Feature

A River of Hope

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Sebastian Lamah, a Christian, is a happily married man. He and his wife, Janet, have three girls, and when she became pregnant again, they hoped for a son. Sebastian has four brothers, and only he is without a male child.

On January 3, 2010, Janet went to the central hospital in N’Zerekore, Guinea, and delivered a healthy baby boy. Sebastian and his wife were thrilled and brought their son home to N’Zao.

Three days after CéCé was born, his parents noticed that he refused to drink any milk. This continued all day, and both parents consoled themselves by saying, “Children sometimes do this, but he will get over it.” On the morning of the fourth day, they noticed that their son had yellow eyes and skin. Janet called her friend, who came and made a paste out of some medicinal tree leaves and rubbed it on CéCé. He was still not drinking and was becoming very weak.

The afternoon of CéCé’s fifth day of life, Sebastian and his wife decided to go to the village for the blessings of his parents. (Since his father was dead, this would be his mother and the younger brother of his father.) They believed that if their parents prayed for CéCé he would be healed. They had done this for one of their daughters when she was sick, and she became well. At this point, Sebastian, a surgical nurse at Hope Clinic in N’Zao, really wondered if his son would live.

Lay Me Down

My name is Jon Erickson and I am an international worker at Hope Clinic with Compassion and Mercy Associates (CAMA). Many years ago, I worked at a Christian TV station in Chicago. One night after a Christian concert, I went into a room with two other men my age to pray. During the prayer time I had a vision—I saw a very large river filled with people drifting by with the current. God gave me a choice: I could stay on the river bank and pull people out one by one or lay my body across the river like a bridge. (Somehow I knew this meant I was to serve God overseas.) I made my choice in the vision and saw my body lie across the river; some people came out of the water and others pushed themselves under to their deaths.

In 1985 I entered service with another mission in Liberia, West Africa. When a civil war broke out in 1990, I felt the Lord leading me to Guinea. After 10 years of village evangelism and serving with short-term medical missions in Guinea, I joined the team that started Hope Clinic.

Hope Clinic’s first structure was erected in 2001, and the building program has continued ever since. This last year we completed a doctor’s house and are close to the end of a solar expansion project that will enable the clinic to be generator free, even during surgeries and at night. We opened in 2003 with 5 staff, including my wife, Anja (from CAMA Zending in the Netherlands), and myself. Today, we have more than 30, which includes missionaries from Holland, Cameroon, Gabon and the United States. In 2009, we saw 20,206 people come through our doors, and 285 made decisions to follow the Savior.

The most common medical problems we see at the clinic—diarrhea and malaria—result from a lack of knowledge. Most people have access to pump water, but many then go to the farms and drink water from swamps or uncovered wells. Many really believe that they are resistant to amoebas. Small children are especially vulnerable to contracting diseases from contaminated water. In addition, many children sleep without mosquito nets or under nets that are torn. Like most places in sub-Saharan Africa, malaria kills far more people in Guinea than does AIDS.

A Full Name

When Sebastian informed Anja, one of his supervisors, of his and Janet’s decision to take CéCé to the village, Anja asked to see the baby. She noticed that he was jaundiced and very weak. She asked the parents if he was drinking milk, and they said they were able to get him to drink just 10 teaspoons for the last 15 hours. Anja then gave him some sugar water and noticed that he perked up. His black stool indicated a type of jaundice caused by the breakdown of a large number of fetal red blood cells and the failure of the liver to process them.

The treatment involves increased feedings and florescent light. We have an incubator, but its lights are mounted beneath it for heat. Since most of the staff had gone home for the day, Anja took a light from over our kitchen counter and put it on the incubator.

Sebastian had confidence in Anja, but Janet was very afraid. Anja found a night mask she had received on an overseas flight and put it on CéCé to protect his eyes from the light. Janet began to cry because she felt it was something to put on a dead person. That Thursday, no one slept, but CéCé gained the strength to cry. By Friday morning he was willing to drink milk, and this put hope into Janet’s heart. After five days in the incubator at Hope Clinic, CéCé went home.

Today, CéCé has a second name—Zack. Because of his illness, the baby had only the traditional name—CéCé—given to a firstborn son. Zack is a friend of Sebastian and Janet’s, and they honored him by naming their son after him, meaning they risk hoping their boy will live.

CéCé Zack is a very wanted son. His parents are so grateful and happy. We—you and I—are part of bringing hope to a part of the world that often lives in sadness and tears.

Mercy, Mercy

In Guinea there are few surgeons who know how to treat tumors, cysts and cleft palates. This leaves many Guineans with life-threatening conditions and disfigurement that keep other people at a distance.

When I met him, Ko Kolie Haba was six years old and had a slow-growing cyst under his chin. His father sent him to traditional healers but without success. Because of this cyst, Ko Kolie Haba never attended school.

In 2008, I helped schedule the boy for treatment on the Mercy Ship that was then docked in Monrovia, Liberia. (Mercy Ships is a global charity that has operated hospital ships in developing nations since 1978.) Ko Kolie Haba and his father went to the airport on the day that I told them and found out they did not have seats on the plane. I had made all the arrangements for the ship and had forgotten to make reservations for the flight!

Hope Clinic staff has worked with Mercy Ships even before Hope Clinic existed. This has resulted in more than a hundred people receiving life-changing surgeries. In October 2009, a surgical team from Mercy Ships operated for the first time at Hope Clinic, removing tumors and repairing cleft palates. Ko Kolie Haba was one of the first people to have surgery! We had a great time with the surgeons, and we could tell they loved being here.

My desire is that Hope Clinic will one day have a full-time surgery center of its own, but immediate needs are many: a machine that fills oxygen bottles for surgeries, a new dental machine and a new x-ray machine, to name a few. And when I look down the road past the immediate needs and problems, I see a maternity building with 10 new nurses to staff it.

When people gather from different cultures, languages and nations, living together is a challenge. We are challenged! When you begin with nothing, the type of people needed for this start-up are hard pressed to change when the clinic is up and running. We are hard pressed. I think that you get the idea. We are being formed into a team, but it is not easy. Hope Clinic exists to show God’s love to people through good, loving medical care and verbal proclamation of salvation through Jesus of Nazareth. Pray for us!

—Jon Erickson

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