Episcopal Diocese of Albany, NY
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Christ the King Spiritual Life Center: 575 Burton Road - Greenwich, NY 12834 - (518) 692-9550

Sudan 2007

It is extremely difficult to express in writing the many mixed feelings of my recent two-week mission trip to Sudan. I was but one member of a larger mission team, a group comprised of Dcn. Patti Johnson from Albany Diocese, David Gough from CMS-I, Jane Corbett, a nurse and Board member of CMS-I, Dr. Trevor Buchanan, an Ophthalmologist, and Warnock Edmund, an electrician from Ireland.

The Sudan is the largest and one of the most geographically diverse countries in Africa. Almost the size of Europe and a 35 million population, Sudan recently emerged from a 21 year civil war with the northern government. The brutal war is estimated to have cost the lives of 1.5 million people, bringing with it 2 million refugees from 9 bordering countries. Many are returning with a multitude of diseases.

Arriving at Maridi, we visited the Bethasaida Clinic. We learned that the facility had two Clinical Officers in training and two Laboratory Technicians. Plans for expansion include Prenatal and Antenatal care. It was gratifying to see that we are empowering our brothers and sisters of the New Sudan to deal with the health issues and education in their own country.

The construction of the new clinic in Yei is nearing completion and will soon be fully utilized. Health care providers are currently treating patients in the old building and are also working with the local medical school to provide clinical experience for new students. Programs for patients concerning clean water, malaria prevention, HIV/Aids and parenting classes have already been instituted. An “Eye Clinic” is being planned and will be located next to the Martha clinic. Trevor Buchanan, an ophthalmologist from Ireland, examined and provided reading glasses to 500 people! A satellite clinic will soon be reaching out to even more people who otherwise would not have any access to any healthcare.

Disheartening was the discovery of widespread disease; probably more so since the return of the thousands of refugees brought on by war. In the third world countries, a child dies every three seconds of malaria. In our testing, the results were staggering - more than 50% tested positive for disease. An overwhelming amount of “River Blindness” was diagnosed, however no medicine was available in the clinic, hospital or any of the pharmacies in Maridi or Yei. Diarrhea is still the leading cause of mortality in young children under the age of five, due to lack of clean water and hygiene.

The local hospital in Maridi has been in disrepair for 20 years, and only one doctor was present during our visit. The Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Emergency ward and Medical ward were full of patients lying on beds or mattresses on the floor, with only their families to handle their daily needs. No X-ray or Ultrasound machines were found. The Operating Room was merely a room with three light bulbs hanging from the ceiling hovering over the barest of surgical equipment.

When the hospital runs out of medicine, patients are sent to the Bethasaida clinic to have prescriptions filled. There are never enough drugs to treat all the patients, so they leave and go home only to try another day. I examined patients with large tumors in the abdomen and pelvis, however there is no place to send them for definitive care except to Uganda. Unfortunately, that care is not possible. Primary Care in Sudan doesn’t include the more complex health problems such as Diabetes, Hypertension and Heart Disease.

There is a strange neurological disease common among children called Nodding Disease. When children have food placed in front of them, they begin a nodding process or some questionable seizure. The children cannot eat, therefore they eventually starve to death. This disease is very common along the Yei River, and may be attributed to the chemical warfare and poisoning of the Yei River during the war.

When one witnesses all the devastation, it is overwhelming. We cannot help ask ourselves and God….Why? Why do we have what we have? Why do these people have disease, dirt, death and the terrible memories of war and suffering?

When we pulled up to Maridi there were 800 plus young students lining the dirt path singing “We Welcome our Visitors in Jesus’ Name,” and the all time favorite, “Jesus is Number One.” Hearing them sing brought tears to my eyes. I thanked the Lord for bringing me back to these people who care very much for me as we unite under one God. Bishop Justin walked out of the crowd of young people with his all-familiar smile as he welcomed us to his humble village with prayer, thanking the Lord for delivering the team safely. Bishop Justin said, “God kept us alive for a reason and we wait for what He has for us”. This is how he ministers to his flock. Bishop Justin is an amazing man who has brought his people through terrible times and will continue to lead them to a new era of peace.

Our time in Maridi was well spent, focusing on much-needed priorities. Topping the list are Healthcare and Education. We need to continue to pray for peace and stability in Southern Sudan. Pray for Bishop Justin to continue leading the people of Maridi and the very programs we started. HealthLine Sudan needs to grow. This burden I bring back to share with my fellow brothers and sisters of the Albany Diocese.

Many miracles were witnessed on this trip; one was my own healing when I became severely ill. Everyone prayed over me and I was healed! I witnessed the hardships these people live with each and every day, and, it is a miracle they are still alive. This is not a “God forsaken” place. God has blessed these people; they recognize this fact and they are thankful for it. I pray that the Lord gives me strength to pass their message on to anyone who will listen.

I still have the vision of the children running down the street to greet us singing “God is number one.……Alleluia …Amen.. God is good…every day.”

Kevin Steckline
Christ Church, Gilbertsville

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