A bridge overseas

Andrew Fendrich | Ghana

In northern Ghana, in a region nicknamed “The Overseas” due to rising water in the rainy season that floods nearly all major and back roads, most locals have limited or no access to basic health care. To meet their health needs, the predominately Muslim communities look for help from small medical clinics, while thousands suffer untreated.

Efforts to reach the locals with the gospel have been, for OM Ghana field leader Chris Insaidoo and his team, just as limited, as most northerners reject their need of a Savior. To open eyes requires what OM Ghana training coordinator Stephen Mensah calls a “catalyst”—a way to bridge the gap and build relationships with locals.

OM Ghana and OM Czech Republic have found that catalyst in medical relief. In September, a Czech team of ten people, including five medical students, a doctor, and a dentistry student, visited Ghana for a two-week medical outreach in The Overseas, working with Ghanaian doctors and nurses.

2016 marks the third year OM Czech Republic has teamed up with OM Ghana to bring medical relief and medicine to the northern region of Ghana. Previously, OM Czech Republic worked with medical relief in Nepal, but when one Slovak missionary returned from Ghana in 2013 and told OM Czech Republic field leader Pavel Zoul of the health needs she witnessed, he decided to shift the focus to Africa.

In Ghana, plans were already being made to undertake a medical outreach. Ghanaian midwife and missionary Josephine Opoku had met with Chris to discuss opportunities to minister to local communities, with the help of Go Ye Missions (GYM), an effort Josephine helped start that provided doctors and medicine to missions organisations that worked medical outreaches. Josephine, who was introduced to medical missions just after completing midwifery training, also saw the benefit of using medical assistance as a means to reach the lost with the gospel.

“If you go and say, ‘Come and let us preach about Jesus to you,’ few people will come,” she says. “But if you do a medical outreach, you find every opportunity to tell them about Christ. Even though they are not supporting what you’re preaching, because of what you’ve done for them, they will listen.”

And so in October 2014, OM Czech and GYM joined OM Ghana, facilitating a medical trip to the north that expanded the medical ministry OM Ghana had in place previously.

“It changed a lot of things in the ministry of OM Ghana, because people hardly get something like that, so it was new to them and they really appreciated it,” Josephine says.

After seeing the effects of the ministry and the need to continue the annual outreach, GYM created a team to work exclusively with OM Ghana, so Chris is never without the help he needs. Through partnership with GYM, OM Ghana has added two additional annual medical outreaches to their list of ministries.

Each year, the Overseas outreach has looked different, with varying emphases on medical relief and evangelism. In September 2016, the medical team preached to the gathered crowds every morning before opening up the medical stations; opportunities to evangelise, however, were limited by the number of patients they treated each day.

During the medical outreach, the team was able to provide free service and medicine for more than 2,300 locals, around 1,600 of which professed to be followers of Islam.

Team member Pavel emphasises that the medical care goes hand in hand with sharing the gospel.

“The idea behind it is that Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, and preached the gospel. We see it as a workable concept: healing and preaching. The primary focus is sharing the gospel, and the services are just a bridge into people’s lives.”

Stephen, who helped coordinate the medical trip for the first time in 2016, also sees the importance of the work being done.

“The foundation has been laid,” he says. “If we are able to build on it, if we have more people, more resources, it can go a long way.”

Published: Tuesday, 07 February 2017
Credit: Andrew Fendrich
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