Waaay back in June 2014, we arrived in Elkhart, Indiana to begin our service as full time missionaries. My second day at work (I’m in the office each Wednesday afternoon) we had a payer send off for a shipping container heading to the Republic of Congo. The container held parts to create a 300-foot radio tower and other items requested by a missionary hospital in the Congo. A colleague of mine turned to me on our way back to our desks and said “You will always remember this day. Your first send off. The realization of how truly international our work here is!”
That wasn’t an overstatement.
Fast-forward 18 months. Three colleagues and myself were boarding a long haul flight, heading to the Republic of Congo to rendezvous with that container. Traveling with me were two senior missionaries, on their last mission trip, heading to the hospital to erect that 300-foot tower. That tower would boost the radio signal from the hospital’s Christian radio station by hundreds of miles. I was to assist the hospital with the overwhelming nutritional needs of the patients and community. And the fourth member of our team was to collect impact stories of the mission and gather photos and videos to depict the important work being done on the ground.
Our time in Congo was intense. In a nutshell, I ended up banging on doors and lobbying aid organizations to assist the hospital in feeding its patients. This may have included trying to pry information from a warehouse watchman, convincing a heavily armed guard to let me into the United Nations compound for a meeting that I didn’t actually have scheduled, and dropping in on the country director for the World Food Program (hello fellow Canadian!). These were probably some of the most important weeks of my life. It’s incredible what you can do when you march forward in faith, prayer, and conviction.
By the time I left Congo there was a feeding program in place for the refugees staying at the hospital and promises of nutritional support for undernourished pregnant women and children. These were really great steps for the 10-year old mission hospital that, until this point, had never prepared a meal for patients (see photo below - now it does!)
However, what about those who aren't refugees?
You see, the hospital, like many in the developing world, doesn’t have resources to feed its patients. That care is the responsibility of a family member. But for some members of society – like refugees, widows and those who are outcast because of their illness(such as leprosy, which is prevalent in this area) – this isn’t an option, and has dire consequences. When I was residing at the hospital for those few weeks last year, a man, who was admitted for tuberculosis actually died of starvation while receiving treatment at the hospital.
Unfortunately, due to mismanagement of resources and poor communication, it became apparent as 2016 progressed that the source of food for the refugee program was unreliable. And the risk of unreliability for such a vulnerable population is just simply too high.
In response to this, in September I partnered with Global Outreach Mission to launch a funding campaign to generate resources for food for the hospital. The task was ‘impossible’, needing to raise over $40,000 by year-end. But nothing is impossible for God. He did it. And by year-end!
In addition to the funds, we were able to partner with Ontario Gleaners, a Christian organization that gathers imperfect (yet still edible) produce from grocery stores and food manufacturers, plus donations from gardeners and farmers. They clean, dice, and dehydrate said food. It is packages into bags that, when reconstituted, serve 100 people a meal rich in micronutrients. Ontario Gleaners provides this food for free to missions in developing countries that are in need of it; all that is needed is the resources to ship it.
When Tom and I were in Ontario late November to renew our work visas for the USA, we had the honour of meeting with Ontario Gleaners and had a tour of their incredible facility. As a nutritionist who has seen so much malnutrition in the developing world, the barrels and barrels of dehydrated nutritious produce for those who need it in the developing world make my heart leap and soul sing! What a beautiful way to redeem ‘imperfect’ food and make it available for those who are less fortunate. I thank God for this organization!
And of course, because the world is so small, or because God is so amazing, the gentleman that gave us the tour is from my small home town of Dauphin, Manitoba. (The string of events that have happened over the past year are just so incredible!)
Using the funds generated by the funding campaign, we applied for and were approved for a shipment of two pallets of dehydrated produce for the hospital. These shipments are currently en route to the Republic of Congo for the hospital.
How great is our God!?!
Now, don't get me wrong. There is still much to be done. We need to purchase additional food in country, create a distribution system, train the cook, and assess the suitability and sustainability of the program. But, hey! These steps will be worked out in time. For now let's do a happy dance. And stay tuned regarding the next step in this amazing answer to prayer.