A Miracle at Soddo

Yeke sitting up and eating, three days after he nearly drowned.

The parents were shrieking in grief and disbelief as they ran their 14 month old little boy to the ER at Soddo Christian Hospital.

Just minutes earlier they had found him upside down in a bucket.  A bucket of mop water.  He had wandered out and managed to tip himself into it, and couldn't get out.  He literally drowned.

When the parents brought in little Yekebesera, they thought he had been underwater for at least five minutes.  In the ER, he was having seizures which were requiring multiple doses of strong medications to stop them.  Only minutes later, he began "posturing"  - meaning that he was extending his arms and legs in such a way that indicates very severe brain damage.

Our pediatrician admitted him to the ICU, and assisted his breathing with a CPAP machine which we just  purchased through generous donors.  All of the doctors who cared for him that evening thought this little boy would never make it.  But trusting God, and hoping for a miracle, we did everything we were capable of doing.

The next days, Yeke remained seizure-free, and started waking up more.  Here's what our pediatrician Dave Ayer said when he walked into the room on hospital day #3:

"When I came in Sunday morning and his dad asked me if he could eat...I thought he was joking.  That is, until I looked down and found out this little guy had purposefully ripped off some of his monitoring equipment.  He was interacting normally with his parents and requesting something to drink.  It nearly brought me to tears--today he came off CPAP and is on minimal oxygen support and eating/drinking like a normal kiddo.  My only remaining challenge will be to convince his dad that he actually needs to stay 7 days to finish his antibiotics."

Praise God for this miracle.  And for donors like you who gave so that this boy could have the gift of life.

6 Ways We Are Reaching the Poorest of the Poor

woman-and-sonBeing a mission hospital means taking care of the poor.  We are commanded to do this by Jesus, and it is something we desire to do.  If we offer free care, we will be inundated with patients.  How could we possibly treat them all?  If we charge for the care, we may overlook many who are very poor.  What can we do?

  1. First, everyone is expected to pay something.  Even if it is only a few cents.  It is simply not sustainable for us to provide free care.  Indeed, most Africans have a social safety net made up of family, friends, church members, etc. who can contribute to their medical expenses.  However, we recognize that this will not be enough for some patients.  For them, we have a Benevolent Fund that can cover their costs.
  2. We have a committee of nationals who evaluate patients and their eligibility for the Benevolent Fund.  In a country like Ethiopia, where many in the population live on less than $1 per day, it can be difficult to sort out who are the poorest among the poor.  Particularly for Westerners working here.  Relative to our background, everyone seems poor, and we would likely put everyone on the Benevolent Fund.  That is why it is so crucial to have nationals evaluate these situations on a case-by-case basis.
  3. We lower costs as much as possible by using expatriate specialist staff who are funded separately through their respective mission agencies.  We still have to pay for all the operating costs of the hospital, the nursing staff, our national doctors, and supplies.  But we offset these costs with donations and some volunteer staff.  Much of our equipment is donated which lowers capital expenses for the hospital and this is passed on to patients.
  4. The rural poor in Africa have less than a 10% chance of seeing a doctor in their lifetime.  The medical services simply do not exist for the vast numbers of people.  (Ethiopia alone has close to 100 million inhabitants.)  Ultimately, it comes down to training.  We are training surgeons, physicians, medical students, and nurses.  If we are truly going to expand our reach to the poorest of the poor, we must increase capacity in the face of such great need.
  5. We are going out into the community with Community Health Evangelism, Helicopter Outreaches to the T'ara people, and rural prenatal clinics. These initiatives are taking the Gospel and quality medical care to rural poor who would otherwise never see a a doctor.
  6. Your donations make a difference.  As we have written on here before, 96% of the money you give on this site, goes directly to Ethiopia.  A significant portion of that goes to the Benevolent Fund.  Which in turn pays for care for the poorest of the poor.

Click here to give today, and know that you are giving to an organization that is doing all it can to reach "the least of these."






The Best Hospital in Ethiopia

ribbonSo I'm a little biased, but I think that Soddo Christian Hospital has a chance to be the best hospital in Ethiopia.  Does that matter?  Is that something we should strive for?

In the United St.ates, the Christian church pioneered health care.  If you look around your town, chances are the hospitals are named things like St.. Luke's or Baptist Medical Center.  The reason is that Christians have always been at the forefront of caring for the sick among us.  It is the natural outworking of our faith.  When Jesus's disciples asked him, "Lord when did we see you sick and visit you?", he tells them that whatever they did "for the least of these" was done unto Him.  So Christians have often been found caring for the sick and disabled.

Now, when we look at the landscape of hospitals in Ethiopia, why shouldn't Soddo Christian Hospital be the best?  Our mission and vision states that we desire to provide excellent medical services.  This striving for excellence is an effort to glorify God in all we do (1 Cor. 10:31).  We want people in Ethiopia to look to Soddo Christian Hospital - a medium sized hospital in out-of-the-way Wolaitta - as raising the bar for health care in Ethiopia at the same time we are expanding God's kingdom.

When people ask me, why does a hospital in rural, southern Ethiopia need to be the standard bearer for the country, I point them to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  At around 100,000 inhabitants, Rochester is not even among the top 200 most populous cities in the US.  Yet many patients flock to receive care at the Mayo Clinic, and it has consistently been ranked as one of the top hospitals in the country.  It is also considered one of the best places to work in the St.ates.

So, Soddo Christian Hospital could be the Mayo Clinic of south Ethiopia!  Soddo, like Rochester, has close to 100,000 population.  And out of the 150 or so hospitals spread across Ethiopia, patients are choosing to come all the way down here to get their care.  We are proud to be setting a new standard for health care in Ethiopia, and pray that it will give us opportunities to treat more patients and witness to the glory of Christ.

12 Things for Non-Doctors to do at SCH


Okay, so we're not gonna ask you to jackhammer (unless you really want to).  But one question we do get a lot is: "I'm not a doctor.  Could I still be of any use at the hospital?"  So here are 12 things that you could do at the hospital if you are not, say, medically inclined...

1.  Plumbers & electricians:  We need all sorts of skilled labor done around the hospital.  We have septic systems, generators, and a myriad of other equipment that need tending to.

2. Leadership development:  Are you a manager or have experience coaching leaders?  Come and help us train our senior staff at the hospital.

3.  Teachers:  You can teach English at our hospital language school.  We also have about 15 missionary kids (MK's) here in addition to our residents' kids, and they would love a Vacation Bible School or some type of sports camp.  That means you too, coaches.

4. Organizers: Are you organized?  We have loads of equipment and materials that need to be inventoried/cataloged.  Come and get your type-A personality fix here!

5.  Office computer skills:  Are you good with Excel?  Want to host a workshop for our financial people?  What about Word or other clerical software?  We have a large administrative staff that you could train.

6.  Any IT/Networking People out there?  We recently began a network at the hospital, and are running a server and handful of workstations.  What's next?  Come help us figure it out, and figure out ways to run our network better.

7.  Prayer partners.  Would you want to pray with some of our patients?  Maybe hold a child's hand before they go into surgery?

8.  Babysitters:  Our missionaries need a break every once and a while.  Perhaps you could watch their kids, so they can go out for dinner.

9.  Artists:  Want to come and paint some cool murals on our hospital walls?  Or how about do some art with the patients or the MK's?  Give us your ideas, and let's do it.

10.  Chefs/restauranteurs/amateur cooks:  We cook everything here from scratch, so it's a lot of work!  How about you come and help teach us and our staff how to prepare simple meals from scratch from our locally available ingredients?  Or just cook for us, and give us a break with your delicious home-cooked meals!

11.  Pastors/church leaders - Come and work with our chaplains and train/work alongside them!

12.  Anything you want to do!  - This place is ground-up work, and there are all kinds of tasks to do.  How has God gifted you?  Just ask us, and let's figure out a way to use those gifts here!


What's Your Specialty?

At Soddo Christian Hospital, we offer all types of general and specialized care.  Here's a sampling of specialized services that we offer at Soddo Christian Hospital:

  • We have an outpatient department with an emergency room and non-urgent primary care.  We see pediatric and adult patients.  Our general medical staff includes a US-trained pediatrician, emergency physician, family nurse practitioner, and tropical disease expert.  We have a European-trained geriatrician, as well as a national internal medicine specialist who sees clinic patients and inpatients.
  • We have two, that's right TWO, US-trained general and trauma surgeons.  They serve as the primary faculty advisors for the general surgery residency program at the hospital.  (Yes, we are a teaching hospital affiliated with the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons).  This team performs other surgeries as well including a fair amount of urologic procedures.
  • Orthopedic Surgery - we have a US-trained orthopedic surgeon and perform a full gamut of bone and joint surgeries with pediatric and adult patients, including arthroscopic surgery!
  • Obstetrics & Gynecology - our US-trained obstetrician and team of midwives perform deliveries and C-sections as well as expert gynecology services.
  • Subspecialties are available on an occasional basis.  Through World Medical Mission, we have plastic surgeons, ENT (ear, nose & throat), urologists, and neurosurgeons come and work in Soddo on a frequent basis.

As you can see, we are well staffed to take care of all types of emergent and non-emergent conditions!

Where is Soddo Anyway?

We get asked this question a lot, so we thought we'd show you.  Here is a map of Ethiopia:


As you can see, the capital city Addis Ababa is located smack in the middle of the country.  If you visit Soddo, this is where you will fly into, usually from Europe, or maybe Washington, D.C.  From the southwest edge of Addis, you head south on the Jimma Road, and right outside of Addis, turn left down the highway that takes you to Soddo.  Here's the route:


From Addis, it's about a 330 km, or about 205 miles to Soddo.  You pass through 2 major towns, Butajira at around 100km (you're about one-third of the way there) and Hosanna at around 200km (now you're on the home stretch).  The journey takes about 5 hours.  Often folks will stop for lunch or coffee - we recommend the Rediet Hotel in Butajira.  Along the way, expect to see some beautiful rolling countryside, farmland, and Ethiopia chika bets, or mud houses.

chika bet
Traditional chika bet

The big towns, like Hosanna and Butajira, are full of retail stores, restaurants, and hotels.  When in the towns you will see 3-wheeled motorized tuk-tuks that are referred to as a "Bajaj" after the Indian company that makes them.  Here's a couple photos:

Bajaj's along the road in town
Bajaj's along the road in town
Rediet Hotel in Butajira
Rediet Hotel in Butajira

And, of course, expect to see plenty of donkeys, donkey-carts, and pedestrians occupying the road as you travel.  In fact, many more people on the road in Ethiopia are on foot than in cars!

Pedestrians on the road in south Ethiopia
Pedestrians on the road in south Ethiopia

Sustainability, Mission Hospitals, & the Early Church

How do you do medical missions in a sustainable way?  Medical care is expensive, and providing it to the poorest of the poor is financially implausible.  And yet, those with a Christian worldview know that God commands us to "act justly and to love mercy" (Micah 6:8).  Basic economics teaches us that doing so will come at a cost.  And who is to bear that cost?  Well, we learn in Acts 4:32-35 that the early Church had a good solution for this.  They were sharing their possessions with each other "as they had need."  This may be the reason (according to Rodney Stark and others) that the early church grew in such an explosive fashion.  As new Christians met the needs of others in the Body, the world was watching.  This kind of selfless compassion was contagious, and new followers were added to their numbers daily.

The map shows the per capita GDP (gross domestic product - a measure of economic output) across the globe.  North America and a handful of Western European countries represent the wealthiest.  Ethiopia and other Sub-Saharan African countries the poorest.  We find members of the body of Christ in all of these places without respect to political boundaries.  If you live in a "blue" or a "green" country, do you feel a new weight of responsibility?  So, as Francis Schaeffer famously asked, "How should we then live?"

Soddo Christian Hospital does not provide care for free.  Some mission hospitals do, but ours charges a small fee.  We believe this to be important to the longstanding sustainability of the hospital.  (That's another post for another day.)  But that alone is not sufficient to run a hospital.  We have pledged as an institution to offer "excellent medical services," and that we intend to do.  But the economy in which we work is not able by itself to support this lofty vision.

And so we turn to you.  We need your help.  We need the Body of Christ in the "blue and green countries" to step up and say, "We'll take care of it."  Someday, we hope that the economy in rural Ethiopia will be booming, and will fund the hospital fully.  But until then, we know others will have to stand in the gap.  Is that sustainable? Well, perhaps it is, and perhaps it isn't. If you have thoughts on the subject, we invite you to comment below.


96% means 96 cents on every dollar donated goes to the Hospital in Ethiopia

Not many charities can claim this, but we promise you 96% of the money you donate will go directly to Soddo Christian Hospital in Ethiopia and our patients.  How do we do that?  Here are five ways:

  1. All of our medical missionaries are supported through partner mission sending agencies.  That means that they raise their own support, and the hospital does not pay them.   So, none of your donated dollars will go to pay salaries of our expatriate staff.
  2. Our US and Europe-based advocates are all volunteers.  All of our board members, and the people who do the work on the hospital from outside Ethiopia are not paid.  You can rest assured that your donation is going where it's needed - not to pay our admins.
  3. Of course we have costs as a non-profit.  Things that are unavoidable like postage for our newsletters or wire transfer fees to get the money to Ethiopia.
  4. The hospital charges patients a very small fee.  (Except for the very poor - for them, see point #5).   These patient fees go to pay for the electric bill and a lot of the day-to-day operations of the hospital.  So you aren't contributing to the utilities.  So what are you giving to?  Well, that leads us to our last point...
  5. The donations we receive go directly to pay for care for the poorest of the poor, and to help us build new wards, patient facilities, and equipment that we need to care for the patients.  We have a Benevolent Fund which pays for our poorest patients, and a significant portion of your donations go to that.  Another portion goes to provide equipment that the hospital needs like an ambulance, or a piece of lab equipment.  And lastly, some of the money goes to build more beds and more space for more patients.

Doesn't it feel good to know that your money is going to the place where it's most needed?  We think so - that's why we do it this way.  You can give today and help us keep providing excellent care and proclaiming the Gospel in Ethiopia!

Does a mission hospital treat everyone?

This is a question that we get asked a lot.  So we wanted to address it.  And the answer is... yes!

Our hospital is a mission hospital.  You can read all about our mission and values here.  But suffice it to say, that we exist not just to treat people with excellent medical care, but to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples.

But do we treat anyone who comes in the door, no matter what their faith or background?  Of course we do!  We are proud to serve the people of this part of Ethiopia.  Fortunately, as our reputation has grown, now we are also seeing patients referred to us from all over the country.  And these patients come from all types of backgrounds.  Some are Ethiopian Orthodox, some are Muslim, some are animistic, and some are Protestant.  We see and treat them all.

In the hospital, our staff will offer to pray with patients regardless of their background.  We believe that a person's health should be attended to physically and spiritually.  We find that our patients really respond to the fact that we care about them in this wholistic manner.

Often, if a patient is open to hearing about it, we will share with them the life-giving message of the Gospel.  We don't force it.  But we do give them the opportunity to hear.  We play the Jesus Film in the hospital.  We will often provide a Bible in Amharic.  By God's grace, we have seen over 500 patients profess faith in Christ since the hospital opened its doors.  But even for those that kindly decline, we aim to provide excellent care just the same.

Welcome to the Blog!

welcomeWelcome to the Soddo Christian Hospital blog! We hope that this will be a place for you to hear from our staff on various goings-on at the hospital and in the area of medical missions. Here are 5 things we hope to achieve with this blog:

  • Tell amazing stories - There’s a lot going on here in Soddo!  There are patients being healed physically from longstanding infirmities, staff members growing in their faith, and long term missionaries serving alongside and training nationals.  We want to tell you all about it!
  • Answer your questions - What do you want to know about the hospital?  About missions in Africa?  About Ethiopia?  Ask us questions.  You can email us at blog@soddo.org or go to our Facebook page, and put your question there.
  • Introduce you to some incredible people – We have some devoted, compassionate staff we’d love for you to meet.  Some are Ethiopian, and some are expatriates.  All are providing quality medical care in the name of Jesus Christ.  We would love to tell you more about them.
  • Show how your donations are making a difference – Through your generous giving, we are building new buildings, getting state-of-the-art medical equipment, providing Bibles to patients, subsidizing surgeries and care for the poorest of the poor, and all sorts of other amazing things.  We want to give you feedback on all of it.
  • Be a resource for you – Do you have friends interested in medical missions?  Do you know someone who is considering a career as a medical missionary?  Maybe you need some information on health in Ethiopia.  We are here on the front lines, and we want to give you information that you can use.

Thanks for stopping by!