A couple weeks ago we got a call from our priest for an alms request. A few minutes later the chapel leader of a mountain community showed up at our house with a picture and a request: please save this little boy.
When we went to the community only an hour later, 4-year-old John only had enough strength to complain about his stomach, cling to his dad, and cry every time he saw the missionaries. We prayed that we weren’t too late, especially since he had been sick for a month already with an amoeba and severe malnutrition. His 2-year-old sister had died of the same thing only a month before, and we could see the hopelessness in his parents’ eyes as they watched their only other child die as well.
As we waited for the doctor to see John, we prayed with the parents a lot. It was difficult for us to find words to comfort them, so we prayed familiar prayers like the Rosary. After several hours, John was finally admitted and getting treatment.
We bought medicine and gave the family money to buy food and the next round of medication. Two days later we visited again, and while John looked a little better, he was still lethargic and cried when he saw us. We gave him a teddy bear and some Bible story books. The doctor said he would be hospitalised for a week, in the hopes of reversing his malnutrition and dehydration.
Saturday, my birthday, came around. Knowing we were busy, I knew it would be pointless to attempt to plan anything. The only thing I wanted to do was go to Mass and Confession in the morning, and I let God plan the rest of the day. It was unexpectedly full of visitors, loads of fruit given to us, and blessings upon blessings. I even learned how to drive a motorcycle! (a necessary ability here) But the best gift was going to the hospital and seeing John.
We asked what room he was in, and before we got there we heard “Ma’am!” When we turned, John was sitting with his dad outside his room, hooked up to an IV, playing with a truck and the teddy bear we had given him. He looked at us and his eyes were clear, his cheeks filled in, his breathing steady, and I knew that I was finally meeting the real John.
We talked with the parents and played with John. At first he was quiet, unsure of who we were, but soon Genevieve had him laughing and giggling. We laughed, and his parents laughed, and they told us that it was the first time he had laughed in a month. In that moment so much joy was born, and I could only thank God for the best gift of all.
A few days later I went to the hospital again to pay the discharge bill and buy medicine and food for them to take home. John was again all smiles and laughter, and we took pictures together. I watched the family leave, John yelling “Salamat!” and waving excitedly.
This Sunday the family came for a visit to our house. John was spunky and silly, goofing around with us and laughing when I asked where his teddy bear was. When we had first met the family, it was easy to see that in the trial of their son’s sickness, they had not yet mourned the loss of their daughter. But that morning, they went to the cemetery to visit her grave, and I could see so much more peace and serenity in their faces, and such beautiful joy every time they looked at their son.
I cannot express the gratitude I feel to God for allowing me to be part of this story. This family, who were in such darkness of pain and loss and who had no hope, saw God’s light, love, and tender care in their lives simply because God asked us to be missionaries in the Philippines.