experienced a teachable moment of God’s great grace and mercy. All I could think of was how my own sinful life must have filled Jesus’ eyes with tears.
A young man from Nigeria once visited the National Prosthetic and Orthotics Centre in Accra, Ghana where we partner with Ghana Health Service to provide prosthetic limbs to amputees.
Wearing a seemingly well-built prosthesis, I asked through an interpreter how we could help—and learned the silicone liner worn next to his skin seemed to be causing him problems.
I asked him to sit down and remove his prosthesis, while I sat in the chair in front of him. When he peeled off his liner, however, I could hardly speak; I was hit by a putrid smell that caused me to flinch. At first, I thought the stench generated from an open wound, but after checking the limb thoroughly, I observed no cuts or sores, and concluded the smell simply stemmed from body odor due to lack of proper washing the liner and the limb.
Recalling a Seinfeld episode, when someone with terrible body odor drove Jerry’s car and nothing could get rid of the smell, I wanted to laugh at the memory of the show—but fighting the gag reflex took all my concentration.
Jerry Seinfeld quipped the smell in his car was so bad, he needed “…to call a priest!”
At that moment, I agreed with Jerry—and, between gasps for air, hoped a priest would happen by the clinic.
My interpreter was called away, and after a few attempts trying to explain to this young man the importance of daily washing of the liner and leg—I quickly realized I wasn’t getting through. Abandoning efforts to communicate with the man, I took a different approach. Asking someone to bring me a basin of water and a clean towel, I grabbed one of the bars of antibacterial soap we give each patient, and washed this man’s limb myself.
Throughout the center, the loud noises of a prosthetic limb workshop filled the air: team members busily chiseling hardened plaster from the recently fabricated molds of other patients, and belt sanders grinding down sockets for a smooth finish. The sounds and distractions of the clinic seemed to fade away for me, however, as I continued bathing the stump of this man’s leg. Leaning over him, with the putrid smell of his unwashed leg filling my nose, my thoughts filled with the reality of how much more foul-smelling I seemed to God—and how Jesus humbled Himself and washed me.
The tears filling my eyes no longer resulted from the foul odor of the man’s limb, but rather I could only think of how my own sinful life brought tears to Jesus’ eyes. Recalling my sarcastic desire “…for a priest,” I realized the presence of THE priest who intercedes for us and cleanses us.
All this man needed was a basin of water, soap, and a towel.
I needed a cross.
Standing With Hope
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