Medicine + the Gospel – History of SCH Pt. 4

Posted in: Missionary Medicine, Soddo
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In 1946, the missionaries returned to Soddo, having found a vibrant church had grown in their absence.  In addition to this, they reoccupied the hospital they had started before – having to kick out some livestock who had taken up there!

In the following decades, the ministry of the hospital grew.  What had begun as primarily a church planting ministry, now evolved into a medical ministry – ministering to the sick and dying in an effort to preach to them the Gospel of Jesus.  Dr. Barlow and other physicians cared for burn and trauma patients, obstetric emergencies, malaria, typhoid, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, and a whole host of other conditions.  The hospital grew to 105 beds to care for the sick of Wolaitta and the surrounding areas.  The Gospel was shared, and many came to know Christ.

The conditions were meager, such that in 1967 when Dr. Harold Adolph joined the staff, he described a hospital with walls made from mud and sticks covered with “bamboo mats to keep them from oozing when it rained.”  The operating room light was a single light bulb dangling from a rusty coat hanger.  The OR table only had three legs, with a some scrap pieces of lumber cobbled together for the fourth.  In fact, the one sterilizer they had exploded, forcing the surgeons to use the largest pressure cooker they could find to sterilize instruments.

Dr. Harold Adolph operating at Soddo Hospital, c. 1970s

Dr. Adolph operating at Soddo Hospital, c. 1970s

The need for a new hospital was great.  And SIM and the doctors began raising funds for that purpose in the late 1960s.  By 1975, the new hospital was complete having been built in a period of seven years by five different contractors.  Dr. Adolph and the others, however, would barely have any time to enjoy their new facility.  In 1974, a coup d’etat forced Emperor Haile Selasse from the throne and brought to power a harsh military and then Communist regime known as “the Derg”.  Aligning itself with the Soviet bloc, the Derg became hostile to any Western influences, and forced the missionaries to leave the country in 1976.  They then took over the new hospital which SIM had built and made it a government hospital.  Only God knew then if a medical ministry would return to Soddo someday.  Stay tuned…

The newly completed SIM Soddo Hospital in 1975.

The newly completed SIM Soddo Hospital in 1975.  Today, the hospital is the government-run Soddo (Otona) Hospital.

This is the fourth installment in a series of posts about the history of SCH.

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