We love nurses and all types of medical people. When needed the most throughout the Horn of Africa, especially Somalia, believers who are medically trained had come out of the woodwork to give some of the most sacrificial service to God imaginable on the planet.
In horrific places they had helped us reduce malnutrition rates from 85% to 8%. In another environment we found that 87% of the children had never been inoculated. By the time we were forced from that region seven years later, the rate was in the single digits also. For decades in the Northeast Province no twins had survived in living memory. We began a goat project for mothers of twins and the occasional triplets. Any mother who could present us with newborn twins or triplets would get a milking goat that would supplement the mother’s milk, virtually guaranteeing the survival of these newborn babies. Over the next few years it was a joy to see the first-ever twins and triplets survive due directly to a simple goat project. Yet local people must’ve thought this white man from Kentucky looked simple of mind and could be easily fooled. Arriving at various villages, once the goat project became known throughout the region, mothers would present us with their “twins,” one which was obviously a newborn, with the second “twin” being old enough to have a full head of hair, a number of teeth, and walking!
Sometimes we gave them a goat anyway just for their creativity.
All of the environments in which we sought to serve were very hostile to the person of Jesus and those who called themselves His followers. In the beginning we had poor language skills and our medical efforts were often staffed by young nurses fresh out of school. As older nurses joined our projects we purposely sought to increase our witness, sharing with local people our motivation for coming in assisting those in need. Our older nurses began to pray for those we would treat, even in the most hostile of environments.
It is hard to close both eyes and pray in a hostile environment when those who curse at the name of Jesus are those holding weapons.
Prayer became a miraculous tool of faith and healing as it was in the New Testament. In every situation, while we washed our hands with an antiseptic, our oldest nurses would gather around the patient, lay hands on the ill or injured one and pray for them. Though often met with hostility, this practice grew and led to many spiritual conversations. While we knew that such a practice was risky in places where believers in Jesus had seldom lived or were wanted, we were impressed that the minimal witness we were willing to leave behind was the witness of and through prayer.
Often our oldest nurses insisted on being the ones who would pray over the recent casualty of war; be it a wounded or starved child. Their thinking was that since they were so old, it would be better to risk losing an older nurse to persecution than a younger nurse who had so many years left to serve!
In a war zone it is difficult to gauge the effectiveness of one’s prayer, actions, and verbal witness. One’s ministry is so fluid as it ebbs and flows as often as civil war advances and retreats. There were places where we could return to many times and others we were allowed to visit only once – leaving hungry and wounded children behind.
One day was particularly frightening as we entered a village where fighting had erupted and a child tried to pick up a hand grenade with terrible results. Pulling into this village we were confronted with the evidence of a small, mangled body. Our team immediately went into hyper-mode, preparing to do whatever we could to save this child’s life. As our medical team began to work on this small boy, they were grabbed from behind by gun-wielding Somali men while also being restrained by the child’s mother.
We had no choice but to step away from the bench transformed into an operating theater, turning to face the threats of the moment. We began to voice our concern for the child, questioning why we were being restrained from treating him. The answer was not long in coming.
The mother of the wounded child took the lead in exclaiming, “You will not treat my son until you have prayed for him. We have watched you pray over so many of our children and they have been healed. You will not operate on this child without praying because it is your God who has healed so many children in this village.”
We had to be reminded by Muslims to be like Jesus.