This mission trip to Ethiopia has been a difficult one for those of us dependent on things considered luxuries here: electricity, running water, WiFi, traffic rules, etc. Well, you get the picture. Electricity comes and goes. There’s been mornings that we wake up to no running water. Great! And the WiFi… what can I say? It works smoothly for a while, and then suddenly, with no warning, it’s gone just as I’m about to send an important email. The roads are like the wild, wild west. And guess who wins? The donkeys. I’ve never seen so many donkeys in my life. In spite of all these challenges, albeit small ones when I’m reminded of the hard lives people endure here, this has been a most rewarding trip for everyone.
Two thirds of our team of 30 are health professionals. We have doctors representing diverse specialties (general surgery, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, OB/GYN, anesthesiology, pulmonology, ENT), dentists, a nurse practitioner, a PT, a doctor of public health, nurses, and wonderful support staff. They’ve been working tirelessly and seamlessly to meet the huge health demands of the Negele Arsi region. One thing that’s been so frustrating to our doctors is that so many of the cases that would be very treatable in the United States are not here because of lack of equipment and medication. As an example, one of the patients they saw was a man with a disfiguring growth on his jaw (due to chewing tobacco). After multiple surgeries and the right treatment this man could have a chance at a normal life. Not here. This thing will kill him. And he’s in his 20s. It’s a heartbreak to face these kinds of situations.
On the other hand, our people are having a profound impact on so many people. One of our OB/GYNs stumbled upon a woman in labor. Things were not going well. He quickly assessed her situation and determined that the baby was in distress because something was wrong with the umbilical cord. He ordered the woman to be rushed to the OR for an immediate C-section. A little while later, a healthy and screaming little girl was born. Sure enough, the umbilical cord was in a knot and was tightening with every minute passing. Had they waited any longer the baby would have been stillborn. By God’s grace and mercy, our dear doctor saved the little girl’s life. You can imagine how thankful and joyful the parents were at the turn of events. They came so close to mourning a death instead of celebrating a new life.
There are countless stirring stories like this one. Some of the best come from Dr. Jacob Prabhakar’s (Eyes for India) 1,028 cataract surgeries. He returned this week for a quick follow-up visit on all his patients. Imagine hundreds of patients in line to see him. An amazing sight. The best part of the sight is the fact that they have sight. These people were literally jumping with joy because they could see again. Every consult was accompanied by lots of embraces and smiles. The most astounding thing about it is that all 1,028 surgeries were a complete success. Praise be to God.
Meanwhile, the preachers at our six sites are doing a phenomenal job. In our schedule, they were supposed to have Thursday nights off. Do you think that’s what is happening? Absolutely not! People want to hear the Word, and our preachers are like the Energizer bunny. In health and sickness (yes, we’ve had some sickness), they preach their hearts out. I sit in the back and am so blessed to hear their heartfelt messages. I was there when one of our preachers made an altar call. Stumbling from outside the church came forward a man. He heard the sermon outside because at most sites they not only have speakers inside the church but outside as well so that anyone within 300 yards can clearly hear the presentations. This Muslim man heard it all and came forward. Wow.
It’s the rainy season here in Ethiopia and that means it rains every day. Just when you think it’s going to be a beautiful sunny day with no rain, the rain comes. This muddies up the roads and makes movement very difficult. However, people keep coming. I preached one night at a site where people were under a large canopy and the stage was 30 feet away (also under a canopy) separated by open air (don’t ask me why it was done like that). Anyway, when I was preaching, there was a sheet of rain separating the people from me. No problem. They were there, and I preached away.
One thing I’ve noticed is that when our preachers are done, the meeting is not quite over. The pastor or lead person stands up, and then here we go for another mini-sermon with a passionate appeal for a decision. Even though I don’t understand a word he says, I know exactly what he’s saying, and people are responding. Last night at least 25 people came forward at the little church I was visiting. God is good.
I’ve been told that this coming weekend about 600 people will be baptized. 600! Amazing. Although I wish we could take credit for these souls, the credit goes all to Jesus and the faithful brothers and sisters who have been working in their community. God blesses where people witness. These baptisms will take place on the shore of picturesque Lake Langano. It’s going to be wonderful. Our cameras are ready.
Saved lives and saved souls. Yes, this has been a great mission trip. And, without a question the lives most changed have been ours, the missionaries.
Click here to read the first report from the Ethiopia mission trip.
Click to read the third and final update from the Ethiopia mission trip.