‘When I saw his feet when he was born, I got scared. I thought he would never walk.’ Christine Letikirich is recalling her anxiety at the birth of her youngest child, Samuel, now seven years old. ‘But God answered my prayers,’ she continues, her face lighting up with a smile. ‘God bless MAF.’
Christine and Samuel are flying on ‘MAF 5’ (a Cessna Grand Caravan) back to their home in the remote village of Korr, in northern Kenya; a harsh and challenging place to live where the land cannot easily sustain crops, and the current drought is now threatening the livestock.
For the last few days they have been at AIC-CURE International Hospital in Kijabe, on the edge of the Rift Valley, where Samuel is receiving treatment for bilateral club foot, a condition he was born with and which requires surgical intervention.
He has already had six operations since 2011, which have been largely successful: his left foot has been corrected, and his right foot is also well on the way to being straightened.
'Then will the lame leap like a deer...'
With an unemployed husband and four other children, one can imagine that Christine could easily have been overwhelmed with hopelessness and sorrow at Samuel’s situation. However, as a woman of faith, she trusted God and turned to the church for help, where missionary couple Nick and Lynne Swanepoel worked to connect her with the assistance she needed.
Having lived in Korr for almost 30 years by this time, the Swanepoels were well established partners of MAF Kenya, and so knew that we could help with transporting Christine and Samuel the long distances required for his treatment.
Which is how, in spite of his young age, Samuel has already become one of MAF Kenya’s most ‘frequent flyers’; when I ask Christine how many times they have been on the plane, she can no longer count.
Not every trip is for surgery. The flight we are on today is bringing them back from a check-up at the clinic, during which the progress of his healing has been assessed following the most recent operation in December. Having removed the plaster to examine the strength and position of the foot, the team then re-plastered it, as the process is not yet completed, and so a further check-up next month will be required.
Samuel walks with crutches, which he manages well but which Christine says are painful for him under his arms. He also struggles when his foot becomes itchy under the plaster, not a surprising situation given how hot it is in Korr.
He doesn’t say much during the 90-minute flight, but is all smiles when the sandy airstrip of home comes into view.
Until next time
Without the help that they have received, Christine knows that Samuel’s prospects would have been bleak, as the family simply doesn’t have the means to contribute significantly to the cost of the travel and the treatment. ‘I don’t have much to give, but I give you my prayers. My prayer is that you will continue to serve the needy,’ she says.
As we land, Christine explains that their home is not far away and it will not take long to walk there. The two of them set off along the path between the thorn trees and the scrub, Samuel raising his plastered foot, leg bent at the knee, swinging himself between his crutches.
As I watch them go, I remember something else she said to me on the plane: ‘I am so grateful.’
And so am I; to have met them both, to have seen God’s gracious provision for this family, and to have witnessed in some small way how MAF can be part of a process that makes a difference in this isolated corner of the world.
Story by Katie Machell, MAF Kenya Communications Officer