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Lazarus Gets a Second Chance through Chicuque Rural Hospital

In addition to internal medicine, maternal and pediatric care, Chicuque Rural Hospital (CRH) offers basic, but essential, physical therapy treatment to its rural patients. This is the story of Lazarus, a survivor of civil war, who, as a teenager, suffered from an unknown sickness that left him paralyzed, blind and mute. Because of the care he received at Chicuque Rural Hospital, Lazarus, whose very name has Biblical significance, was given a new lease on life.

Each morning in Matodouro, Mozambique, Lazarus Williams opens his store at 7:30 to sell items such as coffee, powdered milk, sugar and rice to the familiar faces of his neighbors and friends. Like most grocery stores in the rural village, the "Holy Spirit Lazarus" is a one-room, bodega-like hut. A tall counter with a service-window stands in front of a wall jammed with groceries at the back of the hut. A table in the front half of the kiosk-store accommodates the many customers who drop in to visit throughout the day.

There was a time when no one could imagine that Lazarus would be able to take care of his own basic needs, let alone manage his own store and support himself and his aging mother. Lazarus was only ten years old when he and his family witnessed firsthand the horrors of the civil war that ravaged the newly independent country of Mozambique. The young boy, like many civilians, was caught in the fighting and barely survived two stray bullet wounds-- one in his arm, another in his abdomen.

Lazarus solemnly comments, "My own family prayed for me to die."

The civil war ended in 1992, but that was only the beginning of the struggle for Lazarus. He woke up one morning that same year to find his body mysteriously paralyzed. Not only did he lose the use of his arms and legs, but also the young man was blind and unable to speak.

Relying only on traditional healing techniques and herbal remedies, Lazarus suffered in darkness and paralysis for four years, never once visiting a hospital. Finally, a neighbor offered to lift Lazarus onto his donkey and take him to CRH.

For three months, the doctors, nurses and clinicians of CRH provided Lazarus with a strict regimen of medication to restore his vision and relax the rigid muscles in the young man's arms and legs. To this day, Francisco Victorino, the physical therapy clinician at the hospital, and the CRH doctors do not know what afflicted Lazarus. After three months, Lazarus was transferred to Inhambane Provincial Hospital, across the bay from Chicuque, where he enrolled in a special orthopedic center. After months of painful physical therapy, Lazarus received a wheelchair and began to rebuild his life.

After spending two years in Inhambane, Lazarus was once again referred to CRH and Mr. Victorino for physical therapy that would help him sustain his newfound strength. As he became stronger, Lazarus was able to walk with only the aid of crutches, provided to him by CRH. To say the least, he was delighted to be able to walk on his own two feet.

Lazarus says that his United Methodist church family helped him to find the strength to endure his long and painful road to recovery-- and to start his life anew. He also thanks the medical technicians and nurses of CRH, describing them as the most distinguished medical personnel in the country. He praises his physical therapist, "Because of Mr. Francisco, I am able to speak, to walk, to see, to write and even learn international languages. Mr. Francisco is a missionary, friend, and father-- everything to me."