A medical and dental team from the States spent a week in western Kenya, reaching people both physically and spiritually
Story and Photos by Katie Machell.
Dr Kyle Hudgens, a neurologist from America who has been leading trips to East Africa with Jesus Harvesters Ministry (JHM) for the last 18 years, was a passenger on MAF 1/3/5 in January when he came to Kenya with a team of volunteers to work in the village of Namwela, on the slopes of Mt Elgon in the western part of the country. When he first began this work, the teams comprised only six to eight members, which included a few physicians and nurses.
In recent years, numbers have grown to approximately 20-25, and now include physicians, dentists, pharmacists, veterinarians, physician assistants, nurse practitioner, nurses, medical students, and other volunteers. On this occasion 16 people traveled with Dr Hudgens from America, and were also joined by many Kenyan participants.
Founded in the early 1980s by the late Dr. Bishop Steve Kabachia and his wife Jennifer, the organisation is focused above all else on Jesus’ command to make disciples. Communities in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan are initially reached through clinics and community service; alongside these, the gospel is preached, churches are planted, and discipleship programs established.
Dr. Hudgens became involved in the work of JHM when a friend asked him to go to Africa in order to investigate the possibility of doing medical clinics as a tool for evangelism. Since then, many teams have come to the region and provided medical, dental and veterinarian care, as well as sharing the gospel. For each visit, the vision is clear, the planning detailed, and the strategy straightforward.
‘We team up with the Agape Fellowship Centre, our church partner, in Kenya. Under their leadership and direction, a destination city is selected. This decision is covered with much prayer and fasting. And we never go to the same place twice. Our goal is evangelism and church planting in the areas of most physical and spiritual need. Months before our team arrives, a new pastor is selected and has begun ministry within the city and surrounding area. Through Jesus Harvesters Ministry, we provide funding to build a new church structure that will serve not only as our medical clinic but the newly-planted church. When our American team arrives, we are met by approximately thirty other Agape pastors, leaders, musicians, singers and laymen who join us hand-in-hand to fulfill this great work.
While patients are waiting to enter the clinic, a pastor is preaching the Gospel. Each patient that comes to our clinic will go to our prayer tent, where a pastor will share the Gospel and pray with them. Every night, our Kenyan team holds an open-air crusade in the city. We want to reach as many as possible for Christ but it does not end there. When the clinic is completed, a new pastor is installed who is challenged with discipleship and nurturing a new flock of believers.’
During the course of this most recent week-long trip, the team attended to over 1600 patients, and saw 365 people come to the Lord as a result of the preaching and teaching. ‘We saw grown men come to faith in Christ,’ Dr Hudgens shared. ‘It is unusual to see the number of men come to Christ as did this last trip. We think that this suggest a significant change for this community.’ For Ruth Kimani, a Kenyan volunteer, this was a high point of the project. ‘It was wonderful to see how receptive people were, and willing to give their lives to God,’ she said.
A particular challenge the team faced was the high incidence of the parasite Tunga penetrans (jiggers) in the patients they saw. Dr Jeff Jones, participating for the third time on a JHM trip, commented that they had never experienced so many cases in any of the other places they had been. Jiggers almost always occurs on the feet, and if left untreated, can lead to dangerous complications such as infections, loss of toenails, and toe deformation. ‘This flea-like parasite attacks chronically dirty feet in those that do not have shoes. To that end we bought a lot of soap and flip flops after treating the infestation,’ Dr Hudgens explained.
‘We have always had a great experience when working with MAF,’ he shared at the end of the trip. ‘It is so encouraging to work with brothers and sisters who have a common goal. Our first experience MAF was when flying in to south Sudan at Kapoeta. It had been raining a lot and the strip was flooded. The pilot who was a Swedish brother went to great lengths to safely set us down on the flooded airstrip. He was a blessing. Keep up the good work.’