The word “impact” conjures up the thought of two objects colliding or an event which makes a sudden impression, causing a major effect on someone or something.
It is a little more difficult to visualize the concept of “sustained impact,” which may or may not arrive abruptly, but nevertheless carries vast influence that continues for a long time, growing in its ability to affect us, and others well beyond us.
The story of Kofi Nyarko, and his interactions with the Franciscan missionaries in Kofi’s native land of Ghana, West Africa, is truly one of sustained impact.
Prior to meeting Brother Vincent Vivian, a Franciscan Friar Conventual with the Our Lady of Angels Province, in 1987, Kofi was a 13-year old boy suffering from leprosy. He had the disease nearly his entire life but did not know it. However, Brother Vincent, who arrived in Ghana as a missionary a decade earlier and had devoted his life to serving those afflicted with leprosy, recognized it right away.
He took Kofi into a home he had established to care for children with leprosy and got him the medical attention which cured him of the terrible affliction.
Over the many years that followed, Brother Vincent continued to care for Kofi and other children of Ghana, providing all the medical attention they needed, as well as educations and the chance for new lives.
Brother Vincent’s desire to serve and care for the sick was embedded in him when he was a child, even younger than Kofi was when he met him.
As he grew towards adulthood and pondered what to do with his life, he knew it would be a life of service. Initially he thought of the Peace Corps, but he also wanted to offer his service to the Lord. This brought him back to the life of St. Francis and the realization that he was called to religious life with the Franciscans. He joined the order and finished a nursing degree.
The impact of those he witnessed providing health care services to his brother, as well as the example of St. Francis, were bearing fruit. He volunteered to serve in his Province’s new mission in Ghana, thinking he would be there to care for older Friars. Not long after arriving in Africa, he learned of a hospital devoted to caring for leprosy patients and he felt compelled to visit.
“It was so unbelievably horrifying to see the way those human beings were left to live,” said Brother Vincent, in remembering that first visit. “But yet something was drawing me there. I knew this was where I needed to be. I was home; I was home with them. And that was the start of the beginning.”
Through his work, Brother Vincent helped save the lives of countless children in Ghana. Many of those stories are unknown, but in the one story we do know, Brother Vincent planted the seeds for a man who would devote his life to working with international health agencies, traveling the world to help eradicate leprosy. As incredible as that all is, we know it goes much further, with the influence of those Kofi has helped, impacting others.
The story of Kofi and Brother Vincent is detailed in the video featured below. It also shows the touching reunion the pair shared last year when Kofi made a visit to the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City, Maryland, after not seeing each other for many years.
The two pored over hundreds of old photographs from their time together in Ghana and Kofi shared the inspiring work he has done to educate children and families, all over the world, that leprosy is a curable disease. He has worked to strike down the stigmas attached to the disease and to pull those afflicted out of hiding to seek a cure and return home to their families.
We all remember the story from the Gospels of Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fishes. Taking five loaves of bread and two fish, supplied by a young boy who was part of a large crowd which gathered to hear him speak, Jesus offered thanks to Heaven. He then broke the food and gave it to his disciples to distribute. More than 5,000 ate and were satisfied and, afterwards, the disciples picked up the leftover pieces and filled 12 baskets.
God continues to work similar miracles all the time, and he works them through us.
The story of Kofi is a perfect example of this.
Working through a single Friar, the Lord helped a young man from a poor village in Ghana, get diagnosed and cured. That boy, now a grown man, is now doing the same thing for thousands of others, who in turn, may be multiplying the impact further than anyone could have imagined.
And, with your support of the Friars, you may be supplying the loaves and fishes from which the next miracle will be formed.
“When someone made a donation to the Friars back in the 70’s or 80’s to support mission work, they could have never imagined how much good would have come of it,” said Joseph Hamilton, Director of Mission Advancement for the Franciscan Friars Conventual, who works to raise funds to support the work of the Friars. “Maybe a donor sought to support the building of a mission facility, to help feed the poor, or contribute to the formation and education of young friars native to our missionary countries. In the end, however, all of those pieces supported the overall success of our missionaries and directly contributed to the story of someone like Kofi Nyarko. Now that’s sustained impact.”
Please enjoy this very special video and then consider clicking the following link to make a donation to the Franciscan Mission Association. Support the work of Friars like Brother Vincent and help save the next Kofi.
It’s a gift that will provide sustained impact.