‘God Is There’: A Gardener’s Painful Prayers

A gardener’s response to a debilitating injury is shaped by his faith.

From Message magazine issue "Hardship & Harvest: New Missionaries in a Changing World"

When our family arrived in Togo in January to begin our missionary service at Hôpital Baptiste Biblique, one of the senior missionaries told me something I’ll never forget: “The greatest beneficiary of your missionary service will be you.”

Although at first I was puzzled by this assertion, after just six months on the field, I am beginning to understand what he meant. Each day I receive special help and encouragement from the Lord.

One way in which I have been blessed through living and working in Togo as an ambassador for Jesus is by witnessing the faith of Togolese believers.

Kossi is a gardener at Hôpital Baptiste Biblique. He works hard all week with his hands to provide for his wife and his four girls. He is a faithful, honest, and industrious Christian.

A few months ago, as he was trimming a tree, he fell to the ground and a heavy branch dropped on top of him, crushing his shoulder. The injury caused major nerves to be shorn off his spinal cord, and so he permanently lost the use of his right hand. All the muscles in his right shoulder, arm, and hand withered away. Even more debilitating is his severe nerve pain felt every day and night.

When I consider how I might respond to devastating circumstances like these, I am humbled by how Kossi has dealt with the situation: Kossi prays.

In the middle of the night, every night, when he is woken from sleep by terrible pain—he prays. In the middle of the day, every day, when he works twice as hard to complete his daily tasks—he prays. Kossi knows that God is with him, and that God hears his prayers. He told me last week: “God is there. He is there! If someone tells me that God isn’t there, I know he is deceiving himself. God is there!”

And because God is there with Kossi during his suffering, he smiles. Oh, what a beautiful smile! Kossi radiates joy which can only come from the Spirit of Christ within him. He smiles and sings praises amid his painful labor.

My family and I are blessed to know Kossi. His tested, genuine faith is more precious than gold. Through his joy amid suffering, the glory of Christ is magnified for all to see.

May Kossi’s example lead us to pray, to trust, and to rejoice in the God who is with us always, even to the end of the age.

Jack Kehl

Dr. Jack Kehl, his wife Taylor, and their four children are missionaries at Hôpital Baptiste Biblique (HBB) in southern Togo. Jack is a general surgeon and Taylor is a teacher.