The next week, he was evacuated via light aircraft to a hospital in Jos, Nigeria, where they conducted more tests. “I was just lying on the bed, completely paralysed,” he said. “I couldn’t lift my arm up. I couldn’t shake somebody’s hand. They had to feed me through my nose.”
Neil Johnson asked Ross what he was thinking throughout his ordeal, and what he was asking of God. Astonishingly, he replied that he remained faithful and optimistic throughout. The only time he faltered was when the Nigerian hospital director told him that since they couldn’t help him if his heart and lungs failed, they’d decided to evacuate him to London. “And my heart sank at that point, and I think a tear formed in my eye. But apart from that, I was my usual confident self.”
London Doctors thought he had Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare condition where the immune system attacks the nerves following a viral infection. Since this was a teaching hospital, a Doctor took Ross to the classroom to show students a condition they’d rarely get to see. “He took my leg out from under the blanket, and he said I’m going to test his reflexes. I don’t think he’ll have any reflexes for the next six months. He tapped me below the knee, and there was a slight reflex. He immediately put my leg back under the blanket and said ‘sorry. Wrong diagnosis’.”
It took poisons experts to finally solve the mystery of how Ross had become paralysed. “I had a 44 gallon drum with corn in it, and in the tropical climate out there, water had formed on the inside of the drum and gone down. Some of the corn had sprouted and formed mould. I didn’t really think much about it, and I just fed it to the chickens.”
“So their final diagnosis was that my paralysis was the result of me eating chicken that had eaten mouldy grain. They said don’t go doing that again.”
After months of recovery in London, amazingly, Ross went straight back to the Benin Republic to continue his work. He found that in his absence, a witch doctor who lived nearby claimed to have cursed him. “He said I’m putting curses on people, and they’re going to this white man, to his clinic, and he’s giving them medicine and healing them. So he said if this white man’s going to do this to people I’m putting a curse on, I’ll put a curse on him.”
Despite all the hardship and illness he and his family suffered, Ross believes he’s lived “a charmed life”, and he says he’s loved every moment of his decade in the mission field. “It’s just a wonderful feeling when you feel that you’re doing what God wants you to do, and you’re enjoying what you’re doing.”
What advice would Ross give to young people considering mission work? He says when he became a Christian at 22, he wanted to do it “right”, to put everything in God’s hands. “And that’s why I just surrendered my life to him completely, like that. And the result has been wonderful. The Lord has been faithful in everything.”
For more stories of Ross Jones’ trials and achievements, check out his autobiography, Aspires to Lofty Heights, available to buy now.
Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.