Do you know what a mango maggot or bort fly is? Yep! Neither did my husband nor I, until December of 1994. As new missionaries in Congo and new parents to our first daughter, Suzannah, we were about to be educated about mango maggots firsthand. One day after we had been in Kinshasa for about a month, we discovered that sixteen mango maggots had been embedded under our infant daughter’s skin, all over her back and legs. We were horrified!
A mango fly is a species of blow fly that is native to certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa. It is considered to be a parasitic because the fly can lay eggs that can burrow under the skin and grow into maggots. It can burrow under the skin of any mammal, including humans. Often, they lay eggs on the line-dried clothes of local citizens and then burrow under the skin upon wearing. In our case, the eggs had been laid on a baby carriage that we had used to place our daughter in during outside chores. Within three days, the eggs hatch into larvae. (healthline.com/ Mango Fly: This Bug Gets under Your Skin/ Debra Sullivan 6/26/19)
Our infant daughter had sixteen maggots under her skin! I was horrified! “How could God let my daughter suffer as a result of my ministry choice?” I asked. Truly I was young and naïve on how hard ministry life was on children. And because we were inexperienced, the process that we chose to remove the maggots, was more painful for her and us than it had to be. We decided to squeeze them like pimples. Years later, we learned that it is simpler to put a dab of petroleum jelly on each maggot. The grease prevents the maggot from breathing, and it wiggles itself out to get air; making it easier to pull them out with tweezers. I felt as if I was living the missionary version of “no good deed goes unpunished.”
But we survived. And our daughter survived. We grew wise in the ways of Congo and its parasites. We learned that all missionaries and their children pay heavy costs for their service on this earth. But the hope lies in the rewards that lay ahead. Paul once wrote: “-continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel.” (Colossians 1:23) Our hope of the gospel is to effect change in the people of the Congo that we were there to encourage. And the final hope is the reward of faithful service to and for Jesus.
So, is there hope for the hardships of ministry? I say, yes! The hope that even when our children suffer as a result of ministry choices, an unimaginable reward awaits us.