An 11 year old girl in Ontario, Makayla Sault has leukemia. Her parents have removed her from chemotherapy, which has a 70% chance for recovery. They have decided instead, to trust in Jesus and native healing traditions.
I can’t imagine how painful it must be for the parents to see their little girl disabled by chemotherapy, with only a chance that she might live.
This situation is a political threat for Ontario; native communities there have a history of violent protests, with guns. If the authorities apprehend Makayla and force her into treatment, the protests from native communities could be loud and violent. A defense committee has already been formed.
The National Post reports that the native healing tradition is “Ongwehowe Onongwatri: yo:” secret preserved knowledge passed on orally, and delivered by traditional healers.
In a video on the Internet, Makayla reads a letter that seems written by an adult. She states that she had a vision of Jesus, who told her she was already healed.
This situation has become a trigger for criticism of Christians, since Makayla’s family is rejecting doctors and trusting in Jesus to heal their daughter. There are many religious people who claim to do this, including Jehovah’s Witnesses who forbid blood transfusions. Comments attached to the National Post article state Makayla’s parents are “rolling the dice with voodoo medicine” and “both she and her parents capacity has been impaired by the delusion of religion.”
So what is the Christian answer? Do we lack faith when we go to a doctor?
Two of the largest books of the New Testament, Luke and Acts, were written by Luke the Physician. These books have many miracle healing stories, but they never criticize medical doctors.
In my experience Christians often pray for people in hospitals, asking God to work through the doctors. With the end in mind, they believe God can use a doctor to make someone well. The desired end is recovery, not an entertaining miracle.
Jesus criticized people who wanted “a sign” when he worked to do good as a teacher.
An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign … The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:39 and 41)
There may be another issue from this story. Apparently the community around Makayla is trusting Jesus to heal her, and they are trusting in other spiritual traditions. The native healing tradition “Ongwehowe Onongwatri: yo:” seems to be a spiritual tradition different from faith in Jesus.
In the Bible, Jesus was never an add-on or an ingredient in a mix. In one story a Syro-Phoenician (Lebanese) woman asked for healing for her daughter. Jesus answered her harshly “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:26). I believe he meant the children in one family could not raid the neighbours’ fridge because the food was better over there. The woman had chosen to live in one spiritual tradition all her life, and she could not raid the God of Israel as a momentary convenience. Jesus called for commitment and loyalty to God.
When the woman identified herself as a neighbour and friend in desperate need, Jesus granted her request.
If the community around Makayla Sault is combining faith in Jesus with other spiritual traditions, they are using Jesus as part of the mix, and that is not an option for a Christian.
I sincerely hope Makayla and her parents find their way through this terrible illness. And I hope the confusion about medical care can be resolved so the little girl can get the best care available.
- Decision to let girl treat cancer with native medicine is humane but puts her future in doubt: National Post
- Makayla Sault, Ojibwe Girl With Cancer, Can Refuse Chemo (VIDEO): Huffington Post