A few weeks ago, we took Mohammed to a doctor that we trust. We had been encouraging him to go, but he procrastinated each time we talked about him going. He really just wanted us to tell him the name of the medicines that would help him with his medical issues so that he could go buy them. But, based on some health complications, we were sure he would require prescriptions, not over-the-counter stuff.
So, one morning last week, Ken and I were getting ready to take our friend to the doctor. I asked Ken what our plan was if Mohammed didn’t have enough money for the appointment. Ken said he wanted us to assume that he would have it.
We both really like this guy. He is very responsible. There is not a lot of wiggle room in budgets here. By that, I mean there is none. If you make 45,000 cfa each month, you don’t make enough to have the electricity turned on in your home. But, it is enough to buy food and clothing for your family and to pay a rent of 20,000 cfa per month (about $35).
Early on Wednesday morning, we walked through the Fulani market to meet Mohammed. Groups of men were standing around talking, which is normal first thing in the morning. Everyone is checking in with each other. They stared openly at us, but not in an unfriendly way. One group in particular stopped talking, and I noticed that one of the men had spoken in a questioning tone. I looked up and realized he was talking to Ken and me. I answered him briefly, he nodded, and we moved on. Ken said he hadn’t even noticed that the man was talking to us. In the Fulani Market, aside from children shouting out the word in Zarma which means “white person,” people who have jobs aren’t coming up and engaging us in conversation as we go on our way.
Mohammed saw us coming and walked toward us to greet us. He said that he needed to wait for someone to pass on a message and then we could go. A minute later he suggested maybe we should just cancel. I wondered if he had changed his mind about going, but knew enough to be patient and see what unfolded. After a few minutes, he said that he didn’t have the money for the appointment. I said I needed some gifts made for friends, and if he would make them, that would pay for the appointment. He agreed. That being settled, we left.
As soon as we walked back through the market, Mohammed had to pass all of the men that we had just walked through. Many greeted him and stared curiously at us. One man actually shouted to him, and the people around us stopped to listen. Mohammed answered back, people nodded and we all moved on. I know enough Zarma to know that he said we were his friends, we only know a little Zarma, but that we could speak French. He chuckled as we left the market.
Ken asked him what his friends thought we were doing. “Who knows what they are thinking?” he smiled and shook his head.
We got in the minibus and headed to the doctor. I love this missionary doctor. She only charges 2,000 cfa for an exam and she is very thorough. Unfortunately, the only other time we have been to her clinic was when someone else drove us. Neither Ken nor I really knew how to get to there. So, we got lost.
I told Mohammed what I remembered about how to get there. When we were in the vicinity of the clinic, he asked Ken to stop the car and he got out and asked for directions. Then, when we got as far as the first directions, he asked Ken to stop again, and he got out again and asked for directions. You know I was wondering, “Who is this man who is willing to stop for directions?!” Finally, we saw the bright yellow gate to the clinic.
The interesting thing about culture here is that each time Mohammed asked for directions, it was the same. He would walk up to someone, shake their hand, ask about their life, health, family, and then ask for directions. Complete strangers checking in – but that is truly the way here. People are very warm and helpful to each other. They have a conversation and they may or may not get to the question which was the reason they started talking.
The waiting room is an open yard with a shaded area under which are wooden benches. Everyone is waiting on the benches. Some women are chatting quietly. A baby is crying. Flies abound.
When it is his turn, Mohammed is called and goes back for his exam. He is indeed having some issues. The doctor does a very thorough health exam and writes the needed prescriptions. Mohammed has to come back the following morning, but then not again for a month.
He shows us his prescriptions. There are four, but a pharmacy attached to the clinic can fill them for us “toute de suite.” So, I was curious – a medical exam and four prescriptions for a diabetic with a few serious health issues, what was this going to cost? The total bill was 12,500 cfa – $20.39. And, if our patient would continue his medication it would cost him 7,500 cfa – $12.25 monthly.
We drove Mohammed home. He thanked and re-thanked us. Mohammed is one of the reasons we live here away from the people we love. He has much grace and natural kindness toward his fellow man. He is hardworking and tries his best to support his family. Please pray for Mohammed and his family – for provision, truth, health, and hope.