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Monday, July 19, 2010

Delivering Babies in the Dark of the Congo

Boko in the Dark - Nurse Burnadette Preparing to Deliver a Baby

Imagine delivering a baby in the dark! Lightening struck the solar lighting system at the Baptist hospital in Boko several months ago. Since then the staff works by candle light to assist night time deliveries, tend newborn babies and do emergencies. Serving a population that earns less than a dollar a daythe hospital saw no option but to go on as best as possible in the dark. The Boko Baptist hospital has been without a doctor for two years.

In November Dr. Kapenze who worked with us at the Kintambo Baptist Health Center in Kinshasa agreed to become the medical director there. A few weeks ago he came back to Kinshasa to purchase medicines supplies and find light for the hospital. IM missionary Bill Clemmer agreed to fund replacement parts for the solar lighting system purchase a modest stock of medicines, and to fund a road trip to Boko with Dr. Kapenze, as a way to encourage those laboring there. Jonathan and I went along. We also took Esaie, a Kinshasa based technician, who would repair the solar light system.

It’s a 250 mile trek to Boko, with the last 90 over dirt roads, but a rain storm that followed us most of the way nicely packed the deep sand so we arrived at Boko mid-afternoon. After eating a delicious meal served by Mrs Kapenze (Naomi), Esaie went to work on the lighting system and Jonathan and I headed out (in rain gear) to explore Boko, a mission station where his Niles grandparents lived for four years and where his Grandfather Fountain regularly visited to build up the health work.
Under a persistent drizzle, we hiked the overgrown airstrip, visited the church, and chased refuge seeking goats from a school room that had no door. We slipped down a steep ravine to a crystal clear waterfall, where, 30 years ago, Jonathan’s dad, Wayne, as a college student, installed a pump and water system for the Boko station. The pump’s skeleton lies in the clear water; nothing runs forever without regular maintenance. We mused about running water, lights and facilities that were, but are no more.

As dark fell, we ended up at the hospital with the circle of spectators watching Esaie poke amongst wires and connections in the maternity ward. When the fluorescent tube he manipulated finally flickered to light, a cheer went up from all. Mrs. Bernadette, the nurse midwife, did not leave Esaie’s side, constantly pleading the case for the light to be hung directly over the delivery table. A priority spot! We lingered to see another light installed. As we glanced back on our way through the darkness to Dr. Kapenze’s house, those two solitary lights illuminated the whole landscape. When light shines into darkness, darkness cannot overcome it. People are attracted to light, and light makes a difference.

The next morning, with the staff in their work places, Dr. Kapenze gave us an exhaustive walk through the hospital, certain to point out every need and deficiency. The poverty of the population exaggerates even mundane daily tasks and the quality of services at the hospital have sunk to a minimum level. Dr. Kapenza faces the enormous challenge of pulling things together. In each department, we tarried long enough to hear about and appreciate the work done, to encourage each one to do the best job possible, and to reflect God’s light with a word of admonishment or encouragement. A spontaneous “round table discussion” with hospital leaders unfolded in the operating room. Their struggles are real: patients who can pay little, a 250 mile long and difficult supply pipeline, isolation, debts, things that were, but are no more; even darkness.

The darkness and weight of the poverty experienced by our colleagues from Boko burden their work completely. Yet, the shackles of poverty go far beyond the lack of financial and material resources. They are more often a result of the way people think and behave. How do you fight such poverty? We fight it with the Light of the World,which penetrates people’s thoughts and ideas and dispels darkness. Then people walk in the light; for their minds, thoughts, ideas, and behavior or transformed by the light. For light to penetrate and entire community, it takes years, even generations.

I invite you to help keep the lights shining at the Boko hospital, or at any of the eleven American Baptist Mission hospitals in Congo. How? A regular gift to the “Congo Permanent Medical Fund” at International Ministries, in the name of Boko, or any of our hospitals, will facilitate maintaining the lights. A solar lighting system costs $3000 by the time it’s installed in a remote destination. Or, a regular gift to International Ministries “for the support of Wayne and Katherine Niles”, keeps us here, reflecting the Light of the World. We cannot remain without that required support. Or, you can come join us, Dr. Kapenze, Mrs. Bernadette, and many other’s in Congo where, the work of shining the Light into places like Boko still needs to be done. When light shines in the darkness, darkness cannot overcome it, but this is a very dark world. Thank you for your part in keeping the Lights shining in Congo.

Wayne and Katherine Niles
American Baptist Missionaries in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
For more information click here.

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