Going into this medical missions experience, my main goals were to give, share, and learn. My long-term experience in working with people from the African continent made me interested in seeing the context of real life for these people. I was not disappointed by my experience on this trip to Ghana.
Seeing suffering and hopelessness is always difficult. On the fourth day of work, there was a child lying on the ground outside of the pharmacy, sick with malaria. His temperature was 104.8 the first time I took it. He was 12 years old and 40 pounds. I went and found a doctor to come and examine him where he was lying, and we began to treat him with medications and fluids. It was a painful scene and we had no guarantee that this child would continue to be cared for after we left.
Receiving patients as a nurse in this context was a stretching experience for me. I had to learn to recognize symptoms of diseases I had never seen before. I also had to quickly learn how to communicate through an interpreter and understand local non-verbal communication. Many problems I encountered were familiar, but some were not. Some of my patients may have been victims of local practices that involved sexual slavery. However, I did see hope in this situation.
I saw hope in the large numbers of local volunteers who showed up to help. Many were pastors and were prepared to follow up on our patients after we left. I saw hope in the quiet dignity with which the local people carried themselves. I saw hope in the attention people gave when I shared with them about hope in Christ. I saw hope in my interpreter who went far beyond the call of duty in helping me take care of patients. I saw hope when a local woman stopped me when I was walking back from lunch and profusely thanked me for everything my team was doing.
I specifically recall one woman who came with a child. The child’s belly bulged, and we suspected a bad case of worms. The mother’s blood pressure was extremely high and she had a history of a stroke. As a I talked with her, tears came as she shared the desperation of her situation. She had six children, including two sets of twins. After her stroke a year and a half ago, her husband left her. She knew about her blood pressure problem, but did not trust local doctors. However, when the American team came, she decided to come for treatment. I told her that God is the husband of widows and the Father of the fatherless and that He is the perfect Provider. I pray that she left with hope.
The main lesson I learned from this trip is that Christ gives hope and that He is present in the most broken situations. I will remember many of the people I saw for the rest of my life, and I will try to incorporate the lessons I learned into my continuing practice.