Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lessons from Nepal: A Vehicle for the Gospel

Fear defeats more people than any
other one thing in the world.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I want to shout it from the rooftops, or rather the mountaintops: medical clinics for the poor in underdeveloped and developing countries are a vehicle to proclaim the Gospel to the lost!

It was the third day of our clinic in the first Nepali mountain village we visited and we were told during our morning devotions that the people would most likely take advantage of the recent rain to plow and plant their fields. Unfortunately Nepal has been caught in the throes of a drought for some time now and the thunder storms we had been having each day provided the answer to the prayers of many. This would most likely mean that the number of patients at the final clinic day in this village would be down.

And indeed, we were able to see all of the 150 to 200 patients waiting to be seen by about 2:00pm, easily two hours earlier than the previous two days. But that day I personally had possibly the most poignant divine appointment of the two week mission.

The patients waited in line to be seen by a triage nurse who would get the appropriate vital signs and question the patient regarding their physical complaints. The nurse would then assign the patient to a specific practitioner. Our Ob/Gyn doctor, another obstetrical nurse, and I would see the women with "female complaints." Our GI doctor would see patients with stomach/intestinal complaints as well as some with generalized physical symptoms. Dr. Thapa, a Nepali doctor who volunteer two weeks of his time to help with our clinics, would see patients with symptoms of diseases that we don't treat often in the U.S. like leprosy and viruses peculiar to the region. He also saw most of the infants and children. And the Occupational Therapist on the team saw patients with muscular-skeletal pain and/or injury. The triage nurse wrote each patient's chief medical complaint on a triage form and sent the individual to the appropriate practitioner.

Relatively early in the day a rather young, nicely dressed woman handed me her triage paper. On it were notations of a few superficial complaints, nothing that alerted me to any significant medical problems. But then I read, "cannot sleep." Considering the fact that the team was sleeping in sleeping bags on cement floors with no electricity and an outhouse about 50 yards away which was only a hole in the ground I was somewhat unsympathetic! In spite of trying to maintain a professional demeanor, I smiled a little and thought, "Join the club, honey!" But my grin disappeared when I read the final comment on her note, "is fearful."

My first thought was that the nurses doing triage are always swamped with long lines of people waiting to be seen, so they try to get to the major symptoms as quickly as possible. Part of the role of the specialized doctors and nurses was to question the patient more in depth about their complaints. If this poor woman was so plagued by fear that it was one of the first things she communicated to the triage nurse, this was neither a laughing nor small matter.

After quickly addressing the more minor complaints I said to the patient, through my interpreter, Gabi, "This says that you are having trouble sleeping at night."
Her response was, "Yes, I have many thoughts that go around and around in my head and they will not allow me to sleep."
"Do these thoughts make you afraid?"
"What are you afraid of?"
"Many things. I am afraid for my children."
"Are you afraid of death?"
"Have you ever heard about Jesus?"
"He can calm your fears and bring you peace. Would you like to get to know Him?"

My spirit leaped within me! Where are our pastors? Where are our spiritual counselors? This is much too important to speak through translator, even a good one like Gabi. This woman needs to speak to someone who knows her culture and language intimately. I need help here!

I told this gentle woman that I was going to take her to someone who would introduce her to Jesus. And with my arm around her shoulder I led her out the door to a dedicated, Godly man who has been on the PUMA staff in Nepal for several years. After explaining the situation to Phillip he tenderly walked Sipa to the shade of a nearby tree and there she met Jesus!

Later that day Phillip reported to the team that Sipa accepted Jesus as her Savior and went home with a Nepalese Bible. She told Phillip that she could be in danger for leaving her Hindu religion. He suggested that she privately read her Bible and pray for her family members that they would come to know the True and Living God. Our team is praying for dear Sipa and her family that some day we will see them all in heaven.

I want to shout it from the mountaintops!

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