Francis, a seven-year-old boy from Uganda, was born with a heart defect and in desperate need of surgery. Since access to this procedure is not available in his home country, Francis’ parents had lost hope until Children's Heart Project approved their son to receive this life-saving procedure in the Cayman Islands. The partner hospital and the host families were ready to welcome him. On board with Francis, an interpreter and transport nurse were ready to serve. But the plans changed abruptly—there was an emergency during the flight.
Immediately, those on board rushed to care for Francis as pilots contacted hospitals along their route, but no one was able to take on such a critical medical case. This went on for hours until finally they were permitted to land in Amsterdam. For Francis, his cousin Christine, and an interpreter, Robinah, plans changed instantly—but God was still in control. Samaritan's Purse mobilized additional team members to help Francis and his family in Amsterdam. The entire Children’s Heart Project team was committed to doing everything they could to care for Francis and his family.
Eventually Francis was moved to a smaller town in the Netherlands to receive his heart surgery. At first, it seemed like everything was going well. Then, two days after the surgery, Francis’ lungs could no longer take the new oxygen level. Francis went into cardiac arrest.
"[Francis] coded, and his heart stopped. He went through a 40-minute cardiac massage where the surgeon was holding Francis’ heart in his hand for 40 minutes."—Tucker Chasteen
Tucker communicated this news with Francis’ family. Once they got word, the entire community in Uganda gathered to mourn, thinking they had lost him. A local pastor visited Francis's mom and dad and prayed with them, as they grieved their son half a world away. The pastor began sharing the Gospel with the family, which led Francis’ dad to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior
The Children's Heart Project team knew this was going to be a long journey for Francis. For months, they rotated back and forth to take care of Francis and keep his family updated on his condition. The team would send them daily updates as the skilled team of medical professionals cared for his every need.
“It was much easier because we had Samaritan’s Purse on our side. They kept on checking on us, visiting, giving us hope, encouraging us. We didn’t feel alone, and that lifted a very big burden.”—Francis’ Dad
While sharing a medical report with Francis’ parents, April used the opportunity to share Scripture with them. She recited the words of Psalm 41:3, a verse that the Lord had impressed upon her heart. During these calls, Francis’ dad would listen intently, writing down verses—he was eager to learn more about his new faith in God. However, Francis’ mom was Muslim, but April had a deep desire for her to know Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. One glorious day, she accepted Christ during a phone call.
“I said, ‘I know you’re heavy burdened. I can’t imagine the pain and the angst that you’re feeling, but I just want you to know that Jesus says we can come to Him. We can come to Him with our burdens. We can cast them on Him because He cares for us. And He says that He’ll give us rest.’ And I said, ‘so I really want you to come to Jesus and know Him.’ And as I shared that, she said, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready to confess Jesus as Christ.’”—April Johnson
After 102 days, Francis was finally ready to return home to Uganda. Francis’ entire community surrounded his home when he arrived, singing and praising God. April had a front row seat to this celebration. She recalls seeing everyone embrace each other as Francis’ dad lifted his healed child up for everyone to see.
One of our podcast correspondents, Stephen, traveled to Uganda to meet Francis and his family. Francis’ cousin, Christine, shared what it was like to witness Francis transform into a now healthy young boy who is active and joyful. Stephen asked Francis’ parents what the Lord had taught them during the past couple of months. Now, they have big dreams for their son. Their deepest hope is that he would come to know Jesus.
Please pray for Francis, his family, and his community in Uganda. Pray for the ministry of Children’s Heart Project as it continues to provide life-saving heart surgeries while sharing the Gospel. If you’d like to keep up to date with more stories on the ground, please visit SamaritansPurse.org.