Zakael was born in the small village of Mamipikony, Madagascar to poor farmers. As a baby, he had an odd red mark on his neck, but was otherwise healthy and happy. In his first year, the red mark began to swell slightly. Everything else seemed normal, however, and the family had no money for a doctor, so nothing was done. Zakael grew into an energetic toddler who loved to run and play. But as he grew, so did the lump on his neck. Eventually, the lump got so large it protruded out of his shirt. No one in his village had ever seen anything like it. Zakael could not leave his home without being teased mercilessly by other children. He tried to hide the growth, but the taunting continued. This once happy child was consumed with embarrassment and shame.
“It hurt me to see him ashamed and hiding his tumor when he walked,” said Zakael’s father, Zahael.
Zahael was distraught. He wanted to save his boy from a terrible life. He worried the growth would eventually affect Zakael’s health; his ability to eat and drink. Still, there was nothing Zahael could do. There were no doctors in their village who could do the surgery. And he had no money for such a costly procedure. Then, like a miracle, he heard about Mercy Ships on the radio.
“They said a big ship with 400 people on board had arrived at Toamasina Port for healing people in our country,” said Zahael. “They mentioned many kinds of diseases that are treated like goiter. I said to myself, ‘It’s like my son’s disease. Let’s go!'”
A journey to hope
In order to finance the trip to the big city of Tamatave, where the ship was anchored, Zahael sold a goose and a chicken–the family’s only possessions of value. It was a big sacrifice. But when Zakael’s cyst was removed by Mercy Ship’s medical volunteers, it was more than worth it. As he looked as his son in recovery, Zahael was overcome with emotion.
“Thank you very much to Mercy Ships,” he told us. “Blessed are the people who are not sick. No one in our family has had this kind of disease but it happened to us and now it’s gone. Thank you to those persons helping from overseas and for those who are here. Thank you very much!”
As for Zakael, now that he’s healed, he says he’ll pursue sports and not be teased by his friends. He’s looking forward to the future, which is full of hope and promise, thanks to the Mercy Ships medical volunteers and our generous friends at home.