Visit to the Congo May 2016

Deaconess Hospital of Nundu

Visit to the Congo, May 15-29, 2016

Seeing and Hearing in New Ways

On May 25 church leaders of the Free Methodist Church and staff of Deaconess Hospital of Nundu dedicated the newly constructed pediatrics building.  This new pediatric building of brick and mortar construction provides fifty pediatric beds, allowing for expansion of inpatient and outpatient services.  Randy Matthewson and Habibu, a local Congolese FM Church member, together supervised the construction of this urgently needed facility.

Until the completion of this new facility, pediatric patients occupied two wards in a deteriorating prefab building constructed about thirty years ago.   Funds came from various sources including the Canadian Free Methodist Church, the Butterfield Memorial Foundation and a personal donation of Myra and Bob McCloud.  Myra (Adamson) pioneered the medical work at Nundu, and Bob, along with his first wife Ruby, worked for many years as a builder and teacher in Central Africa and Kenya.

Connie and I were privileged to be a part of this celebration as we had planned a visit to the Congo to see the completion of this project as well as reconnect with the leadership of the Free Methodist Church of the Congo.  We wanted to see and hear what the Lord has been doing in the Congo.  We also wanted to experience the African realities impacting the lives of our people in the Congo.   We prayed daily in preparation for our visit that the Lord would direct us in our activities and meetings.   God answered prayer.

We met with Bishop Lubunga W’Ehusha and several other church leaders.  In the course of our conversations we felt a sense of common purpose and shared vision for the work of the Free Methodist Church in the Congo.  We visited Hope University of Congo (UEC) and met with their staff.  The rector Dr. Ir Nyamangyoku Obedi has a large vision for the university, which includes developing a 40 hectare campus near Mshimbakye and provision of majors in six disciplines.

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The Nundu School of Nursing (ITM) continues with 39 students in the first year, 35 second year, 45 third year and 67 fourth year.  There are 9 full time faculty and staff, including Prefet Wakilongo Kajogwa.  After graduation the nurses take positions with the hospital or at one of the 21 health posts.  Midwifery training was started last year.  

Meetings with Dr. Samy Lebunga, coordinator of healthcare ministries of the Free Methodist Church in the Congo, and Samuel, his assistant, reminded us that medical ministries are not limited to Nundu.  Mshimbakye Maternity and Health Center serves a population in excess of 30,000 in an area south of Nundu.  Concerns include staff salaries, repair of buildings and provision of medications.  Other healthcare ministries include an urban hospital in Bukavu Hospital and a rural hospital in Nakiele.  Dr. Samy and staff have written a request for funding of a Maternal Child Health Program.

We also met with Dr. Sharaf, the Medical Director of the hospital, with the goal of fostering healthy, collaborative relationships with the staff at Nundu.   Encouragement of staff with salary subsidies and professional development is an ongoing concern.  Maintenance of medication stock without interruption is a priority.  The medical staff is concerned about the ongoing poverty which often makes it difficult for patients to pay for treatment.  In the face of political and economic uncertainty, malaria, malnutrition and gastrointestinal infections continue to be all too prevalent .

A meeting with the Director of the Health Zone, Dr. Mantodoni Joseph, was a highlight of our visit.   Primary healthcare and community development have been priorities dating back to the early days of the medical work in the Congo and continue to be so today.   An additional connection with our history is the fact that Dr. Mantodoni is another one of our doctors who attended a Free Methodist primary school and then returned to Nundu to serve our population.

We had opportunities to talk with Randy and Alice Matthewson concerning the importance of having expatriate presence on a more permanent basis.  We also talked about the impact of the political realities of Central Africa on the Free Methodist Church of the Congo.  It is a blessing to see how the church has taken ownership of the medical work, rebuilt the hospital and provided medical services under difficult conditions.   

Meeting with church leaders as well as leaders of the medical work tells us that we are of one mind and purpose.  The opportunities, though challenging, can be addressed as we move ahead in faith.  As we prepared for this trip, we requested your prayers.  God answered prayer.  We saw a lot, heard a lot and the Lord spoke to our hearts.  Now where do we go from here?

  • Pray for wisdom and cultural discernment.
  • Identify projects which will address priority needs.
  • Have feet on the ground to encourage our staff, host volunteers and assist with accountability.  This could include a VISA or career appointment of one or two couples.   
  • Develop the housing needed to accommodate volunteers.
  • Agree to the essentials which will nurture a healthy work environment.
  • Increase our funding base by identifying interested individuals and collaborating agencies.
  • Tell the story.  Expand the Champions for Congo email list.  Update postings on the CAHO web page.
  • Review this report and identify opportunities for which you have a heart. The needs are compelling and urgent.  God will answer in His time, but we should be ready to respond as He speaks.

The following have been identified as priority projects:

  • Double the salary subsidy from $1500/m to $3000/m and medicine subsidy (from $500 to $1000/m).
  • Assure the functioning of the office of the medical coordination (Dr. Samy and Samuel his administrative assistant) at a cost of $500/m.
  • Installation of solar electricity is a top priority.  This will require an estimated $80,000 in additional funds.
  • Upgrade the lab at a cost of about $5000.  Perhaps we can identify an ex-pat volunteer who would give our lab tech in-service training on all essential procedures, including the operation of a new Chem 7 machine. 
  • Upgrade duplex – $5000
  • Rehab Hadduck house – $30,000
  • Complete a partially built hospital staff house – $30,000.
  • Address the infrastructure needs at Mshimbakye, including ceiling in maternity and repair of the inpatient ward building – $10,000.
  • Subsidies for staff and medications at Mshimbakye and in Bukavu. 
  • Update ITM library – $500
  • Small medical equipment including BP cuffs, stethoscopes, scales – $500
  • Completion of Maternity – $10,000

I would ask that we pray for the Congo and allow the Lord to direct and speak. I have once again seen the realities of the lives of our brothers and sisters in the Congo.  I have heard their hopes and aspirations.  What has been accomplished in the Congo is amazing. We are privileged to be a part of God’s work. Send your contributions to CAHO c/o the Free Methodist Foundation. Indicate the project you wish to support.  

Download Powerpoint 2016 Trip

Tim Kratzer