Stopping by Kikongo sounds easy enough. As the crow flies from Kinshasa to Vanga, it soars right over Kikongo. I sent a quick email “Dear MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship), would you stop by Kikongo on your flight to Vanga with missionary colleagues Tim and Kathy Rice?” Dr Elvis, a resident in family medicine at Vanga is doing a three-month rotation at the Kikongo hospital, not only as chief (and only) staff physician but also as temporary director of the hospital. A visit would be such an encouragement to him, and the team there”. With MAF’s agreement, I quickly contacted Dr. Elvis and purchased medicines the hospital urgently needed.
High-level delegation: Left, Dr. Mugi (Vanga Residency Coordinator ), Dr. Steve Kyota visiting surgeon, Kathy Rice, Dr. Tim Rice (Medical Director, Vanga hospital)
Later I mused on what it took, by contrast, to “stop by Kikongo” by road. On the medical coordination team visit in February, we drove six hours on the pavement in our rugged land cruiser before turning onto the dirt road toward Kikongo. We then labored ten hours to cover the 105 kilometers (65 miles), discovering with regret that it was as deplorable as ever. At one point it was so completely washed away we bushwhacked blindly for several kilometers, the road swallowed up in elephant grass and scrub trees.
Blaise heads into the brush looking for a way.
Pathfinder making good progress.
Trees too close together, have to go around.
Up to his ears in the grass, Blaise whacks away a road for us.
Aptly named Blaise, a friend we brought along to lend his strong arms for occasional road repair, became our trail blazer. Machete in hand, he whacked this way and that, frequently having to retrace his steps. Dodging termite hills and tree stumps, a meter at a time, he eventually cut us a new road. No doubt vehicles coming this way would be grateful for this trail. There’s nothing easy about “stopping by Kikongo!”
The brief visit of this high-level delegation of experienced doctors was a tremendous boost to Dr. Elvis and his team. The Kikongo staff received with enthusiasm replenishing medicines on board.
Dr. Evis (left) and the surgical nurse (right) wheel a post-op patient from the OR while receiving the visiting delegation.
As they walked through the wards, the visitors provided guidance on complex patients and words of encouragement to ‘serve well’ as if serving God himself. The hospital has dedicated nurses who through the years have worked tirelessly and sacrificially to provide the best possible care to their patients. As head of a hospital team, Dr. Elvis faced enormous responsibilities not only for patient care, but also for keeping our most isolated hospital in the Baptist network going.
A doctor like Elvis, a team of nurses like those in Kikongo, experienced physicians like Dr. Mudji and Dr. Steve, and missionaries like Tim and Kathy Rice, are Congo’s best hope for extending healing and hope to under-served and poor patients. But this work will only last beyond day to day patient care if (or when) all involved commit to raising up laborers for medical mission work in rural hospitals for the years to come.
Many of you also, who support our work, are part of this team. We thank God for your partnership in facing the challenges in extending hope, healing, and quality medical care to God’s children everywhere they are in Congo. MAF has also partnered with us, often providing subsidized flights to place physicians like Dr. Elvis on the front lines in places like Kikongo. Please pray with us for God to raise up laborers. The work is great, and challenges many. Pray also that God provides for, and prosper MAF’s ministry in Congo, for their service makes “stopping by” in many places so much easier!
God Bless You!
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