Mission Hospital Closes

Just two weeks ago, the Hospital Vozandes-Shell at the edge of the Amazon rainforest closed its doors forever.  Shell was a mission hospital that operated for 55 years, spreading the gospel and providing lifesaving treatment to the people of that area.  However, government-backed hospitals began to open in recent years.  This government-subsidized, even free health care became more desirable to the locals, and finally the hospital could no longer compete.

Without government subsidies, mission hospitals like ours (and Shell) are forced to charge higher prices if we are not subsidized in some other way.  Soddo Christian Hospital provides some of the finest and most specialized care in Ethiopia.  But we serve an incredibly poor population.  In order to provide care, we must have the support of donors.  Otherwise, they will be driven to public hospitals where the standard of care is much lower.  But worse than that, they won't hear the Gospel at those public hospitals.

Help us avoid the fate of Shell Hospital.  Help us to continue providing low cost but excellent care.  And doing it in the name of Jesus.  Every week, we have patients profess new faith in Christ.  Help us keep that going!

We are looking for 100 donors to pledge $100 a month for the next year.  Tell your friends, and sign up today!

White Coat Ceremony

What is a white coat ceremony, you ask?  Well, according to Wikipedia, it is the ritual that marks the transition of a student of medicine from the pre-clinical years to the clinical years.  The white coat has been worn for over 100 years by medical professionals, and is clearly associated with the trade.  Everyone likes ceremonies, and for doctors, this is an important ritual that bestows the rights as wells as responsibilities on new doctors.

Though typically done with medical students, we have developed our own version of the white coat ceremony for our PAACS residents.  Performed as they begin their five year training, we assemble in the chapel here at Soddo Christian Hospital and deliver a charge to the new young surgeons.  This past week, we welcomed Dr. Gezahegn and Dr. Ebeneezer into the ninth class of surgical residents here.  Here is how it happened:

Residents awaiting the start of the program
Residents awaiting the start of the program
Dr. Gray washing Ebenezer's feet
Dr. Gray washing Ebenezer's feet

The time was opened with a song and prayer led by Pastor Daniel, SCH’s head chaplain.  Then Dr. Gray read John 13 reminding all of the servant leadership by Jesus and do likewise.  “For I have given you an example – you should do just as I have done for you.” John 13:15.  Dr. Mark Karnes shared his prayer for the residents from Colossians chapter 1.  He charged them with 3 important things to remember throughout their training.  First, God is in control; rest and trust in this.  Second, treat all patients with care and compassion as if they were family.  Third, know your limits and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Next, Dr. Seigni Bekele, SCH’s chief resident encouraged the interns with some scripture and words of wisdom.  He read from Hebrews 12:1-2, mentioning the men of faith that are listed in the chapter before this.  He emphasized that there are many people of faith who pray continually for PAACS and for the residents here.  He challenged the interns to remember they are a part of something great and many people have gone before them in sacrifice and prayer to get the program to where it is today.  And for that we are thankful and give glory to God.  “Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:2

Dr. Karnes washing Gezahegn's feet
Dr. Karnes washing Gezahegn's feet

Dr. Gray spoke last pointing out that in order to be the greatest we need to be the least.  And that the desire in us to be the greatest is not wrong, but it is what we are aiming for that makes the difference.  If we stay focused on eternity and we strive to do well for the eternal, then the world may consider us crazy, but we will know we are aiming for something great.


Finally, following Jesus' example from John 13, Dr. Karnes and Dr. Gray washed the feet of Dr. Gezahegn and Dr. Ebenezer.  Not something you'd find in most white coat ceremonies, but servant leadership being the focal point of our training, a practice that we feel is essential to this rite of passage.  As staff physicians, we want to model servant leadership to even our newest trainees, as we begin to mentor them.  A blessing was prayed over them as we concluded the ceremony.



Front row, Left to Right: Dr. Ben Martin (Emory resident), Dr. Gezahegn (1st year), Dr. Ebenezer (1st year), Dr. Bob Greene (ortho visitor , Netsanet (administrative assistant .  Back row, Left to Right: Dr. Paul Gray (PAACS Ethiopia Director), Dr Moges (3rd year), Dr. Surafel (2nd year), Dr. Seigni (4th year), Dr. Mark Karnes (OB/GYN)
Front row, Left to Right: Dr. Ben Martin (Emory resident), Dr. Gezahegn (1st year), Dr. Ebenezer (1st year), Dr. Bob Greene (ortho visitor , Netsanet (administrative assistant . Back row, Left to Right: Dr. Paul Gray (PAACS Ethiopia Director), Dr Moges (3rd year), Dr. Surafel (2nd year), Dr. Seigni (4th year), Dr. Mark Karnes (OB/GYN)

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."






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.


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.