Mercy Medical Team First: Training Deaconesses for Home-Based Care

This Story was posted on the LCMS website and documents the most recent Mercy Medical Team trip to Kenya last June.  The article was written by Kim Krull.  Enjoy!

ELCK Deaconesses, Kenya Ministry of Health Officers, and Volunteers from Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Zionsville Indiana) and Fort Wayne Seminary gather after five days of intensive Home Based Care training

Deaconesses with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya took part in a new home-based care training program, June 3-16, in Atemo. Mercy Medical Team members led the training and also treated more than 2,000 patients.

The most recent Mercy Medical Team (MMT) to serve in Kenya treated more than 2,000 patients and led a new home-based care training program to equip deaconesses to help ailing Africans with physical as well as spiritual needs.

"Home-based care is very important in Kenya and other African countries where AIDS is a huge problem," said Jacob Fiene, manager, Medical/Material Resources with LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC), which sponsored the June 3-16 trek to Atemo, a village in western Kenya. "This training gives people who serve at the grassroots level basic nursing skills and knowledge to use when they make home visits."

Fifty-two deaconesses with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) participated in the educational seminar. Topics included wound care, sanitation issues, and distinguishing myths from medical facts.

"There is a lot of misinformation out there, especially in regards to HIV," said Fiene, who worked with the ELCK’s Rev. David Chuchu and Kenyan health officials to launch the home-based care program.

Because Kenyan pastors serve multiple congregations, deaconesses shoulder many responsibilities, including visits with the sick. Deaconesses are theologically trained, Fiene said, and equipping them with basic nursing skills enables the women to care for both body and soul.

Two deaconesses will continue with advanced training. The goal is for these women to become certified trainers and teach future home-based care programs that reach even more Kenyans.

"By holding this one seminar, we created an opportunity that will enable care for many people even after a Mercy Medical Team returns home," Fiene said.

At the Atemo clinic, MMT volunteers worked with Kenyan medical volunteers to treat 157 cases of malaria, deliver three babies, and care for people suffering with infections and other diseases.

MMTs include health professionals who provide care in underserved communities in cooperation with local LCMS partners. Future MMTs are scheduled for Madagascar (Sept. 30-Oct. 11) and a return trip to Kenya (Nov. 4-15). Plans are in the works to return to Haiti. Check the WR-HC website for updates.

Any funds not needed for this relief effort will be used for other disaster purposes as determined by LCMS World Relief and Human Care. Your gift is tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Impressions of the Third Mercy Medical Team in Haiti

Today was the first day of clinics in Port of Prince. This is our fourth team and the third that I have led.

As we drove into the city, the level of destruction soon became clear. First it was every few structures that had crumbled to the ground. As we drew closer into the city, entire blocks lay in ruins.

As the scale of destruction dawned on me, I began thinking back on the patients at the hospital in Jimani. I had seen in their eyes the trauma they were experiencing. I had seen open fractures and severed limbs and had thought, "What a horror this must have been for these people!" I knew then and still know now that I will never understand the tragedy they had endured, but now I was a step closer to gaining a glimpse of the pain of those who remain alive on this earth.

Photos from Jimani (The location of the hospital where the first MMT arrived one week after the quake)

Driving into the city, nothing could have prepared any of us for these sights. No number of photographs or hours of news coverage would ever be able to demonstrate the sights, sounds, and smells in this city. No matter how hard I tried to focus on the coming clinics, the same word continued to dominate my thoughts:"Hopeless.... hopeless."

I had to take a step back in my mind and remind myself of why we had come here. "One person at a time," I told myself.

As the shock wore away and the discussions with patients and Haitian pastors began, I realized that the situation here in Haiti is not hopeless. This event will never be forgotten, and the course of history in Haiti and the rest of the world will be forever changed. However, the spirit of the Haitian people will not be broken. They will continue to mourn the loss of life, yet their faith in God has been strengthened.

As each patient receives treatment, as each family receives a bag of food and the decades go by and life transitions back into some resemblance of normalcy, let us never forget the strength and faith of the Christians in Haiti. No one knows the pains and hardships of this earth better than they, yet they have demonstrated a profound understanding of God's peace.

That is what I will take home with me when I return to the United States--not stories of brave and caring Americans, nor the narrative of a hopeless future. I will take home with me a lesson from the people of Haiti: that no pain or loss on this earth can ever outweigh God's mercy.