'Walking with faith' has new meaning for boy in Swaziland

MBABANE, Swaziland — A 6-year-old boy in Swaziland walks today "with faith in every footstep," you might say.

Thanks to help given him by local Church leaders and missionaries, Muzi Stithole, who attends the Mbabane Ward, Benoni South Africa Stake, with his aunt, Beauty S. Masilela, no longer struggles to walk on the heel of his disabled foot, with his toes drawn up against his shin.

Now, he walks normally — and Sister Masilela, who is rearing her nephew — still believes in miracles.

"Muzi's miracle is to walk a normal life," she said in correspondence forwarded to the Church News by Elder Robert Brunson, who serves with his wife, Saralyn, in the South Africa Durban Mission. (Swaziland is bordered by South Africa on three sides and by Mozambique on the east. At the time of the "miracle," Swaziland was part of the South Africa Johannesburg Mission. As of last July 1, Swaziland became part of the Durban mission.)

Sister Masilela added, "My miracle is an answer for all my prayers and faith in Father in Heaven."

Those prayers began more than two years ago when Muzi was bitten by a poisonous snake. The bite caused the tendons and muscles of his foot to draw the foot up to the point where his toes touched his shin. What little walking he was able to do on that foot was on the back of his heel.

"Everyone had given up on the boy ever walking naturally again," explained Elder Brunson in his correspondence.

To friends and neighbors, Muzi's case was hopeless — except to his aunt. "I was praying every day to my Father in Heaven for Muzi that he must live the gospel life and love his Father in Heaven. I used to teach him every day. It is a blessing to have Muzi with me," Sister Masilela related.

She also prayed fervently for help for her nephew. She wanted to see him go to school and serve a full-time mission later in life.

That help came earlier this year with the visit of full-time missionaries Elder Mike and Sister Donna Hatch of Logan, Utah. One day, they went to the Masilela home and noticed Muzi's great difficulty walking. They asked his aunt about his condition and were told no one gave him hope to walk normally again.

"Sister Hatch was not willing to accept this verdict without Muzi seeing an orthopedic surgeon," wrote Elder Brunson, who, with his wife, later replaced the Hatches in the area. (When Swaziland became part of the Durban mission, the Brunsons were reassigned to that mission. The Hatches continue to serve in the Johannesburg mission.)

"[Sister Hatch] took the boy to a clinic in Mbabane that had an excellent doctor who ran x-rays on the foot and leg and found that the bones in Muzi's foot and leg were not damaged. The doctor felt that an operation could restore Muzi's foot to normal," Elder Brunson added.

Elder and Sister Hatch worked with local leaders to arrange financing of two necessary operations and scheduled the surgeries with a "fine orthopedic surgeon at a private hospital outside of Swaziland in the town of Nelspruit in South Africa," Elder Brunson related in the letter to the Church News.

For a week after the first surgery, Sister Masilela sat by her nephew's side at the hospital all day, every day, He was then sent home to recover, and at that time, Elder and Sister Hatch left the area. The Brunsons of Sutter Creek, Calif., took their place and returned to Nelspruit with Muzi and his aunt for the second surgery.

The surgeries were a success. "Now young Muzi is able to walk normally," Elder Brunson related.

And Sister Masilela is still praying.

"Through faith and prayers, the doctors made it possible for Muzi to walk. Now he can put shoes on both feet. Someday he will run and play ball. I am happy for that."

Speaking of the aunt and nephew, Sister Brunson added: "Beauty brings Muzi to Church each Sunday. They have to walk a long distance, and when the little boy can't walk any longer [from fatigue], Beauty carries him on her back.

"This is extremely hard for her because she has only one lung. Several years ago, she got tuberculosis and had to have a lung removed."

Elder and Sister Brunson are now serving in Newcastle, near Durban, South Africa.

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