From December 24, 2018, to January 7, 2019, volunteers from 14 countries set out on a mission organized by the Northern California Conference to provide medical, dental, welfare, and spiritual aid to a small village known as Bakafa, five hours south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The first volunteers arrived in Addis Ababa on December 23 and began purchasing supplies and the necessary equipment. We gathered our supplies, packed up three buses full of volunteers and set out on a long, bumpy, 8-hour journey to Bakafa.
We arrived at midnight, exhausted, and feeling defeated, thinking no one would still be waiting for us, but to our surprise and to our delight we were greeted with beautiful music as there were hundreds of people singing and smiling, awaiting our arrival. We felt tired, but our hearts were full!
We woke up at 5:00 am and began setting up the clinic. The mission took place on the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement church property where a school with six rooms was built along with a gated compound where those participating in the mission stayed.
The clinic was set up in the school. There was a triage room, three medical rooms, a pharmacy, and the IT room. There were four main teams: the medical team (members in light blue), children’s team (members in purple), operations team (members in beige), and administration team (members in dark blue).
The medical team included doctors, nurses, dentists, medical assistants, medical students, physical therapists, lab technicians, and other medical professionals. The children’s team consisted of teachers, musicians, pastors, and other educators. The operations team was very diverse and included the translation manager, the kitchen staff, welfare staff, as well as everyone responsible for the electricity and other activities that allowed for the clinic to function. The administration team included IT managers, triage managers, and other administrators that helped the clinic run every day.
Besides all the people in uniform, there was also a team of local translators, as well as a team of Bible workers and ministers that provided for the patients' spiritual needs. The brethren in Ethiopia printed 10,000 tracts on God’s law and the Sabbath. There were also Steps to Christ books available, and we made sure every patient received a copy of the pamphlets and books.
At first, it seemed like we would get through the forming line of patients rather quickly, but as the day went on it became clear we would have to send people home and tell them to return the next day. We had to do this every day. Only, people didn’t really go home, instead, they spent the night in line. We would often wake up at 3:00 am and hear their voices as they secured their place in line. For most people, this would be the only chance they would get to see a doctor in their life. Imagine, the only chance they would ever have to get help.
As the last day approached, people began to realize we would be leaving soon. Their pleas became stronger. We thought we would get to everyone, but, unfortunately, the hardest part for all of us was having to turn people away, people we knew needed help, but we couldn’t help them; they had arrived too late.
One of the experiences that really impacted us was that of a boy who came to our clinic. He had broken his leg a few months back, and the bone was still protruding out of his leg. An infection was forming. He would lose his leg, and worse, if he didn’t get help. Unfortunately, we could not perform the surgery he needed at the clinic. The boy’s dad told us that we were his last hope. His parents had spent everything they had on this child, and they had no money left. They were simply waiting for their son to die.
We knew we couldn’t let that happen. Money was collected among the volunteers, and, with the help of one of our local brethren, we were able to transport him to Addis Ababa and pay for his surgery and save his leg. After the mission trip ended, some of the volunteers returned to Addis Ababa for a few days before going home. We were able to visit with the boy and his parents (photo in the gallery below), who were so grateful. The father told us he would never be able to pay us back on earth, but when we all get to heaven, he wants to sit with us before the throne of God. This was so special to us because we realized that even if we couldn’t help everyone during our trip, it was worth it to save this young boy’s life.
On the last Sabbath of the mission, there was a baptism and an outreach in the city of Bakafa, where many tracts were shared. People were thirsting for books and pamphlets, and young and old were eager to receive copies. That Sabbath, we had many visitors, many who had attended the clinic and stayed for worship.
The mission trip was an amazing experience. It was an emotional and trying experience, but seeing the smiles on our patients' faces after getting a second chance at life, or after they got their teeth cleaned, or even just a fresh shower, it was all worth it!
Ten days, two beautiful Sabbaths with our brethren, 104 volunteers, two new-born babies, and over 1,800 people reached! Everyone who participated in this program felt extremely grateful to God for the many blessings that we received as a result of volunteering. Some of the participants were not members or attendees of our church, but through the trip they came into contact with our message, and some have begun attending our churches in different parts of the world.
Praise God for the work that He has done. We ask you to please pray for projects like these, and if possible please join us in our next mission! You don’t have to be a medical professional to participate. There is work for everyone! I guarantee you will go there to be a blessing, but you will gain an even bigger blessing from attending.