Medical missions: what it’s like to be a doctor in ministry

Kenya (MNN) — Last week, we told you a story about a family who left everything they knew to pursue God’s call as medical missionaries in Kenya. Today, we’ll share a bit from their perspective on what that’s like.

As previously mentioned, Angela Many, an OBGYN, and her husband, a general surgeon, both work at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. This ministry is a joint effort of World Gospel Mission and Africa Gospel Church.

Many shared some of the biggest differences between working in medicine in the United States and as a missionary in Kenya. Truth be told, there are some disadvantages in Kenya.

(Photo courtesy of the Manys)

“We practice in an area with much fewer resources and [a] much higher poverty rate. This impacts the types of illnesses and diseases and injuries that we see and brings a definite challenge from the medical standpoint,” Many says.

Here, patients often have progressed further into their ailments than what they would have in the United States. And yet, there is a striking advantage of working in medicine in Kenya. That’s because they are able to share the Gospel openly. In fact, that’s part of the care everyone receives here.

“We take a spiritual history from our patients. We’re addressing not just their physical ailment or physical brokenness but also their spiritual brokenness. So, we’re able to directly address the whole person without having to tiptoe around it like you have to often here in an American medical practice.”

To assist in this, the hospital employs Kenyan Chaplains. Many says they have helped them communicate with the patients over the cultural and lingual divides while the couple continues to learn more about this part of the world and the people who live there.

“As missionaries, we’re there really equipping and empowering them to do the work of the Gospel. So, we are there under the African Gospel Church, really allowing them to expand their ministry.”
From small beginnings
This brings us to the discussion of Tenwek Hospital’s background. The hospital started as a single nurse dispensary in 1937. It wasn’t until sometime in the 50s that the first physician arrived to work on campus. Today, Tenwek is a 300-bed hospital. But as Many explains, it’s more than that.

(Photo courtesy of World Gospel Mission)

“It is a Christian hospital. They work under the motto of, ‘We treat, Jesus heals.’ And that’s on a big, bright, yellow sign as you pull into the hospital grounds. And that truly does sum up the mindset of the hospital. It’s very openly Christian, it very openly gives the credit to Jesus for any of our true healing.”

In this way, medical services given at Tenwek are inseparable from sharing the Gospel and exemplifying the love of Jesus. Along with the spiritual record, patients have access to spiritual counseling, support from social workers and chaplains, and they are prayed with before surgeries.
Changing the face of health care in Kenya
The level of care in Tenwek hospital is not something staffers want contain in the building. Rather, this hospital also serves as a dedicated training hub.

(Photo courtesy of the Manys)

“So we have surgical residencies, family medicine residencies, we have Kenyan interns and medical students who rotate from government medical schools with us. So it’s really grown to have the ability to impact not just the patients who come for care, but also to impact the whole healthcare system.”

There is also a large nursing school in Tenwek. Many believes it brings the possibility of impacting an entire generation of health care providers.

“I feel like it really offers an alternative view of how to provide compassionate care in the name of Jesus than what you get through, say, a government training program or government hospital.”
Operating under compassion
Tenwek functions as a self-sustaining hospital, meaning they charge for their services in order to be independent of donor money. However, not everyone is able to afford these services.

(Photo courtesy of the Manys)

“The region where we live would be considered poor by most people’s standards in America,” Many says.

She says they care for people daily who, if they had to pay for the services received, would be bankrupt. That is why they have a Compassionate Care fund set up — to allow donors from all over the world to help those “who are orphaned, for those who are widowed, for those who truly are the neediest in our community.”

If you’d like to contribute to the Compassionate Care fund for the OBGYN department, click here. We’ve got a couple more stories coming from Tenwek so check back in soon!