operation-176x117So what is Hell I hear you ask? Well I have always thought that one of the best descriptions of Hell is this "Hell is the absence of God".

As those of you who are people of faith you will know Hell is not reserved for those who tell God they don't need him. There is another type of hell in some ways not unlike the eternal model but is also produced by the rejection of God's values for society, lack of compassion for those who suffer, and a belief that possessions will fill our existence with meaning.

Congo often gives you a glimpse of just how hellish life can be. A people constantly robbed of hope for improved living standards. No free education, no free medical care, no retirement pension, all the wealth reserved for a small privileged or dominating class. Perhaps that's why many Congolese actively seek the presence of God. To pray for many Congolese is as natural as to eat.Add to this the average Congolese doesn't spend time blaming God for the ills of life he or she knows it is man that creates the mess.

So it was that on the 19th of Nov with a team of four doctors (three Congolese and Dr Fry from Ireland) and three bible teachers we boarded a Missionary Aviation flight to visit some troubled areas to try and bring hope to hellish situations.

The first stop was Mitwaba where our brave medical team (Dr Alan) has been providing the only medical intervention in a combat area. To our relief we arrived as large helicopters were ferrying in UN troops to a new base to create a buffer between the warring factions. As we lifted off one is conscious of the would be rebels who delights in taking pot shots at aircraft, and we gazed at our new little hospital and then at our large hospital that was completely destroyed ten years before!!

Mulongo Hospital our next stop, was teaming with patients and extra folk seeking the surgeon's knife in an attempt to resolve serious medical issues. For the next 5 days from morning to night the operating theatres became places of surgical training and more importantly lifesaving procedures. These included prostates, goitres, amputations, fistula repairs, abdominal tumours, typhoid abscess and many more. About 36 operations were performed. Dr Graham Fry & Dr Serge Yumba were also training others in each procedure.

All the while the cholera was being dealt with 100 yards away. Over 280 cases thus far. Five have died, all the others saved. We have had to buy additional fluids to effect this saving of lives. Government reaction has a different illness called social paralysis!

Mid-way through this visit I travelled up the river 15km with the head doctor (Dr Ilunga) to open a clinic we have built with funding from Dr David McAdam.

Welcomed by hundreds, we carried with us a large supply of medicines. We sang, preached and cut a ribbon made from a bandage to open the clinic. We handed the clinic over to the population and the nurse who was trained at our main hospital at Mulongo to give the care. We reminded the gathered crowd that while we could heal many sicknesses the sickness of sin needed the great Physician. Some came to faith that day! A fatal illness being dealt with!!

Next day M.A.F flew in some more supplies and took Dr Serge & I to visit anew area one hour north. Nyunzu is an area where mining companies have been mining gold. It is also an area where we once had a hospital. Abandoned and destroyed by Rwandan troops back in the 2001 period, it was sobering to see the destruction. We were taken on a whistle stop tour to many churches, schools and clinics. The welcome from the government administrator was humbling as he welcomed us warmly, supplied us his 4WD to get around, asked us to consider working in the area and requested that we bring bibles to sell next time!

From Mulongo we flew to Luanza. As we began our decent towards Luanza I looked down on the village of Dubie. Just three weeks before over 150 had been killed there in a bloody confrontation between Government troops and Mia Mia rebels. The local population have fled the area, some taking refuge in Luanza.

At Luanza it was a day of opening of our newly completed operating theatre. Rumours of rebel activity in the surrounding hills scarcely drew a second thought. It was time to celebrate. More lives saved, more training of medical staff.

The flight back to Lubumbashi saw us winding our way around storm clouds and later in the evening at the kind invitation of DR Fry, easing tired bones into the seats of a local Indian eating house. Now you would wonder why having eaten all sort of bush tucker to no ill, WHY one Indian meal should have turned me into a jet propelled missionary. As I coped with the rapid passage of my dinner I was reminded of the space shuttle launch and was happy to finally land in bed. Not cholera so I should be thankful but definitely hellish!! Smile a little it does help.

Tags: DRC | Hospital | Medical | Mulongo | Murray & Joy

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