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After a very long airplane ride in which I watched the sun set off of our tail and rise on our nose all on the same flight, my team and I landed in our country and then we had to catch a small, quick flight to the region in which we were working. I stepped out onto the tarmac and just soaked up the scenery. It was so dry, flat, vast and breezy. It kind of reminded me of the plains in the United States. We met up with our full time team and then began our two hour drive to the first city, Granville, (surname of city for security reasons) in which we would be working.
What a drive it was! We were greeted with hundreds of little Bajaj’s (small, blue, 3 wheeled taxi vehicles) darting in front of and around us, herds of donkeys, cattle, and camels walking down the street, and several armed guard checkpoints where locals would also try to sell us some food or other wares. When we arrived at our hotel, we had a quick break to change and rest and then we finalized the next day's teaching/training and home visit plans with the team over a dinner of injera, goat tibs and bubbly water.
We were to spend a total of two days training and working in Granville. So, the next morning we all met up and began to teach three sweet local Christ following ladies and their team leader. These four ladies, an expat physician and three other women functioning as home health nurses, were eager to learn. God had been working through their organization and continued to grow their ability to get into homes of residents who have had any number of healthcare issues ranging from post-op orthopedic surgery to stroke, to spinal cord injuries, to amputation, to pediatric cerebral palsy and developmental delay and so on. But they were lacking some of the skill and understanding to help all these patients safely and effectively.
These compassionate women engagingly took notes, listened, and asked good questions as we taught them about tissue healing, exercise progression, transfer techniques, proper gait patterns with assistive devices, the importance of turning to avoid skin breakdown, wound assessment, managing low back pain, etc. It was a crash course in all things basic rehab over the course of two mornings and they soaked it up. As an aside - the training materials that we developed and used will be made available on the website.
After we completed all the training modules, we set out to do home visits with the ladies as clinical instructors. This allowed us to work alongside them and provide instruction as they practiced everything they learned. The first day of home visits was such a blessing. We were able to see the impact these women were already having on families and encourage them with their new found skills and knowledge.
The other clinical practice opportunity we had was helping them through their pediatric clinic. We were able to provide more clinical instruction and developmental exercise progressions for kids with cerebral palsy, developmental delay, amputation, etc. This was also just an incredible time of watching these ladies make notations and immediately apply what they learned to the kids and their families. They even began to incorporate patient and family education and did a fantastic job explaining to care givers why they were doing what they were doing.
Once we completed the two days, we gathered at the end of the day and provided that team of ladies a gift. It was a simple gift. All throughout the training and the patient visits, we were using new gait belts and they kept asking us what they should use instead since they didn’t have them. I wish I could have taken a picture of their faces on that last day when we told them that these brand new gait belts were theirs to keep as a graduation gift. It was an impactful moment and one that I will not soon forget.
The third day, we were able to see a few sites before heading off to our next location so we took a historical tour of the old city of Granville with a local tour guide. We learned some fascinating history as this particular city has been around for around 1000 years. In fact, our tour guide took us to one of the original city gates which is over 1000 years old! We also had the opportunity to feed hyenas…that was nuts! We likely could have spent more time at this location but we had to leave for another city further east to continue the planned work of the trip. And this new city would prove to be a more difficult context spiritually due to the nature of the dominant religion in the area.
You can probably see from the first two days of our time in N. Africa that I am convinced one of the best ways to advance God’s kingdom in a short term context is teaching indigenous believers skills that they find valuable to reach their own people. Or providing the expertise needed for where God is leading their ministry work. When we are only there for a limited time we can be much more impactful by encouraging and training locals (in this case in home health and pediatric rehab skills) so that they can continue to minister and share about Jesus. We don’t know the language, the culture, and our time is limited. But even now, the ladies we trained are working in homes, helping patients, and sharing Christ.
This is not to say that we should neglect our job to speak about Christ, pray over patients, and live differently while we are there. And in some cases we did have that opportunity, especially Granville where this team of ladies lived. But it is to say that I am not capable of continuing on the work of discipleship, so having the local relationship and building up believers with competent skill is exponentially more powerful and effective.
More of the N. Africa adventure will be coming soon! I am also working on a video so you can see more of the country, culture, and rehab training :)
***Check out my book "Rehab the World" written for Physical Therapists to encourage us in our workplace and prepare us to serve those around us. If you like, please leave a review and spread the word!!***