The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


February 24, 2014

Kevin Wilson, guest columnist: Africa trip conjures up messages of miracles

NEOSHO, Mo. — I recently returned from my second mission trip to Senegal in western Africa, once again going with the Open Doors Foundation of Neosho.

Just like last year, it has taken me a few days to get over the jet lag and the various pills you have to take to ward off any little problems you might pick up in a Third World country.

I guess being a little sick over medication beats being really sick with malaria or intestinal pests.

Again, like last year, I made a conscious decision to not take anything electronic on the trip — no cellphone, no computer, no iPad, nothing. By doing that, I felt I could focus more on the reason for the trip and less on the distractions of home.

I did have access to a phone to call home, but I didn’t keep up with any news and it was kind of nice to take the break.

Of course, I am now back in full swing and watching all the current events, but this column is not going to be about politics or public policy.

Instead, I want to make sure we all realize just how big an impact even one person can have in this world.

Years ago, I came to the realization that you might not be able to change the whole world but you can change at least part of the world. By that, I mean you can make a difference in people’s lives — either for the positive or for the negative.

I have made the statement many times in the past year since my first trip to Africa that you don’t have to go on a mission trip to transform your life, but you can’t go on a trip without experiencing some kind of transformation.

I want to tell you briefly about two specific instances that illustrate my point.

The first involves a 6-year-old girl named Sadio.

Last year, her mom brought her into the clinic to see if we could do anything to help her.

When Sadio was about 3, her left hand was burned in a fire, causing her fingers to be fused and drawn up almost in a ball.

Since this was her left hand, many in that particular culture would consider her to be “unclean,” causing a lifetime of both physical and emotional problems. Unfortunately, we did not have the resources to do anything about the situation.

This little girl broke my heart. I have grandsons about the same age as Sadio, and I thought about what it would be like if one of them was suffering and nothing could be done to relieve the pain.

Before you get too sad, the story does have a happy ending.

This year, we were fortunate to have a local surgeon, Dr. Brian Ipsen, on the mission trip.

So we had a surgeon, but there was a little issue of finding Sadio. In West Africa, most people don’t have a mailing address, and we sure didn’t have a paper trail of her visit from last year.

The first two days of the clinic came and went with no sign of Sadio.

On the third day, her mother bought her back, not knowing if she would get the same answer as last year but hoping for a miracle. I would say she got her wish.

Long story short, Dr. Ipsen was able to successfully perform the surgery, and Sadio now has the chance for a normal life.

If you think that is amazing, the second story is even more dramatic.

Many of you may remember Dr. Ray Woodmansee. He was a local doctor and is now an emergency room doctor in Branson.

Dr. Ray saw a young man who was extremely ill and ran some tests on him. This is a Christian mission trip, so during the course of treating him, he also shared the gospel message with him.

The young man decided to accept Christ.

Ray had no idea that the young man would die that very night; he just did what he thought he should do in that moment.

Even though Dr. Brian and Dr. Ray are angels in my eyes, I tell you these stories not to bring glory to them but to illustrate how God will use each of us if we allow him to.

We may not be able to change the whole world, but what kind of people are we if we don’t try to change what we can?

Politics and public policy are vital issues, but there are some things even more important.

Sometimes I guess it takes witnessing true “miracles” to bring that lesson home.


Kevin Wilson, a former state legislator, lives in Neosho.

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