Our team consisted of two doctors, one dentist, one nurse and three people working with logistics and evangelism. We loaded all our supplies (almost 1000 pounds!) into a Cessna Caravan and made our way to Mfangano Island in Lake Victoria. We flew through a thunderstorm, had a bumpy landing but arrived safely on the little dirt airstrip.
We met teams from Calvary Church in Charlotte and a team from Tenwek mission hospital. Together we divided into two medical teams (and one dental) and each morning we would load our supplies, tents and about 25 people into 60-foot long boats for travel to remote areas that have little or no health care. First we would select a good wind-swept location, then we would set up our tents—usually one for triage, one for pharmacy and one for the medical and dental teams. We are so thankful for Greg, Will and Joyce (from Lakewood) for the way they made all the tent set up, logistics of getting people in and out—go so smoothly. It was amazing to see how many people came to be seen by the doctors, nurses and dentist.
We had the opportunity to encourage each person, pray with most and I believe each person felt the care and compassion of Jesus. Many people trusted Jesus as their Savior. I was so proud of how our team worked tirelessly together with the other teams to reach out to these underserved people. Dr. Joi (our dentist) spent her days pulling teeth. Most of the patients were having severe pain, so they were so grateful to Dr. Joi for giving them relief. As physicians, we saw a lot of malaria, typhoid, pneumonia, anemia and parasitic infections (to name a few). Thanks to Lakewood and Dr. Todd Price we had plenty of medicines to treat the patients. Over the three days, our two teams treated, touched, encouraged and prayed with over 1000 patients!
A couple of hours before dark, we would stop seeing patients, take down our tents, load them back onto the boats and make our way back home. The evenings were spent around a meal prepared by the local people (and the food was great!) followed by devotions and a time of prayer.
A couple of stories really gripped my heart. The first was when I was talking to Chief Patrick—one of the two chiefs for this island of 40,000 people. We were sitting and discussing his role and responsibilities as chief, when he said to me, “You know, these medical teams really help my people. They are so poor; they have so little access to medical care. Without the medical team, many would not receive any medical care.” I said, “That’s great, how often do teams come?” He quickly answered, “You are the only ones who come”. That was a sobering moment for me as I realized how significant it was to these people that we would come and minister to them. And it was a moment for me to realize how great it was to come as representatives of the Jesus. Perhaps people will see Him (through us) as Someone who is willing to go to great lengths to demonstrate His care and concern and compassion for them.
The second story is a scene I may not ever forget. We had been called to see a young mother who was bleeding severely after a miscarriage. She had lost a lot of blood and was continuing to bleed. She was very weak; she fainted anytime she would attempt to stand. Based on the paleness of her eyes and hands we estimated her hemoglobin was probably 2 grams (it should be 10 grams). The situation was desperate. We had no ability to transfuse blood. We knew she had very little time before she bled to death. So we told the family that she must immediately be transported by boat to a clinic an hour and a half away. In no uncertain terms I told them she must leave immediately and that she would not live for more than 2-3 hours. We offered to pay for the boat transport to Homa Bay hospital.
As we sat under the shade of a tree, taking a break from seeing patients we could see the four men holding a stretcher carrying this young women coming our way. We could see the strain and sweat on their faces as they struggled running down the hill as fast as they could with their precious cargo. She was lying on her side, pale but still alive. As they ran passed us toward the boat, we all stretched out our hands and prayed. We remembered the faith of the four men who carried the paralytic to Jesus—we knew Jesus responded to their faith. We remembered the woman with the issue of blood—we knew when she touched Jesus in faith she was healed. So we prayed in faith that God would spare this young mother’s life, that He would help her make it to the hospital, that they would have blood available to give her. Late that night, we got word. She had arrived safely and in time at Homa Bay hospital. And they had her blood type. And that she was receiving a blood transfusion. And the next afternoon further word…she was better…she would be going home soon.
We finished our time on Mfangano Island, took a boat to Mbita, a Land Cruiser to Kisii where we had a picnic that we won’t soon forget! And then to Tenwek mission hospital for one night, for a tour and rounds with the teams in the morning. That afternoon we visited Mosop orphanage so the team could see what God is doing there. And then we went on a safari to see the beauty of God’s creation on the Masai Mara.
As we boarded our separate flights back to the U.S., I was so thankful for the week I had to spend with our Lakewood team, thankful for their compassion for those in need, thankful for their tireless work to provide medical and dental care, thankful for the encouragement they were to those on the island (and to me) and thankful for opportunity to represent Jesus together in Africa.