From Ghana - Manna Mission Hospital, Accra, 2003 - Chris Chilwell
Located in Teshie, a semi-urban community just east of the capital of Ghana, Accra, Manna Mission Hospital is a 40-bed in-patient unit, with outpatient clinics. In patient cases included general and tropical medicine, O&G and paediatrics.
Run by Dr Seth Ablorh, it has a mission statement encompassing compassionate medical care, combined with effective evangelism and community development. The hospital is attached to achurch and a school, and regularly runs medical clinic outreaches to underserved communities. Medical elective students are well looked after in a reasonably equipped mission house, costing approximately £10 per night, with cooking facilities if necessary. Food can be provided for a few pounds per day. There are no other costs to work at the hospital. The hospital is incredibly welcoming to students, with administrative staff to support you, and serve as impromptu guides.There are four doctors who rotate in shifts, and medical student tasks included a preliminary morning patient review, a morning ward round with the duty doctor, and outpatient clinics. The doctors all give excellent teaching on tropical and development medicine, including obstetrics and gynaecology, and as your knowledge improves, you are released to practice in an increasingly independent setting. However, there is always support available when you aren't confident.
The hospital is really keen for students to explore God's calling during their elective. The pastors attached to the church welcome you to join them on visits, and preaching, and any gift you have, th church is eager to give you a chance to use it. The church is charismatic (get ready to dance in the Spirit!), but has a very firm fix on the purpose of Christ's work. The senior pastor, (Dr Ablorh), leads an excellent team of ministers, in a church with a congregation of several hundred. There are also small church plants beginning around the country.
There are probably a couple of other things to be aware of. First, the hospital is in a real Ghanaian community, and as such there aren't many tourist things to do nearby. However, if you're willing to become an honorary Ghanaian for a few weeks, it won't be a problem. Second, and related to this, the hospital transport is two lovely American vans, which are very safe, but unfortunately not very fuel economical. Combined with hiring a hospital driver, this makes arranging personal trips expensive. It can mean your mobility is limited, but the administrators can help, and public transport is cheap.
Manna eagerly enjoys the presence of missionary students, and despite travelling alone, I felt welcomed and needed. They went out of their way to allow me to experience a variety of mission settings, from HIV talks in schools, to a boat trip across a lagoon to run a clinic under a tree. Although it was never stated, it was clear they structured these trips to coincide with my time. That really summed it up for me - that they were happy to let me serve, and serve me so God could do the talking on my elective!
About a week into my visit from Ghana, on my morning walk from the mission house to the hospital, I turned to a colleague and said 'I'm living a dream. Every morning, I wake up in Africa, pick up my stethoscope, walk through a tropical forest, and then spend the day in a mission hospital- praying, malaria, slow fans on the ceiling - the lot, and God is here.'
I don't think I've managed to come up with a better description of my time since that moment. Standing in the morning sun in Teshie, looking at Manna Mission Hospital, I could not have been more sure that where I was standing was the place God wanted me to be at that moment, and that the tasks ahead that day were prepared by, and for, him alone. Not only that, but His voice was beginning to speak about places I might go with him, in medicine, in the future. This report is anattempt at a 'Thank you', because your generosity put me in that place, for just that time, so I could hear Him, and be in His plans.
Manna Mission exists as a hospital, church and school, all based on a site in a poor, but livelycommunity on the beach road out of the capital city, Accra. I was able to participate in activities at the site, and also to travel on several outreach clinics across the South and West of Ghana. I spent time working both with local doctors, and also a visiting team of students from America. The hospital consisted of a 40-bed unit, with maternity, out patient, ophthalmology and dental areas.
My first week was spent in orientation at the hospital - shadowing the duty doctor, and learning about medical conditions that I have simply never had the chance to see, nor diagnose in the UK. Every day, a new condition, from malaria to schistosomiasis was introduced, with the local doctors proving to be excellent teachers. At the same time, I learnt the various medications that were available at the hospital pharmacy (limited prescribing was to be one of the greatest medical challenges in my time there - there is nothing more frustrating than to know what is wrong, but to not have any effective treatment available.) I was expected to review each of the in patients before the morning ward round, and then participate in that round, doing clinical examination, and forming diagnoses. After the round, the doctors would join the other administrative staff for a time of prayer before we returned to clinic for the day. After my first week, I was given a separate consulting room, and under supervision, began to see patients on my own. The hospital was fantastic in its support, and gave the perfect conditions to begin to practice tropical medicine. Not only this, but the environment gave me the chance to share my faith with patients, and when there seemed to be no medical hope, Christ was in that room with me, and I always had a perfect hope to offer!
One of the most crucial things I learnt during my elective was about participating with the body of the church in these activities. This was particularly apparent during the mission clinics. We would travel out to a community, and under improvised sheeting to keep away the sun, would see local people for free medical care. The day would begin with a message from a pastor, and there wouldbe a prayer station available throughout our time. It would have been impossible to do all of the tasks of that day on my own, but working with the Manna Team, volunteers from the church, and other missionaries, we were able to help hundreds of people. It was often difficult to see the difference that I had made, but if I broadened my vision and looked at what we had accomplished, it was clear that God was working powerfully each time. We would regularly see over half of each community making a fresh commitment to Jesus - a combination of a fertile ground, the Spirit of God, and the witness of his people. Even though the talks were often in the local languages of Gaand Twee, I still sensed the excitement and anticipation at every clinic for the people who were being ministered to.
One particularly memory is of a four-day trip to the mid-west of the Ghana, to a town called Bechem. Currently a pilgrimage site for local fetish priests and witches, Manna is in the process of establishing a church through regular outreaches. I visited the area, along with a Manna team, and some visiting American missionaries, to help with evening programmes, door-to-door evangelism, and to run a medical clinic. We had hoped to show the Jesus video on the first evening, using the Taxi Park in the middle of the town as an impromptu cinema, with a sheet strung between two buildings. However, a power cut a few minutes before we began threatened to ruin the evening, and deny many the chance to see an important message. As the crowd began to disperse, the Mannateam, standing in pitch darkness, joined together in singing some worship songs. As we sang, people reacted in different ways. At some point, I think all of them were amused by a group ofobronei (white people) standing in the rain singing, and yet many were intrigued. Children wouldcome and try and join in, mothers would follow, and then the men. The crowd stayed, we shared a message, whilst others prayed, and then the power came back and many were affected by the filmthat night. It took some courage to start singing - we were in a relatively hostile community, and we had no idea what the reaction would be. It would have been easier (and less torrentially wet) to have waited in the minibus, but again, it was a time when God had a different idea, and as soon as wes tarted singing, the atmosphere in that place told us there was nothing else the father wanted us doing at that moment.
The clinic the next day was awesome. I was seeing patients relatively independently by this point, and with only one doctor with us, the crowd that gathered threatened to overwhelm us. However, by some miracle of strength, between Dr Odoi, and myself we were able to see over 320 patients! That evening, more received healing during another outreach, and the following day we completed our trip by encouraging the small local church, and then doing door-to door work, where we were privileged to see entire families begin relationships with Jesus.
Sitting in a hospital room, all of this seems so far away. A picture I was given during my final week really brought home to me that the challenge actually begins now. We share an awesome father, and he conveyed to me his expectation and desire for the person I might become in Him. I am already conscious, only a couple of months on, of how difficult it is to continue living out that lifestyle of mission when I am back in my home environment, but I sense that it is the challenge for now. As I've already alluded to, my elective was also a time that will guide me for my future career choices. I am virtually certain now that at least a part of my future kingdom work is to be spent in this kind of work, but I also now see the knowledge and skills I must equip myself with. I am encouraged to have met in Ghana a group of brothers and sisters who were willing to be a part of equipping me for that task - it amazes me that even when they were so busy, and so focused on the work, they were able to support me and encourage me so well.
No report can really capture the magic of my trip. Those words on that morning, particularly about being in a place, and knowing that that spot is exactly where God wants you to be, are the closest I can get. I'm so grateful - without your support, I simply wouldn't have been in that place, and those two months of memories and teaching wouldn't have happened. If you have any other questions,please feel free to contact me again. I'll be delighted to answer them.Article written by Chris Chilwell