The life of Francesca “Chika” Salindeho, a young woman from Indonesia, has been saved thanks to a remarkable heart surgery and the intervention of a Foursquare-birthed ministry based in Portland, Ore. However, to Mike Mercer, president and CEO of Compassion First, what matters most is who God chose to help.
“The miracle is of value,” Mike says, referring to the ministry arranging costly transportation and surgery for the 20-year-old woman. “But the real miracle to me is Chika—that God would do this for somebody so unnoticed by the world. That is more significant than if she had been miraculously healed without surgery.”
“I never thought I could get surgery to save my life,” Chika says. “I knew that my family couldn’t pay it. It’s a miracle. God saved my future.”
Chika’s story starts in the Indonesian province of North Sulawesi. She is a caseworker there for Compassion First, helping girls ages 14 to 16 who have been rescued from sex traffickers.
Founded several years ago to fight the global sex trade, Compassion First opened its first safe house in North Sulawesi in spring 2010. Chika’s job was a blessing to her, the primary source of support for her parents. Her father suffers from severe diabetes, and her mother spends much of her time caring for him.
If that weren’t enough of a burden, in 2007 Chika was diagnosed with a defective heart valve, which she learned would eventually have to be replaced. Last October, she developed an infection that resulted in her being hospitalized for a month. After learning she had waited eight days just to be put on antibiotics and that things weren’t improving, Mike decided to act.
“We weren’t satisfied with the medical care she was getting,” Mike tells Foursquare.org. “She thought she was going to die. We thought, ‘How do we research and find the best surgeon in Indonesia?’ Then a volunteer in our office asked if we had asked Providence if they would help.”
Portland’s Providence St. Vincent Medical Center is home to Dr. Albert Starr, who co-invented and implanted the world’s first successful artificial heart valve, and Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a renowned heart valve repair specialist.
That night, Mike e-mailed the hospital’s CEO and two other executives to ask if Providence would donate the surgery—worth $100,000. The next morning he had an answer: yes. Next, he contacted Bruce Starr, a member of the state Senate, and Ron Wyden, senior U.S. senator from Oregon, to ask if they would assist obtaining Chika a visa. Both agreed.
The same night Mike e-mailed Providence St. Vincent, Chika was talking to God. Though accepting of the idea she might die, she thought of her family and clients. Just then God told her, “I’m going to give you a miracle.”
The next morning, Mike called to tell her she was coming to the United States. On Dec. 7, as Chika prepared to enter the operating room, Dr. Swanson explained the risk factors involved in the repairs he was about to do.
“Dr. Swanson, this is my miracle,” she replied. “There aren’t going to be any complications.”
“When you have a 20-year-old as sweet and beautiful as she is saying something like that, it is pretty powerful,” Mike affirms. “The significance of getting her valve repaired is that with replacement, she would have had to take Coumadin for the rest of her life.”
Chika has been recuperating at the home of Dr. Dean and Sarah Moshofsky, members of Beaverton Foursquare Church in Beaverton, Ore. This is the congregation that helped launch Compassion First during Mike’s time there as missions director. A pediatrician, Dr. Moshofsky is on Compassion First’s board of directors. All board members attend Foursquare churches.
Although Chika was originally scheduled to return home Feb. 20, Mike expects her visa to be extended so she can travel with him to spread the word about Compassion First. Their first appearance Jan. 15 at the North Pacific District’s winter camp in Antelope, Ore., helped raise more than $2,000 toward airfare and other expenses for Chika’s trip.
After that, they traveled to Long Beach, Calif., for the International Salon and Spa Expo, Jan. 29-31, a private trade show for cosmetologists. The trip helped launch the ministry’s new campaign, “Make Her Beautiful Again.” Mike hopes to arrange some partnerships with salons because of the visit.
Chika is also scheduled to speak Feb. 13 at Living Way Fellowship (Littleton Foursquare Church) in Highlands Ranch, Colo., just south of Denver; and Feb. 20 at Hope Boulder (Boulder Flatirons Foursquare Church) in Boulder, Colo.
Not only does Chika like to talk about the miracle of her heart surgery, she also is passionate about the girls she helps at the safe house.
“It’s so amazing for me that I can work with them,” she explains. “It’s so good to be able to help girls who were trapped before they were rescued. I love my generation.”
“Chika has no long-term obligation to us,” Mike says. “We realize there is a greater call on her life than working for us. I’m convinced she is an evangelist. The impact of this is in the future. God has His hand on her life.”
By: Ken Walker, an award-winning freelance journalist living in Huntington, W.V. For more information on Compassion First or to make an online donation to Chika’s medical fund, visit www.compassionfirst.org.