New smiles

Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (Isa. 51:11)

I love reading stories about God’s redemptive works in my world, works that are literally giving smiles to millions. Following is one such story. It is the account of how cleft lip and palate surgeries in South Sudan are restoring health and hope to people who have been excluded from society.

As eight-year-old Kua plays soccer with his many friends, no one would ever guess that just two years ago he was sickly and unpopular. Born with a cleft lip, Kua often suffered from sinus problems and other infections. His peers were frightened by his appearance and did not want to play with him or eat with him. All that changed when a volunteer medical team assembled by Samaritan’s Purse surgically repaired his lip in Juba, South’s Sudan’s capital, in 2013.

“Before the surgery, his friends feared him,” said Sarah, Kua’s mother. “Now they like him. They play with him.”

Kua’s smile now beams like the African sun.

“I’m happy,” he said. “That’s why I’m smiling.”

Kua’s story represents one among many cleft lip surgeries that have been performed by Samaritan’s Purse teams in South Sudan. Not only do the free-of-charge operations improve patients’ health, but they also open up new opportunities for them in society.

In South Sudanese culture, a baby born with a cleft lip is often seen as an evil omen, a frightening sign of divine or demonic punishment. When patients arrive at the hospital, they share similar stories of shame, embarrassment, and ostracism. Many are named Machiek, meaning “deformed.” Older adults tell of being shunned for decades. The mothers who bring infants speak of abuse aimed at them—”How could you give birth to such an ugly child?”

But, after surgery, the boys, girls, men, and women who’ve been given new smiles return home with a brighter future. They are integrated into society—filled with hope for new relationships, new educational opportunities, and more.

Stories like this abound, stories that tell about how God’s kingdom rule is bringing so much happiness to my world.