Reflections on Medical Missions in Kenya

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  • September 15, 2017

This following reflection was written by Jon and Shelley George (members of Seven Mile Road) after returning from a trip with their kids to serve the underprivileged tribal regions of South East Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. 

God has provided us opportunities to serve in Medical Missions in various locations both regionally and internationally. In each of these trips, we have set out on mission to serve but have returned being served instead, recognizing that God is already ministering to His people even in distant lands and He simply affords us the opportunity to be utilized by Him for a small taste of His greater glory. Here is some of what we learned while we were there.

1 : Hakuna Matata—No worries

As we were preparing to head out on this Medical Missions trip to Kenya, I realized that I needed to gain some background information on the culture and people we were about to serve.  I also recognized that there were only 2 phrases that I knew in Swahili, the native language of South Eastern Africa:

The first, of course, was “Hakuna Matata” popularized by the Disney animation, “The Lion King” which means “No Worries”.

When we arrived in Nairobi, I recognized that Kenya was plagued by a variety of medical issues:

Foremost, the average lifespan in Kenya is 62 years (in comparison to US where it is 79 years); that is, 17 years less than the average American.  The most common cause of death in Kenya is HIV/AIDS followed by other systemic infections including Malaria, Tuberculosis, Typhoid, Cholera, Yellow Fever and so on, which is largely due to third world problems of poor hygiene and sanitation standards.  In contrast, the leading cause of death in the US is heart disease, which is largely contributed by first world problems of poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, and smoking.  The differences in circumstances surrounding the 2 environments were alarming to me.

Despite these striking differences, a Global Attitudes Survey in 2016 determined that majority of young Kenyans who want a good life would rather stay in Kenya (78%) rather than move to another country.  How could people in Kenya continue to live by the Swahili mantra of “Hakuna Matata” and “No Worries”?

So is Hakuna Matata a philosophy prescribed in the Scriptures?  It turns out that Mathew 6:25-34 verbalizes exactly that.

To summarize the major points: God takes care of the greater things, so why worry about the lesser?  He gave us life, so He can surely sustain that life.  God created the body, so He can protect that body.  Alternatively, if God takes pristine care of the lesser, He would take much greater care of the greater.  Since God takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, who were given under the dominion of man after creation, why wouldn’t God take care of the dominant being he created?  Finally, man’s days are allotted by God and worrying does not add a single hour to his allotted days.

Meanwhile, a survey in 2014 among Americans revealed that the leading cause of worry is money (64%).  The single source of this worry is that money has become our master, our Idol.  And no man can serve two masters (Mathew 6:24).

So, let us serve our Living God, and adopt the Swahili philosophy, Hakuna Matata—No worries.

2 : God Uses Ordinary People to Do Extraordinary Things

We hosted 2 medical camps while in Nairobi, serving tribal villages that had minimal access to healthcare.  During these camps, we evaluated over 200 patients with medical issues that ranged from the common cold to end-stage AIDS.  The medical treatment that we could provide over a short visit was very limited; on many occasions, we were certainly overwhelmed by our incapacity to offer care that was necessary.  I was then reminded of the slave girl in the healing story of Naaman the leper (2 Kings 5:1-15).

To summarize, the slave girl (who is not even mentioned by name), merely told Naaman’s mistress about the prophet in Israel, who could heal Naaman.  That led to a series of events that ultimately led to the healing of Naaman’s leprosy.

If the slave girl had tried to heal Naaman’s leprosy, she would have been in above her head.  Instead, she used the opportunity to share the information about one who could heal him.  And in doing so, God used her as a vehicle to deliver healing ultimately.

As a similar analogy, a woman named Mary King was a cook at Newmarket Academy, where Charles Spurgeon went to school.  Spurgeon eventually became a highly influential Baptist Preacher, estimated to preach to more than 10 million people during his lifetime.  But Spurgeon recognized Mary King in his biography and said of her, “I do believe I learned more from her, than I should have learned from any six doctors of divinity.”

Keeping with God’s use of ordinary people in extraordinary ways, we persevered in the medical camps giving limited temporal clinical treatments while taking time to share the life-giving Gospel story with far-reaching permanent impact to each patient.

3 : God’s Sovereignty is  Demonstrated in The Circle of Life

We visited Maasai Mara during our stay, which is a large National Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary in Southern Kenya, known for Maasai Lions, African Leopards, Kenyan Cheetahs, Elephants, Giraffes, Zebras, and migration of Wildebeests in addition to an array of other animals.  As we trekked through the Safari, we couldn’t help but take in the grandeur of His creation and the majesty of the Creator.

The circle of life begins with Creator God, who was before all things; He created man in His own image and placed him in dominion over all the animals of the field, birds of the air, and fish of the sea; But man sinned and Righteous God demanded death as the wages for sin; But this merciful God sent his only Son Jesus Christ as the perfect sacrifice unto death in man’s place; Now man has been adopted into God’s Kingdom through Christ’s Redemptive Work on the Cross.

This is the Circle of Life that Moves Us all…..

Therefore, our Response should be the only other Swahili phrase, I know:
“Mimi Nakupende Wewe Sana”, translated “I love you very much.”

And so we love because Christ loved us first.

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About Siby Varghese

Siby lives in Willow Grove, PA with his wife Stephanie and daughter Reagan. He serves as a pastor at Seven Mile Road Church. As a Philly native, it’s his deep hope to see the people of the city come to a knowledge of Christ. And for the Eagles to finally win a stinkin Super Bowl already!

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