Baby Phedon


Christetor, the mother of Phedon, is a Christian. Her village believes that her baby was born deaf and blind because she offended the ancient spirits. We think there may be treatment.

Eighty kilometres away from Monze Town is the Gweembe Valley, and in this valley is found a village called Hachibeseka.

A few months after Mrs. Christetor Handomba conceived, her husband Leonard Handomba died. Local custom says that when a woman loses her husband, there are certain rituals to go through. Unfortunately, such customs are contrary to biblical teachings, and Christians find difficulties with them. Christetor was expected to go through these customs, and was sat down by elders of the village so that she could be 'cleansed'. However, the lady is a Christian, and refused.

This was a not an easy thing to do in her village. She was told that her action was an insult to the ancestral spirits, and that she should expect a curse from them. Bearing in mind that she was expecting, the major punishment she could expect would be to give birth to a disabled child. But Christetor's faith in God is strong. She prayed for help and deliverance, and when there was the occasional cloud of doubt and fear, she comforted herself by praying even more.

To the people of Hachibeseka village, Christetor became an outcast who, in due course, would bear the wrath of the ancestors. So she led a lonely life with her three sons and one daughter. Life became even worse after the relatives of her late husband took all the possessions he had left her.

Because of the way she was treated by other people, it was even made difficult for her to attend ante-natal clinics. As her time came due, Christetor's mother sent her a word of instruction, to kill a black chicken and offer it to the spirits as a way of admitting guilt, so that she could be forgiven and 'cleansed' - if not, she would not have a good birth. Christetor stood firm to her faith in God, and was ready to face anything that would come her way. She asked only that her mother come and bear witness to the delivery, and this was agreed.

Two days later, Christetor gave birth to a baby boy she named Phedon. The baby did not exhibit any sign of disability, so Christetor thought all was well, and indeed the whole village was surprised to see the baby looking healthy. But after few days, she went to visit the nearest baby clinic. The nurses at Munyumbwe Health clinic discovered that the baby was not responding to their tests, and quickly referred the baby to the medical doctor at Gweembe hospital.

Little Phedon did not respond to aural tests - he is deaf. Then it was discovered that he failed to respond to visual tests. He is deaf and blind.

And so began a terrible situation for Christetor, because the people of her village saw this as proof that she had been punished for defying the ancestral spirits. She spent most of her time crying and not knowing what to do for her little son.

This put her faith to such test that at times she would regret not having bowed down to the demands of tradition - but something kept reminding her to look to God. This reminder that always speaks to her is her only comfort.

By selling her goats, Christetor could pay to go to the eye hospital in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, hoping to have her son's problem sorted out. But at the railway station, all her money was stolen. To the people in her village this was confirmation that she is a cursed and forgotten one, who will not find relief until she kills a black chicken as a sign of confession to the spirits. But still she has refused to do this.

It was a on a visit to the valley with the University of Zambia Teaching Hospital mobile clinic that I went to look for this cursed woman I had heard about, and Christetor was greatly comforted that someone should take an interest in her situation. She confirmed the whole story, which she narrated with tears in her eyes, and I was so touched that we drove together to the clinic to see our doctor. He quickly confirmed that Phedon is deaf-blind, but thinks there is hope of restoring his sight and hearing if specialist medical help can be found.

The doctor blamed much of the complications on the fact that Christetor had been prevented from attending the ante-natal clinic, and had not received care early on in her pregnancy. We could see brightness on Christetor's face after hearing such encouraging words. However, I had nothing to offer her but to promise that I would work hard to see that Phedon is attended by specialist doctors at the Teaching Hospital in Lusaka.

And so I now wish to recommend to you that you pray for Christetor and Phedon. I am sure one day God is going to provide for the baby's treatment.

23rd February 2003 - latest word is that Phedon's sight problem may be curable. Several supporters in Britain who have heard this story prepared gifts for Christetor, which the director took to her when he visited Zambia last March.

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