"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Friday, April 29, 2005 The Hospital Further tales from our trip to the Anglican Diocese of Lui in Southern Sudan Lui is blessed.
How can that be? The estimate we heard was that under-five mortality rate in Lui is between 30 and 50%. Moru children are dying of nodding disease. There is one type of tree that, whenever you see it, you notice that all the bark is scraped off it because the bark is used to make a local remedy for malaria - which effects just about everyone. Just about everyone we met in the Lui/Mundri area had lost somebody ... to illness, to war, to something.
And yet Lui is blessed ... not just with amazing people with amazing resilience and amazing faith ... but with the Samaritan's Purse Hospital.
Samaritan's Purse is a nonprofit founded by Franklin Graham (Billy Graham's son). It calls itself "a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world." In Lui, Samaritan's Purse is not described in a sentence but in individual words.
SP has been working in Sudan since 1993. In 1997, they built an 80-bed hospital in Lui. We were told that patients are flown into Lui/Mundri from all over ... including Khartoum ... because SP has technology -- like ultrasound -- that even hospitals in Khartoum don't have. It is one of the only surgical facilities in all Southern Sudan ... and also one of the few places where Western-trained doctors (usually with World Medical Mission ... the medical part of SP) come to practice.
And still, even with all this, Gomer, the hospital administrator who showed us around the hospital Sunday afternoon, gave us the 30-50% under-five mortality rate (the actual rate is impossible to know since war has prevented data-gathering. But when Gomer was in Sierra Leone, the under-5 mortality rate there was around 30% ... and he says its significantly worse here.
At least now, with the peace agreement in place, they don't have to worry about attack. But that hasn't always been the case. Whenever the government bombed Lui, the hospital was a prime target. Read this article on the SP website to learn more. As we walked through it, we walked through buildings where the floor was the ruin of the old, bombed out hospital and the rest of the building had been built on top of it. Here the floor Bishop Smith is walking on is "old hospital" and the surrounding walls and ceiliing is "new hospital"
And yet, through it all, the hospital has never closed.
We came bearing gifts. Susan Naylor, a nurse as well as a deacon, had collected a suitcase of medical supplies for the hospital. When we were actually there and looked at the enormity of the crisis, it seemed like so little ... but we also knew that it was dearly needed and graciously and gratefully received.
Gomer and Jeffries took us on a walking tour of the hospital, showing us the various wards, introducing us to various doctors on duty.
When I was in Ghana, my greatest fear was getting sick while I was there. I realize how completely dependent I have become on Western medicene and the norms of medical care in this country (since I am among the fortunate in this country to have medical insurance).
For example, today Schroedter came down with a high fever at school so I picked him up and took him to his pediatrician. It's a typical American suburban doctor's office. Fish tank and books and toys in the waiting room. Everything is sterile and very clean. The whole place gives you a feeling of competence and confidence.
As we walked through the Lui hospital, the feeling was very different. Here was the waiting area.
... which all things considered is really in great shape. We were taken to the labor/delivery and maternity ward where a nurse showed us the exam/birthing room.
Again, incredible by Lui standards -- concrete floors that can be swept and kept clean. A ceiling that doesn't have dirt continually falling out of it contaminating a sterile field. But by the standards we are used to ...
And yet Lui is blessed. Incredibly so. The Lui Hospital is an amazing undertaking. Doctors come here and train the locals to be nurses and, eventually they hope, doctors. They desperately need doctors to come in and train people so they won't be dependent on Westerners flying in for six-month stints.
The hospital is an impressive operation. This is the staff board ... and it gives you an idea of how many people the hospital employs. In a small speck of a village where just about every structure is pretty tukal-like, the hospital is actual buildings.
It gives a sense of permanency to a place that in someways looks like it could blow away otherwise.
One of the signs of hope in the hospital compound is this:
Not only is it new construction (as I've said before ... one of the wonderful signs of peace) but it's a nursing school. Their goal is to train nurses not just for the Lui Hospital but to send out into the bush and (maybe) to start clinics. But they need people who can come over here and train. Susan was excited about the possibilities of linking the nursing community (particularly the parish nursing community) in St. Louis with SP's work here.
It is hard to imagine what Lui would be like without Lui Hospital and Samaritan's Purse. If it weren't that the people are so extraordinary, I'd say that maybe Lui wouldn't be there at all ... but I know it would find a way to be. But you wonder what things like malaria would be doing to the population here if the hospital weren't around. As it is, they still have a tough time getting locals to seek the formal medical treatment ... many still prefer local remedies that are sporadic at best (such as the tree bark for malaria).
It's also another example of what increased infrastructre could do. Lui is a difficult place to get to and a difficult place to live. That makes it a difficult place to attract outsiders to. Better roads. Better water. Electricity. These things wouldn't just improve the lot for the residents ... they would make it easier to attract doctors and teachers and the people who can speed the pace of development.
Probably if you lined me up with Franklin Graham, we would have large theological differences ... but we do not differ where it counts -- that being disciples of Christ first and foremost means giving up our lives for the sake of the world. It means going into places like this that the world has written off (if the world even knows it exists) and bringing medicene to the dying, food to the hungry, and water to the thirsty.
Lui has wonderful people doing those things. And even more amazing, the people we talked with who are coming in and doing these things could only talk about how blessed they were by the work and the people.
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."