When I arrived in Mozambique back in 1990 the government was still Marxist and aligned with the former Soviet Union. Throughout the 1980s the nation was the poorest country on earth.
At the beginning of that decade, only two countries had fewer doctors per capita than Mozambique. So Americans were rare and trained surgeons even scarcer.
From 1990 to 1998 the Lord brought a lot of attention to the surgical program in the small government hospital where I worked five miles outside of Nampula.
The work being done at this 150-bed hospital became known throughout the north of Mozambique. People trekked from all over Nampula and the bordering three provinces to schedule their operations.
I sent yearly mortality and morbidity reports to the Ministry of Health detailing the results of the operations performed by myself and two nurses who I trained to administer anaesthesia and to do the most common surgical procedures.
For a long time I never heard what happened to those reports once they were submitted, but without my realizing it, our little hospital was becoming famous at the Ministry of Health in Maputo, 1300 miles away.
Eventually, three different ministers of health came to visit us, and I enjoyed a good personal relationship with each of them and especially with my last provincial health director, Dr. Mouzinho Saíde, a remarkable servant of the Mozambican people who later rose to become the vice-minister of health.
The strong support of Dr. Saíde and two of those ministers, one the chief surgeon of Mozambique, was crucial in our receiving authorization to build our own surgical center when demand outgrew the single operating room at the rural government hospital.
But all of that was 20 years ago. With the opening of our much-delayed hospital drawing near, I needed to renew my relationship with the Ministry of Health and secure important authorizations for us to receive privileges not usually extended to privately-owned hospitals.
There was no reason to expect that the new generation of health leaders would know me, and it seemed likely that my old friends would no longer remember me even if they were still around.
But not long before I was scheduled to travel to the Ministry of Health, I was surprised to hear from our guard that a health official from Maputo had driven up to our gate asking to see me.
Who should it turn out to be but Dr. Saíde, the former provincial health director who was instrumental in helping Grace Missions obtain authorization to own and operate a hospital in Mozambique, something extremely rare in those days when communist philosophy was still strong in the minds of government leaders.
This was the first time to see my former chief in 18 years. I was amazed anyone remembered or thought of me from days so long past. But he was visiting the medical school in Nampula and asked if I was still in town.
I was able to share with him that for the past 20 years I had been praying faithfully for him and all his family by name. I went to my prayer file and pulled out the card with all their names on it.
He was amazed that anyone would pray consistently for him throughout 20 years and politely commented that his rise in the Ministry of Health was doubtless due to those prayers.
Frankly, I was as amazed as Dr. Saíde that I had continued to pray for him these many years, even though he long ago ceased to be my boss. Every first of January I cull my prayer file so that I can add new persons and new concerns, and just this last year I wondered anew if I should finally cease praying for Dr. Saíde and his family.
It is impossible to only add to your prayer list every year and never cull people who you are no longer involved with. However, every first of January I cannot bring myself to remove his family from my list.
As George Muller remarked, as long as you are praying for someone’s salvation, you have reason to think God intends to bring it to pass. If you cease praying, it is a worrisome indication that God has not marked him for salvation and therefore is not stirring any believer to pray or act in his behalf.
I tend to reason the same way as George Muller, and am impressed that God upheld many of this man’s convictions as if they were God’s own opinion.
Therefore, having been unable to accept the thought through all these long years that this man and his family will not one day come to know Christ as I do, I have been unable to cease praying for him. George Muller noted the corollary that the inability to cease praying for someone’s salvation is a promising sign for them.
I hope this is true for Dr. Saíde. I have long been impressed with him and grateful for his steadfast support back in the days when jealous adversaries were seeking to cancel our work altogether.
But, though I cannot cease praying for him, I never imagined I would have this opportunity to tell him so, or that he would appreciate it.
Pray that God may bless Dr. Saíde and his entire family. He is Catholic by profession, so I imagine that while he fears God he nevertheless is trusting in his good works to commend him for salvation, and we know from Galatians 5:2-5 that if we rely on works at all, we are fallen from grace.
Christ will be of no use to us as we seek desperately to justify ourselves before God in the final day. If this is the case with Dr. Saíde, he needs the prayers of Christ’s people in his behalf!
Charles Woodrow of Grace Missions, Grace Medical Mozambique.
This is an edited version of an article that was first published in a prayer bulletin by Grace to Mozambique.