Sunday, October 12, 2014

I don't have any problems. (Our first village medical and evangelism outreach)

Yesterday, we had the indescribable privilege of participating in a village medical and evangelism outreach.

(We finished language school in September.  For the last month, we have been living and working at Tenwek Hospital in order to learn some African medicine, become familiar with the medical education system, and get our feet wet with medical missions in this country.  We will be moving to Chogoria around Oct 21st.)

Our friends the Crognales invited our family to go on this outreach to a local village near Tenwek.  All five of us went.  We joined 16 or so other folks and sallied forth on a couple of little buses in the morning.  After a while jolting along on dirt-and-rock mountain roads, we pulled in to a little schoolyard and found about 130 people already waiting for us on the hillside.

Their local pastor had advertised our visit.  After greeting them and sharing prayer and a short interpreted sermon, we started setting up shop.  Triage at this end of the school building, then the room for the docs and nurses, then the room for dental, then the pharmacy.  A little outbuilding served for a procedure room and place for more private exams.  Martha joined the triage team.  Helen, Meredith, and James started work in the pharmacy, arranging medications and systems.  Jim pushed together a couple of desk rails, met his interpreter, Vivian, and started in seeing the patients.  Seven providers (four docs and three nurses (two recent grads from the Tenwek nursing school)) saw patients.

One little disappointment:  few of the patients spoke Kiswahili, the language we spent three months learning.  They spoke Kipsigis.  Oh well.

Some of our patients had very simple complaints, like aches and pains.  We treated their symptoms, prayed with them, and showed them some love.  Some had physical problems that we could really help with, like folks who had undiagnosed asthma and urinary infections.  Some were truly heartbreaking.

One mom handed me (Jim) two triage forms, one for her and one for her 5-year-old girl.  The girl smiled, looking at me happily from under her hoodie, and wanting to hold my hands.  A little sweetheart.  Mom's problem was pretty straightforward- some headaches.  When we finished with mom and I asked how we could help her daughter, I was surprised to see tears.  The little girl had been complaining of headaches, had been crying, and still couldn't walk at 5 years old.  Then mom pulled back the hood.  The little girl had hydrocephalus, and her head was quite enlarged.  There was nothing we could do in the clinic about this, of course.  We explained that she would need a CT scan and some surgery, and explained how much that would cost.  The cost is much less than in the US, but was still well beyond the mom's means.  (The missionary doctors don't charge for services, but the hospital has to charge for materials.)  We provided them with some de-worming medications and vitamins, and gave instructions for how to arrange the surgery, but mom's tears never left and I doubt that they will ever be able to afford the CT or surgery.

Two ladies had large abdominal masses.  One man my age had progressive weakness and could barely walk.  He had been a robust farmer before April.    A lady in her 30's had horrible valvular heart disease and couldn't walk up hills at all.  Cancer.  Strokes.  Heart disease.

I don't have any problems.

We prayed with everyone.  Or almost everyone.  A couple of people escaped.  But Vivian and I held hands with our patients and asked God to intervene in their lives.  The faith was so apparent in some of them that I wanted to examine them again to see if they had been healed there and then.  I wish I had re-examined them.  All were grateful.

The pastors on our team were wonderful.  They preached on the hillside, sang with the children, prayed, and handled crowd control.  Of course, their work was the most effective of all.

Martha, Helen, Meredith, and James worked tirelessly throughout the day.  They acted as pharmacists, runners, messengers, encouragers, and general servants.  When the smoke cleared at the end of the day, we had seen about 250 patients in the clinic, about 95 patients had been tested and/or counseled for HIV, many had been seen in dental clinic, and at least 1,000 prescriptions had been filled.  The Word had been preached to hundreds.

 I wish I could say that we were able to take care of everyone who came, but I can't.  We had to send many away, because we simply ran out of time.  The sun was setting when we drove away, tired but glad that we were able to do a little something for some eternal souls made in the image of God.