Friday morning we gathered once again under the gazebo with the entire team from Canada, UK and Ghana. It felt like just a moment had passed since NEA’s chef, Abraham, had challenged us to play our roles well two weeks ago. Joan, whom we nearly evacuated out by air ambulance the day before, was able to share her thanks to the pastors who prayed so powerfully for her. Dr. David shared scripture from 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3:
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
He challenged us to continue to move forward together to alleviate poverty in this region through work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope.
We received an unexpected visit from the Regional Medical Director and his district team. He shared the many challenges this vast area faces. Right now there are 17 doctors for 2.5 million people in the 19 districts of this region. (Note: We have 15 doctors on our team.) Many of the district hospitals have no doctor at all; they just do their best. There is one opthamologist for 2.5 million people and he is semi-retired. They have very few obstetricians and too few midwives. As a result, 90 women in the region have died in childbirth this year alone. My thoughts immediately went back to our patient who delivered twins in Busweme that we were able to help. She could have been the 91st death.
He concluded by saying that “until we can stand on our own, this partnership to provide medical, surgical, dental and eye care is making a difference in thousands of lives.” It is going to take time before sustainable health care reaches this area. Until then, he requested the continued support of Canada, and the UK and NEA. I will never forget those words “until we stand on our own.” It describes so perfectly the vision that we all have have for these people.
In our honor, the NEA staff and the team of translators played football (soccer) to the cheers of the “expats” as we are fondly called. These men know how to play soccer.
The grand finale was an outdoor party to celebrate the success of the mission with the entire team. When I say team, I’m including the almost 100 local Ghanaian volunteers who support us during our two-week stay, along with all their families. These people have become our dear friends and we know each by name. Many of us were decked out in our new outfits made by the local tailor. Some of our translators didn’t recognize us with dresses on, hair down and make up on.
Abraham cooked a feast of cream of tomato soup, roast beef, salads, vegetables all grown on the compound and grilled tilapia pulled out of the pond that day. Dessert was a pumpkin tart. After the children ate there was a flurry of activity under the gazebo and the kids were jumping and clapping and singing. I went to see what the excitement was about and discovered that each child had been given a juice box. I have never seen those kids so excited. After dinner and speeches we read out the names of each volunteer and presented them with gifts from Canada. It was a special moment, especially for some of the Ghanaian women as they heard their name over the speaker and walked to the front to the applause of the crowd. David and Brenda presented generous gifts to each team member. David concluded the party with a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving and asked God’s blessing upon us all until we can meet for supper once again. It was an emotional goodbye.
As I write, we are on the bus heading back to Accra where we will catch our flights home to UK and Canada. Most of the team is fast asleep after giving their all each and every day. It will take a long time to process all we have seen and heard and learned and felt during these two weeks. In the end over 10,000 people received medical, surgical, dental and eye care over these 2 weeks. Operation Hernia hit a record number of 288 surgical procedures.
It is impossible for me to find words to close off and summarize this mission and so I will close with a Franciscan Blessing that was passed along to our team during one of our final clinics:
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people so that you may wish for justice, freedom and peace. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
Signing off on behalf of the 2011 team with thanks to all our family and friends for supporting us and praying for us along the way.