Greetings in Christ! So we are into the third day of the non-travel portion of the trip. To be honest, I was pretty wiped out and feeling a little overwhelmed my first day of clinic yesterday. The volume of needy people and the unusual (for me) and non-specific nature of many of the complaints, combined with the challenges of communicating through an (excellent) translator all while trying to have meaningful spiritual conversations with probably close to 50 people left me feeling frazzled and a little discouraged at the end of the clinic day. As I sat in the bus on the way home, I closed my eyes tried to ignore the mounting motion sickness as our truck dodged potholes and stray motorcyclists. “What did I get myself into?” I asked myself silently. I hadn’t felt so exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually for as long as I can remember. Honestly, it felt like my tank was nearly dry. How could I do this for another 6 days? Then something wonderful happened.
I had a realization- the Holy Spirit had led me to this place, placing the burden on my heart to be willing to take a risk for the gospel, why not ask Him to fill me up with His strength and power when I was here, at my emptiest place? “Holy Spirit,” I cried out silently in my heart, “I am going to need something here to keep this up for another 5 days. Please help!” Now, call me a wild charismatic (I do go to a reformed leaning charismatic church after all) but literally within seconds there was a tangible “cooling” of my body and felt a wave of fresh faith well up in me. To be honest, the Holy Spirit doesn’t really interact me with me like that most of the time, but last night it was just what I needed. It was a wonderful reminder to me that we are not battling out here on our own, but in the strength the Lord provides.
Today we did a clinic in the village of Basake. This is a village located about an hour from where we are staying. Pastor Frank Archer is hoping to plant a Baptist church here and is planning an outreach event on Saturday. We set up in a local Pentecostal church with a large crowd of people waiting for us as we arrived. As we prepared to set up the three stations of care within the church, I had the opportunity to be part of a special experience.
Most people probably don’t know this about Ghana but there is still a quite formal tribal chief structure. Part of doing these free clinics is to not only treat the sick and share the gospel, but a rather large part of them is building relational equity with the village chief, who wields a disproportionate amount of influence over access to the village. A small team of us, including the leadership of the trip and myself as the token physician to give a sort of VIP check-up for them inside their home. Though when I first heard about these VIP’s getting special treatment, it rubbed me the wrong way- VIP medicine in the states in an anathema to me. However, it was a really special experience- the chief was a large portly man who spoke with a slow but clear English. He shared about how grateful the village was to be visited by these medical specialists from the United States and told of the high expectations the people had for us to be able to heal many of their chronic medical conditions.
For many of us, hearing these expectations made us a little nervous- 90 years of osteoarthritis doesn’t just go away after a course of acetaminophen. However, we did our best to listen to their complaints (which were mild- they get most of their care in the UK) and I got the opportunity to pray with the chief’s wife, who I actually found out is a believer and who goes to the Pentecostal church that was hosting the clinic. Later on, as the morning progressed, it was a special treat when the chief’s family sent over a cooler of cold Cokes (glass bottles!) and some special little cakes that they had made for us.
This morning, clinic started slowly- we had only gotten through 70 patients by the time lunch rolled around. There were some hiccups, some awkward interactions with patients at check in and a number of people taking a detour at the chief’s home. This, especially compared to the day before where we saw 322 patients in a full day of care, was a little bit discouraging. Kyle and Amy gave us a pep talk during lunch time and encouraged us to suggest changes to our traffic flow. They did a good job of encouraging us to persevere despite a challenging morning, and by God’s grace, we saw 200 patients in the afternoon. An exciting change that took place is that more of the team has begun to feel comfortable providing spiritual care- praying with patients and sharing the gospel, from the beginning of the patient traffic flow to the end. Practicing these spiritual “skills”, in my experience, translates to increased boldness and joy in sharing the gospel back at home, hopefully in context of our secular jobs and lives- which is really exciting to me. It is also exciting to see our translators take the initiative in engaging our patients in their own heart language.
Remember that sense of wondering if we were making any lasting change in our patient’s lives? Kirsten got to experience one of those life changing moments when she placed a pair of glasses on an old man’s eyes and his eye lit up and exclaimed, “I can see you now!”. Little experiences like this are a helpful reminder that even though the primary reason that we are here is share the joy of the gospel, we get the chance to have a profound difference in people’s health and wellness as well.
Pray for the church plant in Basake and for their outreach on Saturday. The church planter’s name is Genesis and he has a passion for the gospel.
Pray for our third clinic day tomorrow- it is going to be at more distant location and has facilities that are still in flux.
Pray for the health of Dr. Mindy, who is getting over a sinus infection and wasn’t feeling at her best this morning, but managed to fight through it.
Pray that we all would enjoy the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to empower us with the strength that He provides.