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The Hospital Waiting Room

I’m writing this from a hospital waiting room, while my wife is undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery. The doctor has promised that we’ll be able to take home photos of the surgery from inside the shoulder.

All the staff are smartly dressed in crisp and clean surgical gowns, and patients are wearing their off-the-shoulder hospital robes. Parents dress up in disposable paper suits with hats and masks before taking their children in for procedures.

The surgical center is bright, clean and sanitized. Staff move everything along with a sense of order and tender loving care. The whole procedure is covered by insurance, and the relatively small co-pay is dealt with by a swipe of my credit card that will also give me miles towards future travel.

What a contrast with what my friend Dr. Jo Lusi had to work with in Bunia, a city in the north east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Following recent ethnic violence, Jo and his colleagues went to Bunia to care for many who had been severely injured by machete attacks. They set up a temporary medical facility and, with few of the facilities available to my wife, began lifesaving surgery on so many.

Being experienced in making do with what he has, Jo used the metal bars of a window to act as a leg splint for one patient. Baptist World Aid paid for the medicines and equipment that Jo used on this emergency visit.

The disparity between the first-class medical care experienced by so many of us and that available to the vast majority of people in the two-thirds world is clear. That is why BWAid supports many hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities operated by Baptist groups around the world. Small grants are used to provide basic medicines and equipment. Major shipments of medicines and equipment are containerized and sent to needy areas such as the DR of Congo and North Korea.

On my first visit to North Korea I saw inverted wine bottles being used for IV drips, patients undergoing surgery with no anesthetic and an almost total lack of drugs. We have subsequently been able to ship containers of hospital equipment from a facility closing down in the Washington, D.C., area, and the pharmacy of the hospital was re-stocked with many basic medicines.

What a difference I saw on a subsequent visit. To see hospital beds and other equipment being used and a well stocked pharmacy showed that it is possible for us to make a difference.

Many of our Baptist conventions and unions around the world are also now involved in programs related to the HIV/AID pandemic. They include everything from educational programs, such as True Love Waits, the care of AIDS orphans, support for pastors and care for those facing death and their families. Many of these programs need minimal support of a few thousand dollars. BWAid could do so much more to support these programs if we had the funds. Will you help?

I hear my name being called. My wife is in the recovery room, and so I must go.

Perhaps next time you are sitting in the waiting room of a medical facility, you will be able to reflect on how fortunate we are to have such excellent care. Maybe you will also consider how you can help those, in many parts of the world, who do not have such care.

Paul Montacute is director of Baptist World Aid.