When I was in the first grade, I had a wart on my elbow. Kids were cruel and would often make fun of me. My stature was still small enough that I sat in a booster seat in our family car. The cracked plastic armrest would cut my wart and even tear it off. This pain and the humiliation at school were too much. One Sunday at church I asked my mom if she would pray with me at the altar. We prayed for God to take my wart away. Now the wart did not fall off at that very moment, but within a week it slowly disappeared. To this day, I’m wart free.
If God cared about my wart, how much more does he care about all our needs? He was declaring to my childlike faith that God is able! God cares!
Like any good parent, my mom would take me to the dentist for check-ups. When I was in the sixth grade, our dentist told my parents that I had a class 3 under-bite. This means my bottom teeth are in front of my top teeth. In fact there was a gap between my teeth. When biting into a ham sandwich, the ham would always slide back out. A positive thing is I never got into the habit of biting my fingernails. It was literally impossible for me.
The dentist suggested braces to try to fix it. I wore braces for over a year but they were unable to fix my jaw. The only way would be surgery. My jaw would have to be broken and screwed back together. This surgery was extremely expensive. In fact it was almost my parents’ entire years salary at the time. The cost and fear of pain helped us decide to just live with it and not do a surgery. God created me and formed me in my mother’s womb. Surely, I could live with my “deformity.” However, my childlike faith never gave up. Many times at church I remember praying at the altar for healing. When the service ended, I would go look in the church bathroom mirror to see if God healed me.
Then when I was in high school one of my front teeth went so crooked that I got braces again. The retainer came loose and the tooth went crooked again so I had braces now for a third time. The next retainer was different but again my teeth moved. By now I was just tired of it all! I had the dentist just artificially make my teeth look straight and cement a retainer to the back of my teeth in hopes that they would never move again.
Years later I would share this story with one of my African friends. Africans have great faith. My own eyes have even witnessed an African granny regain the strength in her legs and dance for the Lord! My friend’s comments made me feel like my faith was not great enough for God to heal me. This frustrated me. I did have faith, so I became determined to not give up on my healing.
God hears our prayers. He is the healer. Sometimes He answers, “not yet.” Not every answer to prayer is a sudden miracle. Some miracles come later and some even come through doctors. Sometimes our healing will only be seen in heaven. God loves me and cares about my infirmities. But I’ve come to realize life’s purpose is not about me. My life is about bringing glory to God. What if our sickness or deformity brings more glory to God than our healing? Some things we will only truly understand in heaven.
Twenty-years after being told that I needed the jaw surgery, I went to the South African dentist for a cleaning. My American dentist had stopped commenting on the fact that I needed the surgery. I guess they gave up on me. Now the South African dentist told me that I really needed to have the jaw surgery. Then a few months later my retainer felt like it had come loose so I needed to go see a South African orthodontist. He also told me that I should really think about having this surgery.
This upset me. I thought I had put all this behind me. My childhood ‘nightmare’ was resurfacing. By now, you must realize how much I despised going to the dentist/orthodontist. In America, my dentist would sometimes use me as his “guinea pig” to show all the new dental hygienists what a “class 3 bite” looked like. This made me feel ugly and deformed like I was abnormal.
Then I realized maybe this was not another nightmare? Maybe God was answering my childhood prayers? After researching more, I found out that the surgery in South Africa was not as expensive as it had been when I was a child in America. It might be possible with my savings. In fact the more I thought about the cost, I realized that the amount of money I had just spent on two couches and curtains for my new home could pay for the orthodontics and surgery. My healing was worth more than two couches!
TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) has also been something that I suffered with because of my jaw. As missionaries, we often have to preach and then talk constantly with people before and after a church service. There have been some Sundays where I felt like I had an ear infection. After going to the doctor, he would explain that it wasn’t my ear hurting but my jaw. He actually said, “This is common among women because they talk too much.” My missionary insurance will only cover $500 of orthodontics, so most of this cost would need to be covered from my savings. The insurance would cover the surgery as long as it is related to TMJ. My prayer is that this will be the case.
Since February 2016, I’ve had braces for the fourth time in my life. (Hopefully, the last!) On the 23rd of November 2016, I will be having the surgery to fix my jaw. Please pray with me for everything to go well and for a quick healing. The first week after the surgery, I can only drink liquids. The second week I can have soft foods. The third week I can start eating again…and in this week I’m flying to America for Christmas and then to help with The World Missions Summit in Texas. Pray that I am healed and ready to serve. My prayer is that the surgery would not interfere with the ministry God wants me to do here in South Africa.
Thank you for praying with me! I’m believing this is my healing. These are the before photos and X-rays. Soon I'll be able to show you the "after" photos.