Routine. As the fourth medical clinic in Bombo, Uganda, unfolded, one could hope for some routine. Right? Maybe this year, we could put the clinic on autopilot and just enjoy the ride. Surely, there would be something routine in the mission of 2011. But there is really nothing routine about a medical clinic in Bombo. Except the scenery. And the fact that we will continue to develop ever-deepening friendships as we serve side by side with the local church.
As the tubs left in 2010 were unpacked and the suitcases containing fresh medical supplies from the States were opened, it became clear that this was not going to be just another clinic. The pharmacy was to be located in a brand new space, recently completed as an elementary classroom, but quickly converted into a pharmacy and storeroom just a day before our arrival. There were now six spacious classrooms available for use during the clinic, and the folks from the church were busily installing partitions in each of those rooms to provide space for multiple doctors as we unpacked our supplies.
The clinic staff had met in Kampala on Saturday morning, and by the afternoon we were setting up shop 20 miles away in Bombo. The meeting in the morning was not all that encouraging, as not many doctors and support staff were available to attend. With a little bit of faith, the clinic opened its doors on Sunday afternoon for the church members, and our four doctors saw some five dozen patients. It was a rather routine start, for a medical clinic.
But what a difference a day makes. When the team of 18 from the United States arrived on Monday morning for the official launch of the clinic, it was clear that any semblance of routine was out the window this year. There would be nothing routine about 2011. One of the waiting areas under a tent was already full, and there was a line which stretched clear off the church property of people waiting for the chance to see a doctor.
How were our four doctors from Sunday going to handle this crush of humanity? Only with the help of the 37 new doctors who showed up on Monday morning. The clinic was off and running with the largest Monday crowd ever. By Friday, the clinic had seen 5,701 patients. The partnership between Operation Healthy Africa, Peninsula Community Church, and Bombo Pentecostal Church made this clinic anything but routine. It was instead, life changing.
We saw more patients than ever before. Though the surgical count did not equal previous years – because we did not bring a surgeon and had no theater available until after the clinic was rolling – the clinic dispensed more medicine than ever. Gave out more glasses than ever. Did more HIV testing than ever. And, consumed more local food than ever. The clinic is providing such an impact to the community surrounding the church, that someone even donated a live goat to the clinic, to provide a delicious meal for the support staff on Friday afternoon. That was a significant sacrifice by someone in the local church. This was not ordinary clinic.
As we packed up what was left of our supplies and medicines this year, it was clear that the medical mission was changing lives in Bombo. Well, even in greater Uganda. It is changing the lives of the people in the church, who participate faithfully and tirelessly all week long to make the clinic operation just about glitch-free. They are learning to share and to give and so partner with us. It took well over 100 volunteers to register, feed, drive, and care for the patients.
The lives of our team of 18 were touched beyond words as we interacted with many different medical situations. Lives were saved which were in desperate need of care. And the touch on those who rarely feel compassion changes both the one who touches and the one who is touched.
And then there is David, a local dentist from Kampala, who has been at every one of the Bombo medical missions. He is the tallest and nicest guy you’d ever hope to meet. A friend. This year he related how he has seen dental hygiene improve dramatically over these past four years. That is something easily seen, but it is happening. Lives are changing.
The clinic is touching lives even beyond the scope of the local church in which it is held. People are coming from over 50 miles away for treatment, and going back home wanting more of the love they have experienced on the campus of the clinic. A church was even planted back in one of those communities because of the love demonstrated at the clinic. The Bombo clinic is reaching beyond ethnic, religious, cultural, and economic barriers. It is not a routine medical mission.
The challenge is always what is next, but it is clear that at least in one corner of needy Africa there is more than can be done by a handful of people who really love God and love the people of Uganda. May the clinic never be routine, but may the love and grace of God direct our paths as we share the overwhelming compassion of God in a small corner of the world.
Also check out the blog at: www.easysite.com/uganda