Keeping Babies Warm

In Soddo, we are up above 6,000 feet elevation.  So, for much of the year, it is fairly chilly.  One of the challenges for us is to keep newborns warm after delivery.  In the West, every delivery room has an infant warmer where the baby is placed shortly after birth.  But in Ethiopia, we had struggled to find a quality product at a good price that would do this job.

That was when our pediatrician, Dr. Dave Ayer, had the great idea to make our own.  He partnered with our hospital welder Yohannes, who welded a steel frame together.  Then they mounted a space heater on the top of it.  Voila!  Our own homemade infant warmer.

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Simret's St.ory

Simret (left) with Debebe - two of our CT technicians this past year
Simret (left) with Debebe - two of our CT technicians this past year

This week we said goodbye to an employee that has been a special addition to our staff.   Even though Simret wasn't with us very long, the hospital had a big impact on him, and we'd like to share the story with you.

Simret is one of our CT technicians.  He came to Soddo Christian Hospital about a year ago, doing something that not many people do.  He moved from the big city – Addis Ababa – out to the country – Soddo.  Simret was recruited to help run our CT scanner – the newest instrument in our armamentarium to care for the people of southern Ethiopia.

Simret grew up in a culturally religious tradition, but he admits that he didn’t read the Bible, and he certainly didn’t know God personally.  As he grew into adulthood, he moved from Debra Zeit to Addis and had the beginnings of a successful career.  Not that different from most young professionals anywhere in the world.  Little did he know what would be in store for him when he suddenly made the decision to accept an employment offer at Soddo Christian Hospital.  Wait, what?  Move to Soddo?  Well, it seemed like an interesting opportunity, so he went for it.

Things were going well in his new job.  And then, just a few months after joining our staff, Simret got the news no one wants to hear.  His older brother, living in Seattle, Washington, had just been diagnosed with cancer.   Brain cancer.  Dealing with these things is hard enough when the family is together.  But in this case, Simret’s unmarried brother and their sister were in Seattle, and the rest of the family here in Ethiopia.

Simret became hopeless.  He even began having nightmares.  One day, he had shown up for work, but was just sitting in a chair slumped over in despair.  One of our brightest and best employees, and also a strong Christian went over and engaged him in conversation.  Teka, one of our pharmacists, shines with the love of God, and he wanted desperately to encourage Simret.  He invited him to a discipleship group.  These discipleship groups are like small group Bible studies that our staff engage in every Thursday morning.  Simret went, and his life was forever changed.

He began studying the Bible in small group.  In fact, he got a Bible for the first time in his life.  Another of our employees, Dr. Mehret, gave him a daily devotional guide.  He started reading that too.  And for the first time in a long time, Simret said, he had HOPE.

Now, when asked about it, Simret says that his life is different because of Soddo Christian Hospital.  He says that he wants everyone to know that our hospital “is not like other hospitals”.  “In the big city, the hospital only wants to make money.  But here, we care about patients, we care about the poor, and most of all, we want everyone to know Jesus,” Simret said.  Our patients… and our staff!

Simret left this week for a different job - a new and exciting challenge that we are sure he will excel in.  We are thankful for the year you spent with us, brother!

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All Things to All People

What does it mean to be a Christian hospital?  Do you treat everyone?  Do you force people to adhere to your religion in order to be treated?

These are questions that we get a lot about Soddo Christian Hospital.  They are good questions. At Soddo Christian Hospital, we want to share the Good News in love.  We seek to imitate Christ, and so be the fragrance of life to those who are perishing without the Gospel.

One of the things we seek to do at our hospital is "provide excellent medical services".  As a Christian institution, we want to follow the Biblical mandate that "whatever we do, to do all to the glory of God".  (I Cor. 10:31)  So, from the time our patients come in the front door of the hospital, regardless of their creed, color, or sex, we desire that our staff would give them the excellent medical care that they deserve.   Of course, we share with our patients about the sacrificial, atoning death of Jesus Christ for their sins.  Is their care is predicated on accepting this truth?  No!  But we do want them to know why we do what we do.

healed guy
Healed patient standing with the support of his wife.

One such incredible demonstration of superb care happened recently in our hospital.  This young man had been in a horrible traffic accident.  He came to Soddo Christian Hospital clinging to life.

A severe head injury with an open skull fracture.

A crushed pelvis.

Multiple fractured ribs.

For weeks he lay in our intensive care unit, getting supportive care and surgeries when they were indicated.  Our nurses tended to his every need.  Turning his frail body so he wouldn't get bed sores.  Managing his catheters.  Keeping him hydrated and nourished.

But complications kept coming.  His open skull fracture got infected.  His organs tried to shut down many times.  But through it all, steady and consistent critical care was given to him by our team of capable nurses and doctors.  And from above, the Great Physician was mending his wounds internally.

Slowly, he began to recover.  The nurses began to roll him outside for sunshine.  I can remember on Easter Sunday, seeing him on the front porch of the Intensive Care Unit, in a wheelchair, with a few of our ICU nurses.  They wanted him to see the grace of God in the beams of sunshine on Resurrection Sunday.

Today, months later, he is discharged and walking again with the support of a cane.  Of the six months in the hospital, all but the last week were in Intensive Care.  He stood before our chapel service today, his wife by his side, with tears in their eyes to say thanks.  Indeed, most of us wept as we witnessed a man snatched from the jaws of death.  While he did not become an Evangelical believer during his time with us, his care is a testimony to excellent medical service provided by our staff in the name of Christ.  And for that we rejoice.  We pray that we would become servants to all, as Paul said, "that we might win those who are under the law." (1 Cor 9:20)  As Christians, we know that physical healing is amazing, but the most essential healing of all is reconciling a man's soul to God.  And so we pray that this patient and others like him would come to that place.

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Taking the Mission Beyond the Hospital

At Soddo Christian Hospital, we are investing in our staff through discipleship.  And some of them took what they were learning to the Soddo community - going outside the camp to bring about transformation.  Here's how it happened:

The members of the small group meeting in SCH chapel.
The members of the small group meeting in SCH chapel.

While studying the Gospels in their small groups, some of the members had an idea: to minister to the prisoners in the local Soddo prison.  They would share the Gospel and meet practical needs of the people they met.  Wanting to hear from the Spirit, they took a month to pray, fast, and ask for God's guidance in their plans.  Then, they began to collect donations from individuals as well as the Hospital.  Those of us working here were more than happy to play our part in seeing these faithful employees live out our mission in Soddo.

On June 7th and 8th, the group ventured into the local prison.  There were 50 people involved in the ministry.   Their efforts reached out to 600 prisoners - providing medical services, giving out donated medicines and clothing, and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In those two days, 74 people prayed to receive Jesus as their Savior.  Among them was a man imprisoned for murder.  He asked, "Can God really forgive someone like me?"  Yes!  He repented, and received Christ.  Praise God!

One of the core beliefs of our hospital is in doing holistic ministry - sharing with people the salvation found in Jesus combined with practical and excellent medical care.  This group of ministers sent out from us carried that holistic message to the broader community.  Fueled and excited by seeing the work of God's spirit, they are now planning their next move.  They plan to try a similar program in some neighboring towns, or possibly to focus on job creation and discipleship training.

Counseling and sharing the hope of Jesus Christ.
Counseling and sharing the hope of Jesus Christ.
Celebrating all of what God did!  Praise to Him who makes all things new!
Celebrating all of what God did! Praise to Him who makes all things new!

St.rategic Gospel Work

Our team has been at Soddo Christian Hospital for just two short days, but already we’ve seen and experienced so much of God at work.

One of our team members has spent her days in the lab, using her skills and experience to answer questions that might help the lab run more efficiently. Today, she sat with the Ethiopian techs and mapped out a simple plan that may have profound logistical effects on the hospital. One of the techs said with gratitude, “God sent you. We’ve never had anyone care about the lab before. Could you move here?”

Others of our team have spent hours working one-on-one with Ethiopian staff, teaching them computer skills that will benefit the accounting department, the pharmacy, and other departments.

I spent the morning walking through the wards with Eyasu, one of the chaplains, hearing the stories of the patients, praying for them and their family members, and sharing the gospel. I met people that had traveled hundreds of miles to receive care in Soddo, family members of patients who have slept outside each night so they can care for their loved ones, people who have become Christians at the hospital and planned to testify to God’s healing when they return home, and those who have not yet believed. I loved every minute of shaking hands, saying hello in their language, and sharing and praying as the translator followed behind in the native tongue.

SCHChapelBstudyPrayer_114 (Small)

The highlight, however, was watching Eyasu move from room to room, greeting and praying for patients that have been under the chaplains’ spiritual care as long as they’ve been in the hospital. He knew each name, each story, even the names and stories of family members in the room. He also introduced me to the nurses and the cleaners, emphasizing that each one is important to the mission of the hospital and each labors together to share the love of Christ.

In one ward, the chaplain introduced me to a nurse who speaks a certain dialect of a region around Soddo. She joined in with the chaplain and me going room-to-room. But this time, the rooms were filled with many patients and each bed had a family member sitting at watch. I listened as she spoke, not understanding her words, but knowing immediately that she was sharing the gospel and praying silently for the Lord to touch hearts as they listened in in rapt attention. Then she turned to me and all eyes turned with her.

I felt inadequate and unsure, but knew I could simply share how God had rescued me from my sin and hopelessness. And as I spoke, I realized with clarity the truth of what I was saying to a room full of people unlike me in language and culture: it is true that God loves all people the same and desires all to submit to Him. We’re different in our externals, but we’re all the same in our need.

When I walked out with the nurse, I hugged her and told her how encouraged I am by her work. God is using her at Soddo Christian Hospital. But it’s not just her; she’s but one example. He’s using everyone—the cleaners, the nurses, the doctors, the Ethiopian staff, the international staff, the chaplains, the cashiers, and the lab techs—to work in tandem to speak the gospel and authenticate it through loving care.

There is such strategy and purposefulness to their work. And God is blessing it. He’s meeting the external and internal needs of His beloved children in Ethiopia through the people at Soddo Christian Hospital.

How Much Injera Do We Eat?


Ever had injera?  Well, if you're reading this from Ethiopia, then the answer is "yes".  But if you're anywhere else in the world, you might not have had injera.  So what is it?

Wikipedia defines injera as "a yeast-risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture traditionally made out of teff flour."  Teff is unique itself, almost exclusively found growing in the fields of Ethiopia.  So this is a very Ethiopian food.  The injera is used as an eating utensil, essentially sopping up the delicious stews (or "wots") that make up Ethiopian cuisine.  A piece of injera is typically around 15 inches in diameter.

Of course our hospital goes through a lot of injera.  It is served with every meal, and we serve our patients 3 meals a day.  So, how much injera do we go through then?  About 400 per day, or 3,000 per week.  In one year, at Soddo Christian Hospital we consume over 150,000 giant pieces of injera!

Our kitchen staff hard at work preparing the meals for the patients.
Our kitchen staff hard at work preparing the meals for the patients.

Feeding the Soul


Look at all those onions!

These are three of our committed kitchen workers at SCH. Our hospital is unique in that we provide three meals a day to our patients (at other hospitals, the patients’ families have to bring the food), and this is a critical part of getting them healthy. In addition to providing great food, kitchen staff meet in two Bible St.udy groups weekly. They just completed a study on maturing in Christ. When asked how the study has impacted their lives, here were some of the answers:

“We used to get angry easily in the kitchen. Now we understand that this is wrong.”

“Before, I didn’t want to give to the poor. Now I have compassion. My heart is broken and I try to help them.”

“Now sometimes we will even cook food for the patients’ families too.”

One of the groups collected money for two poor patients in the hospital in order to help them pay for transportation costs home from the hospital. Praise God for how He is using these women, and how He is transforming their hearts!