Yuliana’s Story

Surgeon James Leong checks on Yuliana

All over the world, CityLife’s missions partners share the love of God both through word and action. In 2009, Rayma Tracy our partner in Timor encountered a young girl name Yuliana who was in a dire situation where a facial tumour had grown to the point that it was threatening her life. The remoteness of this region meant that she had no access to the medical help that she so desperately needed. Thanks to the efforts of Rayma, members of CityLife Church and the medical team at Dandenong Hospital, Yuliana was able to receive the urgent medical attention she needed and today, she lives a healthy normal life. What an amazing testimony of what we can accomplish when we each play the part that God has positioned us for.

Here’s Yuliana’s full story told by Rayma…

I met Yuliana early 2009 in her village near the border of west Timor. She stood out amongst the lean and ragged villagers due to her condition. They were lean – she was starving. And it was due to a huge tumor growing on her face, distorting her mouth and face into a grotesque caricature, and flattening her nose completely. To drink, she had to raise her open mouth upwards and pour water from above. Because she could barely move her jaw, she was unable to chew. The smell from the rotting tumor was so strong that no-one would come near her, not even to give her a hug. After the church service, I examined each person and finally at the end of the line was Yuli. When she was in year 3 of elementary school, she noticed that one cheek was bigger than the other and thought that it was a pimple growing. After being slapped in the face by her teacher for disobedience, it seemed to be growing faster. And it wasn’t long before she quit going to school because people thought she was a devil or cursed due to the strange appearance of her face.

Eating became very difficult, though she was able to eat pureed rice porridge, the rice being a gift from some kind nuns nearby. But her body shrunk down due to malnutrition

Her parents took her to the grandfathers grave to light candles and pray to ask him to heal her. They prayed to the crocodile ‘gods’. They prayed to statues at the local church. But no help was forthcoming. When she realized that she was dying, she began to search for God, the true God of the Bible. A small church plant opened near her village, and she was encouraged to keep coming, bring her family, read the Bible, and pray. Unfortunately she couldn’t read because she hadn’t attended school long enough to learn but she was a good listener. She began to memorize scripture and pondered the meaning. She prayed for God’s help with her problem – not just once or twice, but continually.

When I met her, the situation was very precarious. Would she live long enough to get the life-saving surgery? I lost no time in contacting medical professionals and friends at CityLife Church. Dandenong Hospital in Melbourne was willing to donate their operating room, intensive care, and regular hospital rooms as well as all preliminary tests at no cost. A wonderful and talented plastic surgeon, Dr. James Leong, plus many other staff donated their time as well. and the support from the Life Groups at CityLife made it possible for us to fly and stay at the home of a very kind family.

Getting the passport was a big challenge as she had no birth certificate, baptism certificate, family card, or identity card. But all of theses challenges were worked out over a period of a few months and we were on our way. From her village by car, her first ride in a private car, then the plane to Bali where she was tested and found clear of TB, then on the big jet to Melbourne. This brave young lady just followed me everywhere, did everything that I did, and took all of the medical tests in stride. The big day arrived and surgery was a success! Reconstruction involved rebuilding her nose using a rib bone and reforming her right cheek, The skillful surgeons took a big of muscle from here and bone from there and patched her together! She slept for a week in intensive care but when she woke up and was able to speak after removal of a tube in her throat, she said “Thank you God! I want to preach”!!!

After recovering fully, we returned to Timor to her village, where we were greeted by villagers racing behind the car to see her, the dancing team who did graceful arcs and twirls while beating their drums so expertly, and the little boys doing a stomp pattern to make those bells around their ankles jingle loudly. When we walked from the car to her house, everyone began to shout and scream – this was about 500 people – and great joy was apparent in all of their faces! Yuli who was as good as dead was restored to them, alive and well! Her testimony, just by returning, had a huge impact on these people, the majority of whom were illiterate. She shared with the group about her faith in Jesus and how he never let her down. His care for her when she prayed was a strong statement for everyone. The head of the village welcomed her back and received her gift of an Australian flag as a symbol of friendship between the two countries. We of course used the opportunity to share a evangelism message with the crowd, Jesus being the way the truth and the life, no one coming to the Father except through Him. Turn away from anything in our lives that doesn’t please God. Ask to be forgiven – and He will do it! Many prayed with us that day, and Yuli’s family was overjoyed. They really believed that she would die in Australia and it was the greatest testimony to being her back, alive, well, and smiling! Her father was so overcome he gave her 2 nose rub kisses. She spoke to the group in the dialect from Betun and people were moved, with her main message being that nothing is impossible for God. But we must pray and ask often, believing that he’ll give us an answer.

It has been over 7 years since that memorable event, and we had her come for a month recently to minister on Rote island as well as at the youth retreat last week in Buat. She gives her testimony about the hopelessness as she was dying by degrees, her trust in Christ, His answer to her prayers, her restoration, and healing. What a special young woman! She is humble, principled, appreciative, kind, thoughtful, and loves to serve the Lord. When there was no hope that the world could give, God helped her (no surgeons in Indonesia would attempt surgery for her case as it was too advanced). God opened every door in response to prayer. She recovered from a massive surgery with the skills God had given the doctors and nurses in response to prayer. And today she is living a normal life, ministering with kids and music near her village.

People ask her what happened as the remaining scars are a visible sign that hard times in the past have happened. But she always answers with a smile and shares Jesus. She even said to me recently that without this terrible situation in her life, she might have never made a commitment to Christ, and her experience has also influenced her family, friends, and neighbors for Christ as well. She has never looked back!