How far can your church reach?
Baptist minister Paul Hill reports from a recent visit to Uganda - and explains how a gift from a small Baptist church in Gillingham is far reaching
Easter is always a special time, but Easter 2018 was more special than most for the Hill family and a close friend. Carwyn & Reninca (Co-founder & CEO of BMS partner organisation Hope Health Action [HHA] and HHA’s East Africa Co-ordinator respectively) with their children, Joseph (7) and Abigail (16 months), accompanied by Carwyn’s mum and dad, Glynis and Paul, along with Emma Cordell, spent two weeks around Easter in the South Sudanese refugee camps in North Uganda. It was a first time visit for Glynis and Emma, and a return visit for the others.
The trip was to further HHA’s work among the refugees, including the Microlife Cradle VSA (Vital Signs Alert) Project in partnership with King’s College London and supported by BMS World Mission, which has funded more than 600 units for use in this phase of the project. The £20 handheld device measures blood pressure and heart rate; each is simple to use with very little training and took a Professor at King’s some 20 years to develop. (He was rightly honoured for this work in the last New Year’s Honours List.)
Emma resigned her post as an A&E Nurse in a London hospital to train local volunteers and oversee the project over the next three months. (Well done, Emma - and Dave, her husband, who remains at home in London!)
The Cradle Project has already been trialled successfully by HHA in Haiti, where it saved four lives on the first day of the trial, and is now being deployed on a larger scale at two refugee camps in Uganda, including Bidi Bidi, the largest refugee camp in the world with about 300,000 refugees and covering some 270 square kilometres; that’s 104.25 square miles, or about one sixth of the size of Greater London.
The Cradle monitor is like a blood pressure monitor, but also measures heart rate and shock index readings, which are translated into one simple ‘traffic light’ reading of red, amber, or green. Green means all is well, amber, that the patient needs referral to a qualified midwife or Doctor, and red, that the patient needs an immediate referral. King’s will also be sending some of their staff to monitor the project at some key stages during the trials.
Glynis’ role was vital in looking after Joseph and Abigail, to free the others for their own areas of work. Paul, officially retired from pastoral ministry, was well used in preaching (in churches and under trees), teaching and training Baptist ministers and church leaders, as well as contributing to the safeguarding training given to HHA’s South Sudan and Uganda Board of Trustees.
He also spoke to staff and pupils at different schools and took an impromptu assembly in the Amazing Grace Baptist Nursery/Primary School, a school of 347 children just one mile from the Ugandan/South Sudanese border. For this he enlisted Glynis’ help.
This was undoubtedly the Lord’s timing, as the visit itself was impromptu and unscheduled. Having spoken to the children in a tarpaulin marquee, Paul, with Glynis, taught the school, “Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah! Praise ye the Lord!” (easily learned by any language group!). Unusually, Paul ‘wound up’ the children as they sang in rounds and the noise was almost deafening. The headteacher asked Paul to speak to the staff on “Leadership” and then asked the question, “How do we help children who are traumatised?”. Many of the children had been, and 15 of the new arrivals were orphaned, having seen their parents shot and killed as they crossed the border.
Through no fault of their own, neither the head nor the staff (all unpaid volunteers) knew of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Paul knew something of this from his former career in the Metropolitan Police, so advised as best he could and, with part of a gift from his last astorate, The Bridge Baptist Church, Gillingham (Kent), provided funds for some exercise books, paper and ordinary and coloured pencils to allow for drawing therapy, as well as general use, as the school had very few resources of any description and nowhere near enough to go around. (Well done, The Bridge!)
Paul used the rest of the gift from The Bridge to pay for food for pastors and church leaders at a two day conference he was speaking at, and for two bicycles for pastors from remote churches within the vast Bidi Bidi camp.
Further Bridge blessings came for Paul in the tarpaulin churches he was preaching in on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, as the tarpaulins were paid for by a gift from The Bridge during his visit last year. Furthermore, there were 302 people (adults and children) at the Easter Sunday Service and following Paul’s sermon, about 15 came forward for prayer, including nine adults for salvation. Praise the Lord!
The Bridge is a small church, but a good church. Its small size is dwarfed by its big heart and great desire for the Lord’s work and mission; locally and world-wide. It is not wealthy or well resourced, but it is generous and prepared to give what it can and where and when it can.
You may well have never heard of it, but at least 20 churches in the refugee camps have. It doesn’t matter how big your church is, or how wealthy: how far can it reach? How far does it? How far will it?
For more information on Hope Health Action and its work internationally, visit www.hopehealthaction.org