Looking back and looking forward

Dr. Ryne Schlitz joined the medical mission team this past January, and it had a tremendous impact on him.  We asked him to share some of his thoughts when he returned from the trip in January.  Below you will read about his experience in Kenya.  Dr. Schlitz is currently an intern with the Baptist Health System and will be continuing his residency training in anesthesia next year at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.  

I would like to briefly share about my experience during our recent mission trip to Kenya.  This was my first opportunity to participate in a medical mission trip (as well as my first trip to Africa).  First, I would like to thank Dr. Jeremy Rogers and Dr. Kyle Hudgens for inviting me to be involved and for encouraging me to go on the trip.  As a first year medical resident, the scheduling conflicts and financial burden of attending initially seemed overwhelming; however, the support of Dr. Hudgens, Dr. Rogers, and the generosity of those who donated money to the ministry made the trip possible for me.  We’ve been home for almost a week, and I still find it difficult to comprehend what took place and put my experience into words.

For the past several months I’ve been excited—and somewhat anxious—about the trip.  This is by far the furthest I’ve ever traveled and the longest I’ve been separated from my wife and family.  After two 8-hour flights and several hours spent in the airport, our medicines were confiscated by the customs office in Kenya.  I remember being worn out from traveling and initially feeling like we wouldn’t be able to accomplish our goals effectively without the medicines.  Thankfully we were able to get the medications back the next morning.  I encourage you to read about the details in Jeremy’s blog post from January 18th.  This situation reminded me of how God answers our prayers and of His provision to “meet all of [our] needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.”

Throughout the week of clinic, we were able to treat nearly 2000 people in the towns of Bura and Mwatate.  Seeing so many people with such a broad range of illnesses was challenging both personally and as a physician.  Each day I saw countless people with diseases, such as vitamin deficiencies and infections, that we only read about in the United States.  I was amazed by how they lived with limited access to healthcare, clean water, and electricity—things I take for granted everyday.  Even though they live in poverty by the world’s standards, the people had positive attitudes about life, were cheerful, and always welcomed our team. 

One of the greatest blessings to me was the opportunity to speak at the revival on the final night following clinic in Bura.  The revival took place at the end of each clinic day and was attended mostly by pastors with Agape Fellowship Church around Kenya as well as some locals. Early in the week Jeremy asked if I would be willing to share at the revival.  Initially I was somewhat intimidated and wondered what I could say to minister to a group made up of mostly pastors.  I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 which says“our competence comes from God.  He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit.”  Through God’s work at the revival two construction workers who helped build the churches gave their lives to Christ! 

The entire experience—the traveling, the clinic, the church services, and the safari—exceeded any expectation I had entering the trip.  Throughout the trip we were able to meet the medical and spiritual needs of so many, with over 400 decisions to follow Christ.  I was honored to work with the other physicians, nurses, volunteers, and the local church to serve the people of Bura and Mwatate.  Since returning, I have a greater appreciation for how blessed we are as Americans and the opportunity to practice medicine.  I hope to be able to return to Kenya with Jesus HarvestersMinistries in the coming years.