A scream broke through the stillness of the night air, so terrible in its agony of pain and hopelessness that I awoke from my sleep and wondered what I could do. Is it the insane man? I wondered. The church planter had warned us about him. I remained quiet in the darkness: the thin partitions of my tent in the evangelist’s yard offered zero protection from a crazy man.
I heard stirring in the house nearby—the church planter had risen out of bed. A second cry sounded from a house across the sandy street. Soon, the community was awake and voices filled the night air. A man with a medical issue had just breathed his last, and the cries were ones of sorrow. The Bible worker assigned to the area had a medical background, but he could only do so much.
The next day, I blinked my eyes in the dim lighting of his clinic. There were no decorations; only a few wooden beds hugging the floor and piles of mosquito netting draped overhead. A patient lay motionless on one of the beds.
“She is one of the many here who fights malaria,” the Bible worker nodded in her direction. “We began treatment today.”
When health is concerned, the Congolese face a mountain of challenges. Our Bible workers do their best to meet the needs of their communities and to ease suffering, but even clinics in rural areas function with limited supplies and no continuing education or process of licensing and accountability. (Where I lived in northern DRC, my neighbor had her appendix removed four times. Impossible? Yes. I wonder what the surgeons removed from the poor lady each visit when she presented with pain.)
Limited medical supplies and poor medical education are dangerous combinations. For example: In a population where HIV and AIDS exist, the few folks running one small rural outpost clinic reused their IV equipment on patients in need of fluids and medication. This was a shock to me when I heard it.
According to the CIA’s World Factbook, there are 0.07 physicians to every 1,000 persons in DRC today. A shortage of medical care compels many locals to resign themselves to their fate, or to seek care from traditional witch doctors and “doctors” with no actual medical training. No doubt, this is one reason why life expectancy in Congo is low, and that the country is home to millions of orphans.
(For years now, Mandine Ongasa has played an active role in TT2F ministry. All the while, she has felt a compelling burden to become a physician so that she can train medical missionaries in current, life-saving health care. With this vision, the Ongasa family has stepped out in faith to enroll Mandine in medical school in Congo. Each school year is an investment into a brighter future where more people have the chance to know Jesus. This worthy cause is in need of support, with one year of classes costing $1,500. The Ongasa family appreciates your prayers.)
A cry has broken through the security of my life in the States now; so terrible in its pain and hopelessness that I often wonder what more I can do to help the hurting. During these unsettled times, I feel pressed to store up “treasure in heaven.” Will you join me?