Field Notes

Miriam's Mercy: Healing in Burkina Faso

by: Meredith Maines
December 13, 2013

We met Miriam in her village—Sarba, Burkina Faso—at midday. The well where she gathered water, alone, would soon become our 100th rehabilitated water project in the country. Though it ran black with contamination from iron bacteria, still used to wash clothes and bathe. But that's not what struck us most that day.

As Miriam looked up from her jerry can, we saw a large wound protruding from her face packed with raw cotton to stop the flow of fluid. And she had come here at midday, to stop the staring and jeering—just like woman at the well in John's gospel, ashamed and abandoned. Had Jesus not orchestrated our meeting the same way?

For 10 years she'd lived in suffering, not unlike the hemorrhaging woman in Mark 5. This 29-year-old single mother of three had sunk her money into extensive surgery to correct the tuberculosis of the skin, but to no avail. This rare outbreak of mycobacterium only responded more aggressively.

What was left but for her to move in search of work? And in a modern-day tale of Ruth and Boaz, an older man employed her to tend his fields in her new town. He took pity on her and purchased her medicines, though they wouldn't cure her affliction. Over time they were married, and Bourema had faith God would eventually heal his new wife.

And we had the privilege to be the ministers of this faith in fruition. Suddenly Sarba's well wasn't just about clean water—now it overflowed for Miriam's full restoration. Just before Easter, we were able to send Miriam to the capital for surgery. And five hours, three doctors and two nurses later, she was free! Her village couldn't believe she was the same person. Not only had her health returned, her hope had, too.

Miriam showed us that when it says Jesus "saw the crowds and had compassion on them," he still ministers to them one-by-one. In Sarba, God didn't just demonstrate his love through clean water. He demonstrated his love and mercy through Miriam.