West Africa (RBD, MNN) — “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” This ancient Jewish proverb proved true recently as a medical caravan had to be moved on short notice due to an Ebola outbreak.
Since the outbreak began in Guinea, more than 100 deaths have been reported. Infections have also been reported in Liberia, and there are about 50 suspected cases in Sierra Leone.
Reach Beyond President and CEO Wayne Pederson says one of their healthcare teams was supposed to hold clinics in Sierra Leone this month.
“The Ebola outbreak is kind of a scary thing,” he notes. “It’s killed a lot of people in West Africa, and it’s 90-percent fatal.”
Ebola, a hemorrhagic fever with a fatality rate of up to 90 percent, has killed more than 185 people in West Africa since March. Mostly limited to central Africa, wild animals first infect people with Ebola and the virus quickly spreads through human-to-human contact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Ebola first emerged on the world stage 20 years ago.
To protect their teams from infection, Reach Beyond moved the mobile medical clinics to northern Ghana. This region is home to many Muslims and animists, people that usually don’t respond to evangelism.
But, there’s something about healthcare that sparks conversations about eternity.
“By demonstrating care for people’s temporal welfare, we find that they’re much more open to hear the Good News: that God has a plan of salvation for them,” says Pederson.
Missionary doctor Mark Nelson served on the seven-member team with his wife, Laurie (also a physician), their two children, Philip and Alisa, Sheila Leech (Reach Beyond’s Vice President of Global Healthcare), and Michelle Sonius.
Reach Beyond’s mobile medical clinics provided care for approximately 300 people in three villages over the course of three days. Church planters were able to join the team on the second day, sharing the Gospel with patients and reading Bible stories to the children.
“The villages were very needy health-wise,” said Mark. “The kids struggled with malaria and parasites without much intervention available, so treatment for these maladies was much appreciated. The adults were glad to have a general checkup, having their blood pressure checked and medications for conditions such as hypertension and chronic pain.”
Another mobile medical clinic is being planned for later this year, following the rainy season and once the Ebola outbreak has passed, with Reach Beyond’s partner in Sierra Leone.
In two weeks, Pederson is visiting Accra to dedicate a new Tree of Life medical clinic. Reach Beyond helped fund and staff the clinic.
“We have found out that there is great need and great opportunity to go into northern Ghana with medical teams,” says Pederson.
“Using that (the new clinic) as a base, we are sending medical teams into northern Ghana to do health screening, nutrition, hygiene, disease prevention, primary and preventive medicine.”
“We proclaim God’s love through the radio outreach, and through the media we use,” Pederson explains. “And, we demonstrate God’s love through healthcare.”