Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

April 5, 2004

Good Samaritan

About one year ago, missions Pastor Glen Grove, from New Life Center Foursquare Church, my home church in Everett, Washington, emailed me with the idea of forming a medical team to come over and work with me for a couple of weeks in the coming summer. From then until August, 2003, we brainstormed, prayed, planned for this team and its ministry.

One of the unique things about this team was that, even being composed of people from various medical fields, they came to do teaching, rather than treatment. I had asked them to do this, wanting to add to work I'd already established to help the local people to be better able to meet their own health care needs, rather than looking to outsiders and outside interventions. We combined Bible teaching and medical classes. The team's ministries and teachings were incredibly well received, and have had a lasting, ongoing impact. Many people learned how to better care for their teeth to avoid future pain and loss, how to have healthier pregnancies and deliveries, how to prevent back pain, and so on. Incredibly, some of the people are now even doing simple chiropractics on each other, a big blessing to backs which carry heavy loads and bend over a hoe for long hours every day.

One man called Hannington Serugga was particularly impacted by the emergency first aid and rescue teaching done by fireman/paramedic Greg Matthews. Hannington followed the team around to the various villages, absorbing all he could of this teaching, participating in the hands-on workshops, where Greg taught them to handle many emergencies, using local materials. Within the next couple of weeks after the team left, Hannington was going out to churches in various villages, already teaching what he had learned.

In Uganda there is no emergency medical system, no 911 to call. There is no first aid. The few ambulances available do not do emergency medical care; they merely transport people for a fee. This is true even in Kampala, the capitol city of 1.5 million people. A person may survive a traffic accident only to bleed to death, die of shock, or of mishandling when he's thrown into the first available vehicle and transported to the nearest hospital.

Hannington was already a leader in his Seventh Day Adventist church, and involved in finding ways of meeting physical and spiritual needs in his community. He is a man pushing 40, struggling with a lifetime goal to complete an education degree at Makerere University, while his wife manages to eke out a living on their small farm. They have six children, including one deaf and blind child who is also mentally handicapped. He's wanting to be a teacher, but is realizing now that his teaching career may not be in a typical classroom.

Hannington has found the demand for him to train people in emergency first aid to be almost more than he can manage, with all his other duties. Even community leaders are asking for him to come and teach in their areas. So he is now grooming potential trainers from his classes so that they may carry on the training process in their many various communities as well. He and this select group have been working hard to form an indigenous Non- governmental Organization (NGO) to not only cover themselves legally, but to make themselves available for possibly future funding. Our goal is to eventually make emergency first aid and rescue available to all of Uganda, especially the rural areas which have little or no resources.

The name of the new NGO is Samaritan Emergency Volunteers' Organization (SEVO). They chose the name after I spoke to a class of 40 that Hannington was training in Kampala. I spoke on the Good Samaritan and upon the spiritual laws of sowing and reaping, hoping to impress upon the students, many of them from the University, that God's blessings come to us because of what we do for others. SEVO is a Christian, faith-based, non- profit organization, and we want it to be a ministry as well as a community service.

Because at this point, our curriculum being small and the demand being high, we are looking at how to manage a "phase 2" of the training. As a Registered Nurse, I only have minimal text book knowledge of paramedic-type work, so we are devising a curriculum that will cover more basic health care, but from the aspect of prevention of emergencies. There is no safety/prevention awareness taught or practiced in Uganda either. So we will teach things like burn care, but more important, reasons to keep babies and toddlers away from the cooking fires. Malaria, which kills more people in Uganda than any other disease, can be easily treated when diagnosed early, but better yet, it can be prevented. Later on, God willing, Greg Matthews will return to do further EMT training.

As I related in a recent newsletter, we have also learned that there are certain areas where roadside deaths are attributable to more than just physical causes, we are also recognizing that as we work to bring emergency care to homes and highways, we will identify areas of special spiritual need. The way in which the traffic deaths stopped after we prayed over the section of highway between my village and Luweero has impacted many, including Hannington. People knew there was a problem there. Some had even seen visions or dreams of demonic figures patrolling that road. But none knew what to do about it. Lives can be saved by more than just first aid and medical care.

When God told Moses it was time for him to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses felt more than inadequate. When he was younger, he was gung-ho to do it, and got himself into big trouble. But now, as an older and wiser man, he wasn't sure he even wanted to be involved. But God asked him, "What is that you have in your hand?" (Exodus 4: 2-5) It was a staff, and when God told Moses to throw it on the ground, it became a snake. Moses ran from it in fear. When God told him to pick the snake up by the tail, it became a staff again. He had to learn to use what God was empowering him with, and God would use it to cause the people to believe that God had spoken to him.

And so we are starting out with just a rod in our hands, so to speak. God is birthing new ideas and plans as we go along, and giving great favor to this project by all the various authorities. We have nothing except the knowledge in our heads and the desires in our hearts, and the faith that where God leads, He will provide the way. I have never picked up a snake by its tail, and I don't think I ever want to. But with God's help, what we hold in our hands and in our hearts will become alive, will prosper, and will accomplish His purposes.

Prayer requests:

Margaret Nelson