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Posts Tagged ‘Ellen Lipford’

Story by Ellen and Michael Lipford. Photos by Charlotte McLaughlin and Debbie Boykin.

calloutMountains graced the horizon as we passed through villages of small huts with thatched roofs. Zulu women carried water and firewood on their heads. Sheep, goats and chickens roamed the streets. We were on our way to our first health clinic in South Africa.

crowd at medical clinicEight mission team members in a van and eight suitcases of medicine in a pickup truck approached two empty buildings devoid of electricity and running water (like most of this part of the country). With nearly 200 people lined up for medical help, Debbie Boykin, team leader, quickly set up the clinic. Anne Carey Roane and Jory SAF-pharmacy_DBoykinChristenson performed triage and organized patients. Dr. Van Williams, Dr. Rod Haithcock and Debbie set up three patient stations. We arranged and stocked a makeshift pharmacy. Charlotte McLaughlin documented our work with her cameras. And we saw patients, that day and every other, until we ran out of light.

Many had HIV, some had tuberculosis. One boy with distorted legs had rickets. And a man carried his dying friend on his back for miles to see us. Most thought American doctors could heal any disease, even blindness. We ministered to their physical needs as best we could, sometimes needing to refer them to hospitals in the country for further treatment.

kids1But what touched us most was the way we were able to minister to their spiritual and emotional needs. Through interpreters, we prayed with them, gave encouraging words, and smiled a lot. Big brown eyes of young children and old men and women smiled back, saying thank you without speaking a word.

While the crowds waited for us to set up each health clinic, we told them stories from the Bible. For some, it was the first gospel message they had ever heard. Both the landscape and the numbers of people were constant reminders of how the crowds followed Jesus to be healed, both physically and spiritually. We felt privileged to model our mission trip on His work.

medical clinicWe also felt privileged to work alongside missionaries we have supported through our offerings, Mark and Sara Williams. (See related stories: Working with them and SKEINS knits for South African children) We led worship through music, testimonies and storytelling at the Emmaus church they helped start, and extended their ministry through six health clinics.

Gogo NtombeThough we had the joy of bringing the good news of the gospel to the people of South Africa, God used them to teach us too. Gogo Ntombe, a member of the Emmaus church, was old and not able to walk the miles to the building. We visited her one afternoon in her small hut; we sang and read chapters from the Psalms. Gogo Ntombe had only been a Christian for three years, but when she pulled out her Bible, written in Zulu, the pages were worn and tattered and the binding was coming undone. She not only read this book, she lived by it. Clearly it was her dearest, most-used possession. From an American perspective, she had nothing. But she was satisfied – her soul was rich with the Lord.

kids2We were reminded that the God working in Gogo Ntombe is the same God that is working in us. He lives inside His people whether in Richmond, Virginia or in Emmaus, South Africa. He is our healer of mind, spirit and body. The people of South Africa inspired us to be better stewards of the Lord’s gifts here in our own community, and to share the good news of a God ready to heal, no matter how broken the surroundings.

Editor’s note: October 2013 mission team members: Debbie Boykin, leader; Jory Christenson, Dr. Rod Haithcock, Michael and Ellen Lipford, Charlotte McLaughlin, Anne Carey Roane, and Dr. Van Williams.

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