We Have This Hope
The sight was horrifying. How anyone could live in such a condition was beyond understanding. The destructive nature of sin was illustrated clearly on this man’s face. Two tumors, one on each side of the face, were spreading mercilessly, causing nearly half of his face to be literally eaten away, beginning to invade the eye. The tumor on the other side was spreading more slowly, but soon would invade the other eye as well, resulting in certain blindness. The worse side was like a big hole, showing raw flesh and bone. The photograph was like a scene from a horror movie.
Nayara, seventeen years old, had come to our house for an interview to help Sandy with housework. At the end of the conversation, she told us her father had facial cancer and showed us a photograph of him on her cell phone. She was used to seeing it as he had had the illness for seven years and it had worsened gradually. One look at her father and our hearts were moved with pity and a burning desire to do something to help. But what? We did not realize at the time how involved we would become in this family’s lives.
Nayara began working for us soon after, and Aluisio went to visit the father to give some words of encouragement and comfort, as well as get more information to see if we could somehow help him. Although he had seen the photo, which was quite graphic, Aluisio was not prepared for what he saw. Seu Raimundo was in constant excruciating pain, although he was taking morphine on a regular basis. The family is very poor, and living conditions are not very hygienic. He could not concentrate to carry on a conversation for longer than a minute or so due to the pain. A putrid smell hung in the air. Aluisio read some verses from the Bible to him, prayed with him, and encouraged him to give his heart to Jesus. We sent photos of Seu Raimundo along with a plea for help to several medical contacts and medical missionaries. The responses we received were not very hopeful. They confirmed that it was facial cancer in a very late stage, and there was not much to be done short of cutting away most of his face and doing skin grafts, which the family had no ability to pay for. He did not want to make lifestyle changes, such as adopting a vegetarian diet, and had a sour disposition. He had lived an immoral and intemperate life, and this disease likely was a result. On the first visit, his wife was visibly devoted to him; but the children, all grown, were obviously estranged and had little contact with him.
Aluisio continued to visit the family, and read scripture and prayed with Seu Raimundo. As he was in constant excruciating pain, not much headway was made. As his situation worsened, he became more desperate, trying such superstitious remedies as applying dead vulture or snake flesh to the affected areas. He tried to commit suicide twice. The stench grew and unpleasant side effects from the abundance of flies on raw flesh worsened. Several times Aluisio was called upon to take him to Manaus to the cancer hospital, but little was done outside of cleaning the area and prescribing more medication.
The cancer continued to spread, and the other eye began to be affected as well. The family’s financial condition worsened, as he had been unable to work for so long and his wife was unable to work as well, due to caring for him round the clock. The grown children make little at their jobs and could not contribute much to the family. One time as Aluisio was driving the family back from Manaus, they confided to him that they had only about 53 cents to their name and no food in the house, let alone money to buy medication. The welfare system only gives about $85 a month, which is nowhere near to meet their minimum needs. Aluisio took them to the supermarket and bought them food and thought about what could be done to help them.
Soon after, he discussed the situation with a few business acquaintances he has in town. They were shocked to see Seu Raimundo’s condition and, as he did not live in town but in a rural area, were not even aware of his existence. Although they are not Christians, their hearts were moved to help the family. They rallied together and did some fundraising with other business people in the community for the family’s benefit. Aluisio was surprised to see how God could use those who were not among his people to go to great lengths to help another person in need. They showed more Christianity than many others who professed to be Christians but were critical of some methods that were used to raise funds. The business people did the best the knew with the light they have, and God blessed their efforts. They were able to raise enough money to put food on the family’s table and buy medications. Through helping the family, Aluisio had gotten to know several of them better and some have expressed interest in receiving Bible studies.
Since meeting Seu Raimundo, our prayer had been for him to give his heart to the Lord and that his time here would not be prolonged. The agony was too great. Aluisio talked with him of how, if he accepted the Lord, he would one day be raised incorruptible, with a pure clean face, surrounded by his loved ones. We also prayed that through his painful experience, many seeds would be planted in others and that one day they would bear fruit.
Two weeks ago Seu Raimundo’s misery ceased. The day before he died, Aluisio had been at the house and had spoke with him. He asked him if he had given his heart to Jesus, and he indicated with a weak nod that he had. Since his death several members of the family have requested Bible studies, and Seu Raimundo’s wife also agreed to the studies. Later this week, Aluisio will be studying with the whole family, and we pray that many souls will be won for the Lord.
As we strolled though the cemetery, awaiting the funeral, we reflected on life’s brevity. Many graves in the town’s cemetery contain the bodies of young and middle aged adults. A few are for people who lived until a ripe old age. Some were for tiny children whose lives had been cruelly cut short. Some had elaborate monuments over the grave or perhaps even flowers, but many were just dirt mounds, some even without markers. We know very few of those people, but the Lord knows and loves each one. Each had their predetermined time here on earth, some choosing to glorify the Lord through their lives, and some choosing the passing pleasures of sin. Sin is a horribly wicked thing, eating away at the soul as a cancerous tumor feasts on healthy cells. Our only hope is a complete transplant-a rebirth in Jesus Christ. Only then can we have victory over sin, and find comfort in the hope that one day there will be no more pain and suffering. Satan’s wicked experiment will be exposed to all, and he will be vanquished forever, never again to torment God’s creatures. All things will be created new. Our hope is to see Seu Raimundo, fresh-faced and strong, radiant with joy upon seeing his Lord and Savior return.
Sandy De Senna