Overcoming Obstacles to Healing

It seemed like the only “help” available for 12-year-old Masha’s painful infection on her shin was either an herbal remedy or a trip to the local witch doctor, neither of which would be considered a legitimate option outside of the developing world.

Masha with family members and American Baptist missionary Rita Chapman (left). Photo by Mark & Kelly Hewes.

Superstitions aside, in remote villages like Masha’s in the African bush, even if you know of a small clinic in a neighboring village, you might be hard-pressed to reach it—by foot, canoe, motorcycle, or some combination of the three. By the time Masha was brought to the nearest small mission hospital, the infection had reached her bone, and she was in danger of losing her leg.

These are some of the constraints facing people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where a simple cut or injury can turn into something quite serious. Because of situations like these, an American medical missionary couple is pursuing their vision of training the next generation of Congolese doctors and nurses in Christ-centered, whole-person care and making healthcare available to rural areas throughout western DRC.

Dr. Tim Rice serves as the medical director of the Vanga Evangelical Hospital, a teaching hospital that provides the only high-level medical care to a health zone of 250,000 people, and a local population of around 10,000.

Dr. Tim Rice (back, center) with Vanga Evangelical Hospital doctors and nurses. Photo by Mark & Kelly Hewes.

Kathy, a nurse and Tim’s wife, says she hopes that as the students practice and work in partnership with clinics in the rural areas, they will catch a vision for what God may have for them to do in the “forgotten places.” She serves at the hospital as director of the Miriam Fountain School of Nursing, which offers a three-year university degree in hospital nursing, community health, or midwifery.

“When nurses go out and establish a medical clinic, they have the opportunity to be a big influence,” said Kathy. “We want to prepare them not just for health care, but also to be soul winners and nurturers of the faith.”

The Sounds of Healing

A chorus of female voices sang out in the hospital ward. Women danced in the hallways as they left, their shame replaced by joy. “They couldn’t stop smiling,” noted another missionary doctor serving at Vanga. “Their joy was palpable.”

Thanks to a Congolese medical team whom MAF flew in to Vanga, these women received a life-changing obstetric surgery for a horrible condition caused by prolonged, obstructed labor—one that led to them being shunned by husbands, families, and communities.

Additionally, the Vanga surgeons and operating room team received practical instruction and learned current techniques so they would be better prepared to offer this surgery after the team departed.

Visiting doctors can share their expertise, provided they have a reasonable way to get to and from Vanga.

Two-thousand pounds of insulin, thousands of vaccines—requiring a “cold chain” or constant refrigeration—and fragile equipment such as an ultrasound machine, have made their way safely to the hospital.

“Supplies… anything we need here. It’s best if it comes by MAF,” added Kathy.

In fact, MAF brings some of the toughest cases to Vanga, like Masha, who was treated and whose leg was saved.

Tim and Kathy are familiar with the uncomfortable alternative of traveling by road, having attempted the 14-hour one-way journey, stuffed into an overloaded Toyota Land Cruiser with 12 others. A trip they vowed not to do again anytime soon.

“Bringing teams of physicians to Vanga to train Congolese would be much more limited if the team had to make an arduous day-long trip at the beginning and end of each visit,” said Tim.

“The reasonable way is MAF,” added Kathy.

 

To learn more about Masha’s story and another way that MAF serves the Vanga hospital, watch this video.

 

 


This story was featured in FlightWatch magazine. Read the full issue here:

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