- Written by Kimberly Pepmiller Kimberly Pepmiller
- Created: 18 August 2015 18 August 2015
What is God going to do through us today? This question has been posed to us by Pastor Pace. We are here in Uganda to be Jesus’ hands and feet. We are not here alone. Jesus is here in us, and He's working through us. What a neat way to visualize the impact of our service!
This Ugandan Mercy Medical Team has been in the works for two years. The LCMS representative from the U.S. began working with the president of the Lutheran Church Mission of Uganda and their board two years ago. The president of the LCMU chose the clinic location, then Shara—a LCMS missionary to eastern and Southern Africa—began working with the LCMU and local health partners to set up the details of the clinics. The goal is to do no harm with these clinics. Often the Mercy Medical Teams allow the local health agencies to see more people and continue their health initiatives in the areas. This partnership brings health care and allows for gospel proclamation during the clinic times. In addition to providing much-needed treatment, we can see how God is working in the world through the church.
The morning began with a trip to the department of health here in Lira where we met with local government officials who helped plan our clinics. Here we picked up approximately fifteen local health workers who came with us to help run the clinic. These workers were lab technicians, nurses, interpreters, health officials, doctors, an HIV counselor, a pharmacy tech and a pharmacist. These local workers were vital to the successful running of the clinic today and the community investment in this project. The clinics this week allow the local health officials to reach populations in the community that are challenging to provide healthcare to.
We arrived at the site of the clinic mid-morning, which is a local elementary school. We spent time setting up the various stations of the clinic. Patients first go through registration and receive a number for service. The second stop is intake and triage, where patients have their vital signs taken and then meet with a nurse for a nursing assessment and to discuss their chief complaints. From here, the patient will go see a provider. There are options for the patient to head to the laboratory to have tests completed, such as HIV, malaria and blood sugars. The patients could also go to the nursing care area to receive injections of antibiotics, wound care or ear wax cleaning. Finally, the patient heads to the pharmacy to receive prescriptions.
Kimberly spent the day working in the nursing triage area where she interacted with many patients, helped take vital signs and discussed health concerns with the patients. This interaction with the patients provides a much deeper understanding of the culture and the health care access they have. One child who particularly touched Kimberly is a fifteen-month-old boy who only weighs five pounds. This malnutrition may be related to another health condition, but this child is dying. He also came back positive for malaria. Our team is going to work to get the child to the hospital here in town by the end of the week to pursue other treatment. Kimberly also cared for a man with very high blood pressure who described symptoms of mini-strokes (TIAs) that have been occurring. Without treatment, this gentleman has the potential to suffer from a stroke.
An elderly woman came to the clinic on crutches as she had a leg amputation. Apparently as a child, the woman was considered to be demon-possessed, so she was treated with hot coins and other treatments on her legs. Eventually this witch doctor treatment caused the woman's bones to deteriorate, which led to the need for amputation. Another woman in her twenties came with tuberculosis. She is choosing not to be treated and has an infant at home. Both the woman and her husband have been diagnosed with tuberculosis. We did our best to explain the need to complete the TB treatment. A three-year-old boy came to the clinic for lethargy. Upon listening to his heart, a significant heart murmur was discovered that is causing heart failure and swelling of his extremities. A young child came to the clinic with advanced AIDS and severely diminished lung function. We are hoping to get him to the hospital for a chest x-ray at least. A man came to the clinic with a facial mass that was diagnosed to be mouth cancer. The hope is to determine an affordable treatment plan for him.
Nelly spent the day escorting patients from triage to the doctors' station. She interacted with half of the patients seen today in clinic. Nelly was able to get the Ugandan Pastor James to pray with the lady with who had her leg amputated (who had been treated by the witch doctor). Nelly and the pastor put hands on the woman and prayed with her. What a neat way to witness! Nelly was able to hold a set of infant twins. One cried frequently and would stare up into her face and wonder what was wrong with her skin color. At the end of the day, a young girl came up to Nelly and provided a blessing, saying how much Uganda loved having our team here and that Jesus was blessing us. Very sweet!
The first day of clinic was successful despite our slow start. We saw over 300 people in six hours. Lunch was on African time and arrived about 3:30 PM with promises to do better tomorrow. At the end of the day, one of our college student group members played soccer in a pick up game of soccer in the school field. They played him so hard he was feeling less than stellar afterward despite his college athlete status. It was a competitive game!
At the end of the day, serving the Ugandans has reminded us that we have many opportunities in the United States that are not available across the world. Healthcare is a true gift that is often taken for granted in America, and in Africa there are so many conditions that are not treated due to lack of access. It is humbling to think about life back home. The joy of the Ugandans is so evident. They are content despite their surroundings. And the rhythm of life is so different here in Africa. Sometimes our own rhythm is the only way that makes sense to us and the things we're accustomed to. But God puts great beauty in all life, and that is extremely evident here in Uganda.
“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness”, “mercy”, “loyalty”, “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself,” active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?