03 November 2016
When young Susan Ithungu became a Christian, she had to hide her faith. Her father, who was a Muslim witchdoctor, was a dangerous and difficult man.
One day, after Susan's father continually refused medical treatment for her seriously ill mother, Susan's mother fled - leaving Susan and her young brother in their father's care.
Eventually, he discovered Susan's secret: that she had converted from Islam to Christianity.
AN AIRLESS ROOM
Susan's father locked her up in an airless, filthy room without food and water. She survived merely because her younger brother dug a hole in the ground and gave her food and water when their father was not around.
It was three months later, in October 2010, when neighbours finally discovered her and alerted the authorities. "When they opened the door [of the room], I felt peace and I knew that God had sent me help," Susan recalled.
She was critically malnourished and severely injured when she was admitted into a rural Ugandan hospital. What followed was an excruciatingly painful road to recovery.
A MIRACLE NEEDED
Susan was moved from the rural hospital to Kampala, and from there to Nairobi, Kenya. Doctors kept discovering more effects of her shocking abandonment - dental problems, bone fractures, inability to walk, poor muscle-development and emotional scarring.
It soon dawned on everyone that if this remarkable teenager was to show any significant recovery, it would take a miracle from God, the close support of friends and a generous portion of patience.
Amazingly, after many operations and medical procedures, Susan showed a remarkable recovery from many of her health issues. She returned to Uganda at the end of 2012, where she went back to mainstream school with the aid of one crutch, but still awaits further corrective surgery.
Open Doors worker, Heidi*, recently visited Susan while she was spending the weekend at the house of Evangelist Paul*, Susan's pastor. Heidi told us: "It was dusk as we entered the compound. A young girl walking with crutches approached us with a beautiful smile on her face. Shyly, Susan, now 16, stretched out her hand to greet me and then walked over to Evangelist Paul to hug him, calling him 'Father'. Paul greeted her like his own daughter and I could see genuine love there.
"Ms. Dreda, who took care of Susan previously, is still very involved. She often visits Susan in the boarding school where she was moved to prevent long walks to school. But Susan often visits Paul's house over weekends because it is more comfortable for her there."
As Heidi was visiting Susan, the youngster had to receive medical treatment for a boil - the result of a bone infection. "I was in awe that despite the severe pain she was in, Susan was smiling," Heidi wrote.
FAITH AND FORGIVENESS
"Susan remains ever-ambitious," shares Heidi. "She says she still wants to become a doctor because she wants to help other people. Spiritually, she is as switched-on as ever."
Whilst we were there, Susan told us, "I forgive my father because he did not know what he was doing. I have also forgiven my mother for deserting us."
One thing close to Susan's heart has been education. "Once she finishes her final primary school exam, she will have to go for further corrective surgery abroad," Heidi explains. "She will have to postpone returning to secondary school for up to two years due to the treatment. Susan is not happy about it, but the surgery cannot be postponed much longer."
A FUTURE DREAM
For Open Doors, it has been a privilege to be part of Susan's journey by covering her medical and education costs, thanks to the provision and prayers of our supporters.
Over the past six years we have witnessed her courageously take every small but agonising step required along this road, and observed Susan growing spiritually along the way.
When asked how we can pray for her, Susan replied, "Please pray for my healing. I want to walk without the crutches. Please pray that the Lord will bless and take care of Evangelist Paul and his family. I am also thankful for the support from Open Doors."
*Names changed for security reasons
 Initially sources estimated that Susan was 14 at the time she was admitted into hospital, but that was incorrect. Although she states that she is 16 this year, she does not know the exact date she was born.
Source: Open Doors