Saturday, October 3, 2009

Juge Okechi: God Has Been Faithful

Juge and Jess.

Juge and her mom.
Her palate before surgery.
A patient story I wrote. This little girl had a whole lot of sass. She absolutely refused to smile for the camera. On purpose.
Joyce spent days crying alone in her house. Her newborn baby, Juge, had a cleft lip and palate, and Joyce couldn’t afford corrective surgery. Her friends and family thought the baby was cursed and advised her to abandon the child. But Joyce didn’t want to do that.
One morning, while going for a walk to clear her mind, Joyce heard a voice that said, “My daughter, do not worry. I am the only Creator. This is a miracle baby. Do your best for her, and trust Me.” Joyce looked around, but no one was in sight. She knew God had spoken to her.

In that moment, Joyce made a decision. “Since that day, I knew I could not leave Juge, even with this problem. I had to do my best for her,” she explained.
Taking care of Juge was challenging. Her cleft lip and palate made it very difficult to feed her. “When she was little, she could not suck. When she tried to eat, the milk would go up into her mouth and nose,” said Joyce. But Joyce never gave up. Determined to do her best for the baby, she discovered ways to feed Juge. It was a time-consuming process, but she patiently persisted, believing God would one day bring healing to her baby.

“People said a lot of bad things about Juge, but I knew Almighty God created her, and He knew what He was doing. I trusted that God’s time would be the best. In his timing, she would be healed, and I would rejoice,” she said.

When Juge was a year old, Joyce received a call from a friend in Nigeria who knew a surgeon willing to fix Juge’s cleft lip. However, they wouldn’t be able to correct her cleft palate. Joyce brought Juge to Nigeria, and her lip was surgically corrected.

A year later, Juge’s cleft palate remained uncorrected. The cleft made it impossible for Juge to produce normal sounds. In addition to her feeding difficulties, the little girl struggled to speak.

Joyce heard that the Africa Mercy had come to Benin. Hoping that Mercy Ships could help, she took her daughter to the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic, hoping to be directed to the Africa Mercy. There she met Dental Team Coordinator, Jessica Campbell.

Jessica described the meeting: “They came to the dental clinic the first day of the outreach. There were almost 400 patients standing in line that day, most with problems unrelated to dentistry. I was overwhelmed because I didn’t know who we’d be able to help. I saw Joyce, and she showed me Juge’s cleft palate. I got excited because I knew it was something we could fix.”
Joyce and Juge stood outside the dental clinic all day, while Jessica contacted the Africa Mercy. At the end of the day, Campbell brought them good news – a screening appointment was scheduled for Juge.

Three days later, Joyce came back the Dental Clinic to thank Campbell for her help. She was holding a green card with a scheduled date for Juge’s surgery. “She came back to the dental clinic, ran through the gate, and waved the green card in the air saying, ‘We got an appointment! We got an appointment!’ She was so excited,” said Campbell.

Juge received a free surgery on the Africa Mercy. Now, she has a corrected palate to match her corrected lip. It is no longer a struggle for her to eat, and she is working with Africa Mercy speech therapist, Sally Peet, to improve her speech. In a few years she will be able to attend school with her sister – a previously impossible dream.

“Because of the cleft, she could not have gone to school. Talking was too difficult for her, and people at the school would not have known how to feed her,” said Joyce.

God has been faithful to Joyce, and she cannot stop rejoicing. She is exceedingly grateful for the blessing Mercy Ships has been to her and to Juge.
“I pray that God will continue to bless and strengthen Mercy Ships. They did a marvelous job, and I am very happy and grateful,” said Joyce. “Almighty God is doing His work. As He has done for me, He can do for anyone.”

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