“Good-bye, Mama,” Zayzay called as he scooped up his soccer ball and darted outside. Glancing ahead to see if any of his teammates were on the field, he loped along the dusty road that passed through his village. Tall for 13, and therefore fast, he belonged to the village’s unofficial soccer team.
“Save some energy for the game!” hollered his friend, Oto, from the field. “We’re playing Mukasa’s team, and you know what that means!”
A moment later, Oto snatched Zayzay’s ball and kicked it. The two boys followed, taking turns kicking the ball to the end of the field and back.
Soon the other players arrived, and the game was on. Everyone had fun until Mukasa and Zayzay collided. The two boys’ legs tangled together as they fell in a heap. Zayzay sucked in his breath! Searing pain shot through his leg and engulfed his whole body.
At first no one thought anything about the spill. But Zayzay didn’t get up. Instead he stayed on the dusty ground, gasping from pain.
Oto ran over to see what was wrong. Something white protruded from Zayzay’s thigh, and crimson blood trickled out around it.
The other boys crowded around, too. “I think that’s a b-b-bone sticking out of his leg,” Mukasa stammered, wide eyed. “I didn’t think we’d hit that hard!”
At the sight of her son’s leg, Mama burst into tears. “Oh, what shall we do?” she sobbed.
There was no time to talk. Oto ripped off his shirt and tied it tightly around Zayzay’s bleeding wound. “Quick, we need to carry him home!” he called to the others. And that’s just what they did.
At the sight of her son’s leg, Mama burst into tears. “Oh, what shall we do?” she sobbed. “His bone is coming out, and so is his blood. We must take him to the doctor!”
His teammates quickly rigged up a stretcher and carried Zayzay to the village clinic. But the clinic doctor shook his head. “This boy must go to a bone doctor to fix this.”
So the boys carried Zayzay to the bone specialist in the next village. As they traveled, the sun glared down on Zayzay, who was nearly unconscious from pain and the loss of blood.
The bone specialist looked at the wound. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but until that wound stops bleeding and heals up, I can’t do surgery. Take him to the hospital, and bring him back when they let him out.”
Mama’s eyes widened. “How many kwanza [Guinean currency] will the hospital and the operation cost?”
When the doctor told her, she shook her head in despair. But she motioned for the boys to pick Zayzay up again. “To the hospital,” she said, so the boys carried Zayzay to the hospital.
The hospital visit brought no comfort.“You must pay the fees before we assign him a bed,” the clerk said.
Tears coursed down Mama’s cheeks. “But I have only a few kwanzas,” she apologized.
“Then he cannot stay,” the clerk replied sympathetically.
Discouraged, the boys carried Zayzay back home and put him on his mat. Zayzay tried to be brave, but his leg hurt so much that he couldn’t help crying out from time to time. For several days Mama did her best to keep the wound clean so it could heal, but the flies hovered around as the sore oozed. Zayzay could not get up. Instead he lay in one position, with pain so great he could neither sleep nor eat. And it was plain to Mama that he wouldn’t get better on his own.
“I must get him to the hospital!” Zayzay heard Mama say from somewhere far away. He tried to see her, but she was blurry, and in his dizziness, she finally disappeared.
That evening Mama went from door to door, asking the neighbors if they could loan her some kwanzas. Sympathetic, but poor themselves, they shared what they could, but it wasn’t enough.
Meanwhile, Zayzay got worse. His head was hot and he was thirsty, but he couldn’t drink. “Spiders on my leg!” he screamed, delirious from fever. There were no spiders, but pus trickled from his wound. Mama tearfully did what she could to make him comfortable, but she knew her boy was getting worse.
Then, one day, Koi, a Gospel Outreach worker, heard about Zayzay’s problem. He hurried to see Zayzay—to try to bring him encouragement. But Zayzay was so sick he could scarcely talk. Koi knelt and prayed aloud to the God of heaven, who loves us all. Reverently, he asked God to heal Zayzay. And he asked God to find some money for the family so Zayzay could get medical help.
Koi took Zayzay’s sweaty hand. “I will keep praying for you and ask my friends to pray too,” Koi said.
Then Koi hurried to tell all his church members about the young boy who would die if God didn’t help him soon.
A smiling woman came to Zayzay’s door. “I have something for you,” she said pleasantly, thrusting a cloth bundle into Mama’s hands.
Even though Zayzay was nearly unconscious, he heard Koi’s prayer to the great God that lives behind the sky, so when his mind cleared a bit, he prayed too. “If You will help me get well, I’ll learn all about You and serve You,” he promised.
Every day the church members prayed for Zayzay. They asked God to make a way for him to get medical help too.
The next Sabbath when Koi visited again, he noticed that Zayzay was more alert and actually spoke a few words. The church members prayed all the harder.
The following Monday, a smiling woman came to Zayzay’s door. “I have something for you,” she said pleasantly, thrusting a cloth bundle into Mama’s hands. Then the woman walked away.
Maybe it’s food, Mama thought, unfolding the cloth. Tucked inside she found a stack of kwanzas.
Mama rushed to Zayzay’s mat! “Look!” she laughed. “Here is money for the clinic and bone specialist!”
Through his fogginess, Zayzay stared at the money. A seed of hope sprang up, and for the first time he thought maybe he would get better.
Zayzay’s friends returned and carried him to a nearby health center. He was welcomed by a kind doctor and nurse, who daily cared for his wound and encouraged him. At last, his friends carried him to the bone specialist, who operated and set his leg straight again. Though he suffered tremendous pain in the process, his leg began to heal.
Little by little Zayzay improved. At last, and with much effort, he learned to walk again and eventually could stand straight and tall.
Whenever people ask Zayzay where the clinic money came from, he just smiles. “I don’t know,” he says. “But I prayed to the God behind the sky for help, and He answered my prayer. He took care of me and made me better.”
Now Zayzay happily lives up to his promise to love and serve God. He is thankful for the Gospel Outreach worker who teaches villagers about Jesus and who faithfully prays for injured boys and those who do not know about the God who lives behind the sky.
Editor’s note: Names have been changed.