Just like being here, you can make a difference, Amy Hinrichs writes about a visit to a rural clinic

Is there money in the benevolence fund?” Dr. Mary asked me as we headed out to the rural clinic site near Ajora Falls. “I’m concerned Temegtu isn’t healing. I want to run some labs on him and get an ultrasound. I also want to bring him home with me so I can supervise his nutrition and wound care.”But Temegtu didn’t show up at clinic on Thursday. Fortunately, we know where he lives, so on the way home from clinic we stopped and called out for him.

Temegtu, his mother, siblings and neighbors gathered around the car as Dr. Mary explained her proposition. “I’d like to take Temegtu to Soddo Christian Hospital. He will stay at my neighbor’s house, but I will feed him and make sure he continues to get the care he needs so his skin infection can heal. Do I have your permission?”

I’m telling you, people…the relief, the gratitude of that mom…it was a sight to behold. If your son had an infection seemingly taking over his head, neck and chest, and you were powerless against it, how desperate would you feel? As we pulled away with Temegtu in the car, his mother (Dad was out working in the fields) and neighbors blessed us and thanked us over and over until we rounded the bend.

Guess what, though? We DIDN’T have any money in the benevolence fund. Since I was right there and had the money to help, I told Mary that Kurt and I would happily cover all his hospital and non-hospital costs. This is not a story about us, though, because you would have done the same thing if you’d been here.

Which is why I'm relaying this story to you...you can do the very same thing without being here in Ethiopia. I encourage you to be a blessing to others by becoming a monthly donor to the benevolence fund of Soddo Christian Hospital.

Go to soddo.org or click the blue button below to become a one-time or recurring donor to “Fund a Patient.” It's like being here.


  Donate now

Your gift can help

On a beautiful day in Soddo, as I was walking to the playground with my children, I ran into our missionary internist who told me of a young adult woman who had come to the hospital in respiratory failure due to Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Her respiratory muscles were too weak to take in enough air and she was suffocating. She was 34 weeks pregnant. The medical team had quickly placed her on a breathing machine and obtained permission from the family to do a Cesarean section to save the baby’s life. The baby was requiring a lot of support for breathing, but was stable and the mom was in recovery.

As a new mother of a nearly 3-month old baby, my heart quickened for this mother, her other children and her family. As the week went on, despite our best care, the mother died. Baby was slowly taking in formula each day, but after a few days, developed some blood in his stomach, likely from necrotizing enterocolitis. This is one of the feared complications of premature birth, and the risk rises when a baby receives formula instead of breast milk. The baby could not eat for a few days and started to get malnourished. There was no way for him to get breast milk from his mother, and the family had left to prepare for her burial. So who would pay for this child’s care? Unlike America, there is no medical insurance or Medicaid for orphans and widows. If a patient cannot pay for medical care in cash at the time of service, most places will turn the patient away. So this motherless child was left in our NICU without family and without much to eat for nearly 7 days. Thanks to some of our dedicated supporters, we had money in our benevolence fund to pay for this child’s hospitalization and we didn’t have to send him away.

As I sat at home and fed my own baby, I felt the grief of this child and his family and prayed for this baby. I felt that I needed to pump extra milk for this orphaned child, so I did.

Psalm 10:14 says, “But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted. You consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”

Our missionary community rallied around this child. I pumped for the baby, and we fed him through his nasogastric tube. As we started feeding him, he was comforted, cried less and tolerated his feeds. Our community of workers and NICU staff took turns holding baby throughout the day to give him attachment, love, prayers, and touch. The busy NICU staff commented that baby would be crying, but when someone came to hold him, he stopped.

We gave him everything we could: fluids, antibiotics, oxygen, a blood transfusion, physical touch, donated breast milk, and prayers. My heart was full of joy. He was flourishing, happy and felt a little like a part of our family. Then suddenly, he developed a fever and rash and died less than 18 hours later. I cried…a lot. As I walked home from the hospital, having just declared his death and completed the paperwork, God reminded me this boy was loved. He was placed into a family, our Soddo family. He was touched and held, and now he is with is mother. It was difficult to accept this as I walked home to my healthy 3 month old baby, but in this matter I have no choice.

It is a blessing to be a part of this hospital and this loving and caring team, even in difficult times. Yet now our benevolence fund is empty. We have to pay our staff a living wage and therefore cannot provide free care to everyone. So the dilemma exists: what do we do when faced with the poor, the widow, the orphan? Do we simply turn them away and not care for their medical needs? I am asking you to consider giving generously to our benevolence fund so we can be the light of Christ and the hands of God together as an international team that extends beyond the borders of our hospital grounds to those that come to our hospital’s door. Would you partner with us?


Our Pediatric ward is crowded

This week, I was amazed at how crowded the hospital grounds are.  I quickly learned that families stay on the property when their loved ones are hospitalized.  When all beds are filled, which is a common occurrence, some sick and injured patients stay in the yard waiting for a vacancy.  Families huddle together, sleep under a tree or under the shelter of overhangs with few complaints.  Above, is the pediatric ward, which is one large room with multiple beds.  It is not uncommon to see family members share a bed or sleep on the ground next to the hospital bed.  For those who have not been here, imagine 6 hospital beds and 6 families, sharing one large room.

Today, we took care of a 4 year old child who had fallen from a mango tree, had an open distal radius and ulna fracture with the radius coming out of the skin.  There was mud and grass on the visible end of the bone coming through the skin.  We were able to take the patient to the operating room, remove the debris and mud, reduce the fracture and pin it back into place.  Dilute bleach is used as irrigation in the operating room, and almost every patient’s wounds are cleaned with dilute bleach daily while they are in the hospital.  It has proven to be extremely effective.


I am grateful to UCLA and OIC to have had the opportunity to come visit and help in Ethiopia, and look forward to another exciting week!

Would you consider a gift to our Benevolence Fund to help our poorest patients?

These notes and photos were provided by:

> Ed Cheung

> UCLA Orthopaedic Surgery

Yehone, "his name means, "Let it be"

Yehone is a newborn baby at Soddo Christian Hospital. “Let It Be” is the meaning of his name, but that is an impossible task for his young mother and grandmother, both of whom anxiously await the outcome of a surgery on which they’ve just been debriefed. Yehone’s family has traveled to Soddo from their local hospital 50 kilometers away. His grandmother explains that Yehone is the first-born child of her daughter, who is young, fatherless, and recently married. The tiny child in her arms is the prize of this family. Twenty days after his birth, Yehone’s family knew that he was fatally ill, with a distended stomach and unrelenting vomiting. They sought diagnoses and treatment at the hospital nearest them, but did not have enough money to pay for the child’s care. They were sent to Soddo Christian Hospital, where a Benevolence Fund will help pay for life-saving treatment they cannot afford. Yehone’s family used everything they had to make it to the hospital in Soddo. Today, Yehone will undergo an operation to heal the root of his illness - an intestinal malrotation.

Dr. Michelle explains to the mother and grandmother the need for this operation, assuring them that God has already protected their child, that his life today is reason to give thanks to God, and that we must continue to entrust the child’s care to God through prayer. Ayellech, a hospital chaplain, is in the room to pray for the baby and family. The women are both timid, they are afraid of the surgery and do not believe their precious one will make it through; “He is so small,” what if he does not wake up? The gnawing, clenching feeling of fear is evident on the women’s faces. Ayellech places her hands on the child and his mother, and prays powerfully for the baby’s life. When the prayer finishes, she does not stand up and walk away. She holds the mother’s shoulder and asks, “Why did you not say ‘Amen?’” Do you not know that God is good? The women look worried, but they know that this is their hope, that they must put their trust in the doctors here to save their child; it is through the faith and evangelism of the staff that they are led instead to put their faith in God. “God is the only physician who can save this baby,” Dr. Yates explains before she prays for the family, “So we must pray.”

“God has given us an opportunity to share the gospel here…to people who come from all corners and all tribes of Ethiopia,” explains Tesfaye, another hospital chaplain, “I cannot share the gospel more anywhere else.”

Soddo Christian Hospital provides more than physical healing, but it is only through the lifesaving care of the doctors that this opportunity arises.

When Yehone’s family arrived at Soddo, they had spent everything they had on transportation to the hospital. They had nothing left to pay for treatment.

The Benevolence Fund is currently very short of funds.  We used $113,000 to fund Benevolence Patients in 2016, wiping out our reserves.

For Yehone and his family, the hospital’s reserve Benevolence Fund (which has been set aside for pregnant mothers) is being re-allocated to cover the surgery and medicine costs for Yehone, in addition to food for his mother and grandmother. Because of this resource, Yehone and his family will remain in the hospital while he undergoes treatment; they will be in the care of the hospital’s doctors, nurses, and chaplains, who will continue to share with them the love of Christ, and the hope of new life given by Jesus.

There is now an immense need to replenish the hospital’s Benevolence Fund, which in the past has been lifesaving to hundreds of patients – thanks to the generosity of donors. This is a major resource to provide opportunities for the staff to serve the poor; it is the means through which Soddo Christian Hospital shares the gospel with those who both need and desire it the most.

With your donation, Soddo Christian Hospital can continue to provide this much-needed care and hope to the neediest in Ethiopia. Will you help?

Yehone’s surgery was successful.  He is now recovering!  Thank you God!


You can give online at:


Celebrating God’s mercy and grace

Celebrating God’s mercy and grace

Celebrating God's Mercy and Grace

I know I always keep saying this, but seriously the cases I see here never cease to amaze me. Three weeks ago the ER called stating they had a pregnant mother critically ill and would I come right away to the OR because they were transferring her there. The story goes like this. Two weeks earlier she had seen a “native doctor/traditional healer” who had cut out her uvula. The uvula is that small appendage that hangs down the back of one’s throat. He had also cut out her tonsils. She had so much edema from this horrific procedure that her airway was being cut off and she could not breathe. She had been hospitalized at another hospital for seven days and her condition continued to worsen. They had not even realized at the other hospital that she was full term pregnant! The family moved her to SCH as their last hope. When I entered the OR and saw that her O2 saturation was very low and she was gasping for every precious breath, I did not hold out much hope that she could survive. On the OR table it was obvious that she was near term with a gravid uterus. We initially could not get a fetal heart rate but then with ultrasound I could see that the baby was still alive with a fetal heart rate of 50. The normal is 120-160. We had to act quickly if, at least, we could save the baby. Amazingly, Shewalul, our head nurse anesthetist, was able to intubate her and we delivered a lifeless little boy. Dr. David and Dr. Becky immediately worked on him for 25 minutes before they got a regular heartbeat. Then it took another 20 minutes before the baby started taking shallow breaths on his own. But he was still not out of the woods. Shortly afterwards he started seizing. Eventually he was placed on three seizure meds to control the seizures. Back to his mother…she survived the surgery but was not able to breathe without the help of a tracheotomy that was performed by Dr. Teddy, one of our PAACS surgeons. She was placed on steroids and antibiotics and slowly began to improve. She was in our ICU for 10 days. Her swelling eventually reduced and the tracheotomy was replaced with a smaller one and then later removed. She is now totally breathing on her own. Amazingly, both she and her baby boy went home this past week. To look at them both, it was like looking at a miracle. The baby did not appear to have any residual effects of his anorexia. All of the seizures have stopped and he looks like a normal baby boy. This is a true testament to God’s mercy and grace. –An update from Dr. Mark and Allison Karnes, October 2015

A Team Effort

The hospital has been buzzing lately about a young woman whose life was saved.  And with good reason!  She may be one of only a few patients to be mechanically ventilated and survive in this part of Ethiopia.

Tseganesh was pregnant and getting near term, when she started feeling bad.  She went to another health care facility, and after three days in the hospital, was discharged.  Unfortunately, a few days after that, she started having seizures.  Those in the medical community will recognize exactly what Tseganesh had.  It is called eclampsia and it is life-threatening to both mom and baby.

When she came to Soddo Christian Hospital, she had been seizing for ten straight hours.  She was rushed to the OR for immediate Cesarean delivery.  It was two beautiful babies.   Twins!  The babies seemed okay, but Tseganesh was getting much worse.  Though the seizures were controlled with medications, brain damage was suspected.  At one point in the surgery, she even arrested briefly.  Fluid had begun to fill her lungs, and it appeared that she aspirated as well during the seizures.  She was critically ill to the point of near-death.

After the surgery, it was clear that Tseganesh was not going to breathe on her own.  We made the decision to mechanically ventilate her, but with great trepidation.  You see, our ventilator is brand new, and our staff are not very experienced with it.   Ventilating a patient like this would be common in the West, but here, it could be a death sentence.  Our physician and nursing staff were committed to saving this young woman's life.  So, day and night, a staff member was at her bedside.  Turning her, keeping her breathing tube clear, monitoring the ventilator.   And praying.   We all took turns, and begged God to save this young woman's life.  And after five days on the ventilator, her lungs had cleared to the point where she could breathe on her own.

At long last, she was finally able to hold and feed her two precious babies!

We praise God for so many things in this young woman's story:

  • that He united our staff to work hard and provide excellent medical care
  • that our prayers were answered, and her life was saved
  • that she appears to have no brain damage from prolonged seizing and cardiac arrest
  • that the two twin babies are healthy and thriving
  • that willing donors from abroad gave money so that the hospital could procure a quality ventilator
Two of our staff while Tseganesh is ventilated prone - an indication of how seriously ill she was.
Two of our staff and Tseganesh while prone - an indication of how seriously ill she was.  Prone ventilation is used on the sickest of patients.
Out of the ICU with her beautiful babies.
Out of the ICU with her beautiful babies.

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Our Youngest Fundraisers Ever!

Our donors are truly amazing.  Occasionally, we have a donor (or group of donors) who are so extraordinary that we have to share the story with you.  This is one of those times...

Near the end of 2014, we were blessed to be visited by Drs. Dustin and Angela Larson.  Angela is a family practitioner and Dustin is an orthopedic surgeon.  The two of them worked tirelessly alongside our national and missionary staff here in Soddo.  But that's not all.  On the other side of the ocean, Dustin's brother Loren and his four kids back in the USA were following the details of their trip.

Loren Larson is an orthopedic surgeon also, so naturally the kids are interested in medical things.  They saw pictures and heard stories of the patients and their injuries at Soddo Christian Hospital.  They were moved by the plight of the Soddo patients.  Their oldest, Lauren (age 11) came up with the idea to start a fundraiser.  She said, let's sell brownies (which the kids themselves made) and hot cocoa to the neighbors from a stand in front of our house!

The siblings banded together and opened their store, and raised $31 USD!  All on their own, with no adults.

Naturally, when we heard about this at Soddo Christian Hospital, we had to share it with you.  The beauty is that even $31 can save a life in Soddo.  That's enough to pay for someone's hospitalization, or to have their lab tests and x-rays done.  No contribution is too small!  And these kids saved someone's life by just taking initiative.  We were so encouraged to see that God can stir even the very young to join us in the work here.

Won't you be a part, too?  St.art a fundraiser today, and save lives here in Ethiopia...

The Larson kids raising money for Soddo

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Giving Away Your Birthday

What does it mean to "give away your birthday"?  We found out when one generous little boy from Indiana did it when he turned nine.

You see, usually birthdays (especially for kids) are all about the presents.  Sure, it's a celebration, and there's nothing wrong with that.  But often the day becomes more about what we get out of it.  So, some wise folks out there had the thought to turn that idea on it's head.  What if instead of getting on your birth, you used it as a day to give?  People who decide to "give away their birthday" use it as an opportunity to tell others about a ministry or cause that they really believe in.  Then, they invite their friends and family to donate, instead of buying them presents!  How great is that?

Joseph was one of these huge-hearted people.  At the tender age of 8-going-on-9, he decided to give away his birthday for Soddo Christian Hospital.  Here is the letter he wrote to all his friends and family.  They shared it by email, blog, and Facebook:

For my birthday, I decided I am going to give my birthday away. Instead of gifts, I want to raise money. I have chosen Soddo Christian Hospital in Soddo, Ethiopia. Soddo is where I was born and lived before I came to America. I am so lucky-this summer I get to go with my dad, Granddad and brother to visit Soddo. 

This hospital is not just an ordinary hospital-everyone who come in learns about Jesus. This is something that is important to me. 

Also, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. This hospital helps people in one of the poorest parts of the country. Without this hospital, they might not get any help.

I am raising money for them to buy a CPAP machine. A CPAP machine helps babies be able to breath correctly. When my twin brothers were born early, this machine saved their lives. I am excited to help save babies lives.

Thanks to the generosity of Joseph and his friends and family, $9,700 was raised.  That's right.  You heard that correctly.  $9,700!  The hospital was able to buy not one, not two, but THREE CPAP machines.  And several babies lives have been saved as a result.  (The mortality of pre-term babies is very high in Ethiopia, but due to these machines, our survival rate is improving dramatically).  This small act of selflessness on the part of this child yielded dividends that are saving lives!

So, what do you say?  Are you ready to give away your next birthday?

Joseph with his family.  Soddo Christian Hospital thanks you!!
Joseph with his family. Soddo Christian Hospital thanks you!!

Happy World TB Day 2014!

You probably haven’t heard much about tuberculosis, or TB.  Maybe you remember that Nicole Kidman’s character Satine in Moulin Rouge died from TB.  Or you remember Katerina Ivanova in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.  But you probably don’t personally know anyone with the disease.

But the fact is, TB is everywhere.  Epidemiologists estimate that 2.3 billion people in the world are infected with TB.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Two point three billion.  Fully one-third of the world’s 7 billion population.

Why have you not heard much about it then?  Well, because in the US, less than 1% of the population has been infected with TB.

The thing is, TB is a disease of the developing world.  Every year, 9 million new people are diagnosed with TB disease – and 98% of them live in the developing world.  Nelson Mandela said, “The world has made defeating AIDS a top priority.  This is a blessing.  But TB remains ignored. …We can’t fight AIDS unless we do much more to fight TB as well.”

In the emergency room in Ethiopia, I see TB every single day.  Literally.  Last week, I saw a woman come in with abdominal pain who had lost a fourth of her body weight.  She looked like a skeleton.  Her abdomen was rigid and tender, and it turned out she had TB infection of the intestines.  Another day, I saw an adolescent with back pain because TB had destroyed his spine (we call this Pott’s disease).

This is the kind of stuff that you only read about in textbooks in America.  But in Africa, it is deadly real.  Ethiopia is one of the “high burden” countries for TB – 22 countries which make up 82% of the entire world’s cases .  In Ethiopia, there are 280,000 new cases of TB diagnosed every year.  Epidemiologists call this “incidence”.  (By contrast, in the US, there are about 10,000 new cases of TB every year).   The Millennium Development Goals are seeking to reduce TB in countries like Ethiopia.  But the political will is lacking.  There are few high profile celebrities with TB.   Research dollars that go toward TB are dwarfed by that of HIV.  Though we have countless new drugs for HIV, we have NO NEW DRUGS to treat TB.

What can we do to fight TB?  For centuries, the only way to diagnose it has been by looking at someone’s sputum under a microscope.  And this only catches TB 50% of the time!  (In contrast, the test for HIV is in the blood, and is 99% accurate at detecting the disease).  Finally, in recent years, a device has been developed that can confirm TB.  It is called the GeneXpert, and we hope to get one here at Soddo Christian Hospital.

So today, on World TB Day, perhaps you find yourself asking, “What can I do to help stop TB?” Well, if you’re a friend of Soddo Christian Hospital, the answer is surprisingly simple.  We would like to get a GeneXpert.  It will make diagnosis of the disease more accurate, and allow us to help many more people.  We will detect when patients are suffering from this horrible disease, and can start lifesaving therapies immediately.