Missions Highlight: Kevin Duncan
By Kevin Duncan
A highlight on missions: You are likely aware of SBC's ongoing partnerships such as Mercy Tech Mission, Father's Heart Projects and the Canadian Baptist Ministry. We thought you would enjoy reading about some of the individuals whom SBC has supported as they stepped out in faith to serve the Lord and serve others and we hope to highlight some of these over the next few weeks.
This past summer I had the opportunity to volunteer as a nurse in northern Togo (Africa) for two and a half months. I worked primarily in the emergency and ICU of a recently built ABWE (Association of Baptists for World Evangelism) hospital that provided healthcare to a large rural region including many patients from the neighbouring countries. There was no shortage of need for this hospital. Within the first year the hospital provided care for 2500 medical inpatients, 1000 surgical cases, and sees approximately 60 clinic patients daily. The hospital saw 1000 patients in the first 10 days after opening. The hospital has been working to train local staff but for the interim has been severely understaffed. Part of the hospital was closed over the last year specifically due to nursing shortages. It was nice to feel I was meeting a real need, not just visiting as a medical tourist.
My day-to-day experience felt quite familiar at times, and completely absurd at others. Routine practices were continually interrupted - whatever could go wrong usually would go wrong. Medication would run out, the blood bank wouldn’t have blood, the power would go out, equipment would stop working or half work, and donated supplies never seemed to be compatible. However, the local staff are amazingly resourceful. Most problems can be solved with enough time and tape. In general, the hospital is very efficient and flexible. The small team made communication easy and things happened quickly. A call to the surgeon would have him over in two minutes because he lived on compound. Within minutes of arrival a patient could be on the table in the OR.
Patients were generally very sick. Malaria was everywhere. Even if a patient was in for something completely unrelated they often also had malaria which is usually not a big deal in adults but can be deadly in children. Snake bites and motorcycle accidents were seemingly tied for second place. Severe infections were also common. These often were minor infections that became severe because of limited access to healthcare.
In addition to medical care, the hospital also had an excellent chaplain team who not only provided spiritual care but also provided counselling and social work services. They helped combat some of the root causes of poor health and went beyond the hospital to engage positive change in the community. They helped arrange stable food supplied for malnourished families worked to provide clean water within the neighbouring regions.
Many basic public health initiatives have yet to be implemented or adopted. Motorcycles and bicycles are almost exclusively the modes of transportation but no one wears helmets. Headlights seem to be a feature that come with new motorcycles but once burnt out usually stay that way.
I really enjoyed having my own motorcycle (with headlights) and getting to see the countryside. There were some truly beautiful places to explore and interesting things to see. Simply observing what people could transport using a motorcycle was entertainment enough. Some notable achievements were a cow, four full sized pigs, and probably most impressive was a man with a woman on the back who had a double size mattress on her head.
I would like to thanks SBC for their financial support and prayers. Being in Togo was such a blessing for me and hope to return when time allows.