- Written by Tom Miles Tom Miles
- Created: 22 August 2017 22 August 2017
Each morning Pastor Dave leads the team devotion during the thirty-minute drive to Amudat to pick up the local healthcare workers. Beginning the day with joyful songs of praise is encouraging. The devotions this week have been sharing the message of mercy and the gifts we are equipped with to go into the world and serve. Each team member offers varying gifts to this Medical Mission Team, and we would not be complete without each one.
This morning we experienced another lesson in African time as we were all anxiously anticipating arriving at the clinic site and beginning earlier in order to provide care to those waiting. However, we first needed to gather supplies, pick up the Ugandan healthcare workers, obtain extra treatment supplies from the hospital and make sure the day was in order. As a result, clinic began about two hours later than the American team anticipated as we started to provide medical care around 11:00 AM. This cultural aspect of African time and the importance of developing relationships first can be quite challenging for a western mindset.
The day began with a bit of a ruckus as we worked to organize and mobilize the people waiting to be seen at the clinic. Each patient is handed a number to indicate his or her place in line. However, the pastors and registrars learned that the majority of the people cannot read the number on the card. This made it very difficult to call the people up in groups of twenty to be registered. The people waiting were also very anxious and concerned about being seen today, so standing in a line to obtain a number was a challenging task.
Pastor Dave began the day by evangelizing and sharing the Gospel message with the large crowd waiting. Once he and Pastor Moses and Pastor Benjamin began speaking, the Pokot people really gathered around to listen. The Lutheran Church of Uganda is growing in this area, and the local pastors are finding that the people do listen well and over time are changing their beliefs. The challenge is the long history of cultural beliefs in these rural tribes. For instance, polygamy remains a common practice among the Pokot. When Pokot villagers are interested in joining the Lutheran church, the people are accepted where they are at as we all enter the church with our sins. Similarly, Christ accepts everyone with all of their sins and offers forgiveness. If a man has four wives, he is asked to come with all of his wives and children to the church. However, he is told to not add any more wives. Teachings from the Bible are then used to explain how God looks at marriage. Slowly progress is being made to instill Christian beliefs in among the long standing cultural beliefs and to begin to change the cultural practice of marriage.
Another rural cultural practice is for children, particularly girls, to be raised for the purpose of marriage. School is not common among the rural tribes for cultural reasons but also due to the distance of travel to the closest school and the fees families pay for schooling including uniforms, food and books. Amazingly, girls are being married as young as ages ten to twelve. Large families with multiple children, up to six or seven, are also common. We are also observing that many patients do not know their ages. The age written on the paper is merely an estimate. There are some children who appear at the end of the day in school uniforms who join in the games, but they are by far the minority. The government is working to advocate for schooling for children, but the progress is slow.
Today our team was able to provide care for 353 patients. We saw patients from different tribes today, and some people walked across the border from Kenya to be seen. We are anticipating even more patients these next few days as the word is spread across the area about the treatment available.
A high percentage of the population is testing positive for malaria. Today we tested 148 people for malaria, and 58% of them were positive tests. This equates to 25% of the presenting people today having malaria. The local healthcare workers are impressed at how healthy they are presenting with the malaria, though. It is almost like they have some immunity to at least the symptoms of the disease.
We also saw cases of upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, ear infections, allergies and a couple of patients with asthma. The day began with the team assessing and treating a semi-unconscious man who was referred to the hospital for further treatment for a possible intestinal obstruction. The IV fluids provided perked up the patient before transport to the hospital.
The local healthcare workers are noticing that the lack of hygiene and health education in this area is an opportunity. For instance, all of the villagers bathe in the same place, which then allows for one disease to quickly pass among all of them. One of the benefits of these MMT clinics is that the local healthcare providers are able to see the need that exists in these communities, and they are able to get out among the people to assess the need and link people to local resources.
Each team member filled key roles today in providing care. Many stayed in the same stations but some moved into new areas to fill in opportunities for a smoother process. We anticipate another full day of clinic tomorrow as we provide both spiritual and medical care to those who seek our services.
“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?