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Mercy Ships

The story of Jean Bosco

Written by Grace Antoni — Mercy Ships Writer

Picture of Jean Bosco - Because of his tumor his shirt bulges on his back
Jean Bosco before Mercy Ships

Jean Bosco is a farmer. Years ago, Jean lost his taste for the chaos of the city, so he chose a simple life and the peace of open land. Nowadays, just north of Congo’s capital city of Brazzaville, you will find fields that bear the mark of Jean’s honest labor—hectares of cassava sway their umbrella leaves, gardens of eggplant and tomato bloom, and trees heavy with lime and mango cast shade under the sun.

Jean and his wife, Carine, have worked hard to enjoy life with their six children beyond the city limits. Their success story was one of simple prosperity and stability.

That is, until the mysterious growth appeared on Jean’s back in 2003. What Jean calls his maladie was, in fact, a lipoma—a benign, soft-tissue tumor composed of body fat. Left untreated, a lipoma can advance into giant proportions. In extreme cases, it can even weigh up to eleven pounds. This helps put Jean’s plight into perspective—by the time he boarded the Africa Mercy, the watermelon-shaped lipoma protruding from his back weighed twenty pounds.

“When my malady started, it was barely noticeable. But after three years, it began to rise from my shoulders. I became afraid; before myself, comes my family. If I were to die, my family would suffer greatly,” Jean said.

Driven by the wellbeing of his wife and children, Jean saved enough money for a hospital visit in 2009. The slew of appointments, blood-work, and medicine that piled into a hefty bill quickly emptied his pockets. Jean had to return home without surgery.

Jean Bosco's tumor on his back
Jean's benign tumor

Day after day, the self-reliant farmer worked to save more money with the hopes that this increasingly heavy burden would be lifted from his shoulders. Exhausted by the shifting, hefty growth, Jean’s work suffered and his fields’ productivity slackened. The family, once prosperous in the peace of country living, now found itself in dire straits. “At that time,” Jean says, “I abandoned myself to prayer that God would help me.”

Help arrived in God’s creative, unusual way. In 2013, Jean’s lipoma ruptured and began to bleed. He had no choice but to seek emergency medical care in Brazzaville.

Jean found himself once again on the doorstep of surgery but without the means to pay for it. While in the city, he learned of a hospital ship docked in the Congo. “Go to Mercy Ships,” a friend told him, “The surgeons will help you for free.” Jean was amazed at the notion, and he wasted no time in traveling to the coastal city of Pointe Noire.

Under the expert hands of South African volunteer Dr. Tertius Venter, the excision of Jean’s massive lipoma was complete in two hours. Weighed 9.6kg (more than 20lbs) A few days later, lounging on his back in his hospital bed, Jean grinned and said, “My doctor thinks I’m a machine! I am too happy to feel pain. It has been ten years since I could rest on my back.”

Jean after surgery by Tertius Venter
Jean, overjoyed after surgery

Today, Jean is overjoyed with this gift he has received from Mercy Ships. “What could I give Mercy Ships in return?” he asks. “What am I to say to God for what He has done for me? This ship goes beyond. This ship is in God’s truth. All I can give is thank you.”

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