Bike4Mali: The Cycle Continues


Visiting Mali, West Africa, was a wonderful opportunity that I will always count as a special privilege. After riding more than 4,000 miles across the United States to raise money for the Hospital for Women and Children in Koutiala, it was quite meaningful to me to see this land firsthand.

Although God had already given me a love for the people of Mali, that love had a chance to grow through face-to-face encounters. The Lord caused many friendships to develop with both missionaries and Malians. It was exciting for me to witness the ongoing construction of the hospital as a team from New Castle, Pennsylvania, completed work on a roof that had been started by a team from Lima, Ohio. The completion of this roof will enable this building to be used for offices, pharmacy and storage. This will in turn allow steps to be taken to begin using the pediatrics building according to its original intent.

Compare and Contrast

Cycling across Mali was one of the most interesting and challenging bike experiences I have had. Visiting Africa reinforced for me the contrast between life in the United States and life in a land such as Mali. Things like convenience stores with bottled water and energy drinks, which are taken for granted here, are usually unavailable in West Africa.

In few other areas is this contrast as stark and critical as in the field of medicine. Within a day of my arrival back home, I became sick, possibly from something I ate while traveling (we’ll never know for sure), and I had to be hospitalized for a few days. In the scheme of things, my illness was quite minor and yet a dozen medical people, including doctors, nurses, EMTs and various other “ologists” and “icians” were available to me. I had access to a large hospital equipped with adjustable beds, IV poles and heart and blood pressure monitors—a seemingly infinite variety of medications and supplies—all for an “old” guy with an infection.

Yet, just a week earlier, I was sitting with a family whose six-year-old son, Daniel, was near death and in a coma from cerebral malaria. Though his situation was life threatening, the best care available to him was in a home because the pediatrics section of the Koutiala hospital is not quite ready. His treatment consisted of a saline IV and medicine to fight the malaria parasites that were ravaging his little body. Though quite capable and well trained, only a few medical personnel were available to minister to his needs.

Thankfully, God is in the business of answering prayer. Indeed, the physicians who attended to Daniel said the boy’s recovery was definitely from God, because most kids his age who contract this form of malaria do not survive.

There is great rejoicing at what has been provided so far to help the people in Koutiala to have better medical care. The mortality rate for kids and mothers before the hospital was built was equivalent to that of U.S. mothers and children in the Civil War era. Today, the hospital in Koutiala can offer care comparable to the medical standard of the United States in the 1980s. This is a major leap forward in just a few years. However, there are still many areas where adequate care is simply not available. It is my hope and prayer that the people of Mali will have access to more and better medical care so that other young children like Daniel can be treated successfully.

Help Wanted

I had the privilege of talking at length with many Alliance workers in Koutiala. Each is thankful for what God is doing through the hospital, and yet with each provision it seems other challenges are revealed. One of the greatest needs is for the Lord to raise up workers, particularly medical personnel, for the harvest. When lucrative opportunities are so abundant in North America, it is not difficult to understand that most doctors and nurses choose to remain in the United States. Yet the need is great overseas. Malian medical workers are being trained, but this takes time, and the need there is both long-term and immediate.

It was a wonderful experience above all because of the many very special people God gave me the privilege of meeting. There have been only a few times in my life when I have felt as welcomed as the people of Mali made me feel as I rode my bicycle into Koutiala. They were so very gracious and kind, and were truly appreciative of God’s gracious provisions. Further, they clearly have a great love for Jesus and very much enjoy celebrating Him.

I am thankful to Craig Hanscome who went through great effort to arrange for this trip to Mali. It is humbling to think that simply riding a bicycle across the United States could be used to help in such an important endeavor as Koutiala Hospital for Women and Children. How wonderful that attention and aid is being drawn to the hospital and the other needs of the people of Mali.

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