Abdarhim, 11, sits quietly, his slim, lanky frame draped over the examining table. A wound in his foot from a thorn had developed a fungal infection; the refugee camp clinic had not been able to heal the injury.
So, he limped across the airstrip and down the dirt road to the SIM Memorial Clinic. There, Dr. Rob Congdon, known as “Dr. Rob,” examined his wound, cleaned it and wrapped it in fresh bandages.
Before the fall of 2011, it would have been unlikely that patients from Abdarhim’s tribe would have entered the clinic. Not when the Mabaan people were primary residents in the area – but that has changed and so have the demands on the clinic.
Ministering through medicine
Dr. Rob, the SIM missionary nurses, Kenyan medical staff and SIM-trained Sudanese Community Health Workers value connecting with their patients, diagnosing their ailments and taking opportunities to pray and perhaps share the gospel with them.
It’s what makes a medical ministry.
It begins even before the clinic opens every morning. The staff members gather for devotions, discussing Bible passages and praying. Then, they greet the Sudanese outside, pray with them and assess those waiting, prioritizing the order of patients for the day.
There is a rhythm – at times frenetic – but it’s one that has evolved in the past year. Now, a diversity of patients is commonplace, although Mabaan still number in the majority.
Just outside the clinic, a deep pulsing bass beat of music pumps from the small market. As far as the eye can see, people bustle back and forth. Just past the market, white refugee tents cover every open space.
The change literally happened overnight.
One day, those fields surrounding the clinic were empty, the biggest disturbance the occasional arrival of SIM flights. The next, hundreds of people had camped outside – and in the months that followed, an estimated 100,000 refugees poured into Mabaan County, Upper Nile State, from the Blue Nile State.
Now, the area immediately surrounding the clinic and the Doro airstrip is home to approximately 45,000 refugees from at least six different tribes.
With the new arrivals came new medical concerns.
Emergency medicine, particularly with the three leading causes of death – pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea – has never been so crucial. Dozens of camp clinics run by NGOs (non-governmental organizations), however, now address many of those concerns.
That’s not the only need though. According to Dr. Rob, 10 of the 14 most neglected diseases in the world are endemic to Sudan, like tuberculosis and leprosy. Those patients are often neglected and are in desperate need of medical help.
At one point, the humanitarian crisis threatened to overwhelm the clinic. Now, the staff believes opportunities may emerge for the ministry to thrive in the new paradigm.