Uganda 2019: Uplifting, Educational, Humbling
by Jonathan Walker, Covenant Reformed OPC, Mt. Airy, NC (August 2019)
As I grew up in a medical family that enjoyed traveling on mission trips, the seed of interest in medical missions was planted in me from a young age. Once completing Nurse Practitioner school in May, I was looking for a mission opportunity to help fill some of the time between school and starting work. The Akisyon a Jesu Presbyterian Clinic in Karamoja was a good opportunity to help in a remote clinic while experiencing some tropical medicine. My time so far has been uplifting, educational, and humbling.
Each missionary here has undoubtedly numerous duties. There is always homeschooling to complete, administrative work to be done, patients to see, outreaches to attend, Bible teachings to prepare, and repairs to be handled. It is not as easy to complete these tasks as we would be used to in America. Despite all these activities, and more, the group of missionaries God has placed here is well suited for the duties. While there is diversity among the individuals, with each having different abilities, it is amazing to see how everyone fits together in the mission work. In addition to a healthy atmosphere, it is encouraging to see the church growing. This includes many Karamojong and clinic staff. We have had nearly full church services since I have been attending.
Working in a rural African clinic has proved to be a great learning experience. It is safe to say malaria is our top diagnosis. Now in the rainy season, it seems that 75-80 percent of our patients are positive for malaria. Practicing outside the US also presents diagnostic challenges. While we have a fairly advanced laboratory and can perform many important tests, there are always cases where diagnosis is not clear. We are able to refer to hospitals in the region if there is a patient who needs more advanced care than we are able to give. The OPUM Missionary Doctor and Clinic Director, Dr. Flip Baardman, has been terrific to work with as he is teaching me many things. I know the clinic has enjoyed having him serve there.
Each month the clinic does an outreach to a local village. The purpose is to provide vaccinations, administer de-worming medication to children, give HIV testing, supply malnutrition screening, and read a Bible story. I was able to attend the most recent one in August. It was a long hike through much wet, tall grass. According to my phone, we walked 12.7 miles altogether. What struck me was that even though the hike was difficult, we were healthy. We had shoes. We had food. We had water. Can you imagine walking miles with malaria? Also, having no food for the journey and wearing worn down flip-flops? It is amazing how strong the people are, that they are able to travel great distances just to receive medical care. It is a sobering feeling to know someone traveled so far to seek your help. Of course, they receive more than medical care, they receive the Gospel, too.
In conclusion, Uganda has been a different kind of adventure. It has been a privilege to serve with a wonderful team. We trust that God is able to accomplish His plan. Please continue to pray for all the missionaries, the clinic staff, and the locals. Pray that people will be healed, both physically and spiritually. Also, if you have considered serving, I would encourage you to act!