Ministry Update: Fellowship of Believers in Christ (March 2018: Grace Evangelical Hospital)

In this eighth update from Nampula, Charles Woodrow reports on the hospital progress.

It has been nearly 20 years since I closed down the surgical work I was engaged in my first 8 years in Mozambique, fully expecting to build and inaugurate a mission-owned surgical center within the next five years.

But my plans were certainly not God’s plans. First, the Ministry of Health would no longer authorize construction of simple medical facilities like the government hospital I had been practicing from. I presented plans for a rudimentary $120,000 surgical clinic that would have enabled me to do everything I was already doing and even more. But they insisted on a million-dollar hospital built to first-world standards!

While that was slowly coming to pass, I got involved in so many other important ministries that even when construction was finished years ago, I could not leave those ministries to recruit the missionary personnel needed to open our facility. For five years we have had a completed hospital but no missionary doctors to work in it. Not only have I no associates who can take over the mission while I recruit overseas, but with the repeated destruction of our mailing list, I have been helpless even to mount a recruitment campaign through supporters and the Internet.

Finally, one year ago, it was decided that in addition to all the other ministries presented in these reports, I should open the hospital and work there alone if need be, without the medical associates I always deemed essential. It seemed the Lord was giving us no other option. For me, this was like the priests carrying the ark into the Jordan River as it overflowed its banks, expecting that God would do a miracle to prevent everything from being carried away with the current and drowned!

Hoping for the same outcome God gave in Joshua’s day, we made our decision, and once we did, God immediately began prospering our efforts.

Belinda and Don Dickey

The most remarkable advance has been in the form of Belinda and Don Dickey from San Antonio who have taken on all the States-side work in making the hospital ministry a reality. In 2014, Belinda had sold a successful business and was looking for a project she could undertake for the Lord with the time now available. She knew I was buried in accounting work and offered to assume all that responsibility from the U.S. using the skills acquired through years of keeping the books for her business.

I told her our real need was for a recruiter. She accepted, and from there things escalated until she became in November 2016 the Executive Director under Grace Medical Mozambique, the States-side board responsible for the hospital, with her husband Don handling special operations while he manages his own business with many employees.

Thanks to Belinda and Don’s diligent leadership and business acumen, we are rapidly progressing to the point of opening the hospital. As I look to the near future, the picture that comes to mind is of a non-swimmer preparing to jump from a high bridge into the ocean. Opening this hospital in a city of 800,000 people while it is staffed with only one doctor who is already working day and night on other projects seems suicidal—but as stated above, we believe God is leading that way and trust He has further plans which have not yet been disclosed.

Medical Equipment

The next breakthrough came when Grace Medical obtained a 40-foot container of used medical and surgical equipment from S.O.S., a medical supply recycling organization in Louisville. Nearly everything needed for a functioning hospital was in the container, many times over what I had available during the years I did 3,500 operations in the primitive government hospital at Marrere.

That equipment, together with ultrasound machines, OR tables, exam chairs, and additional items Belinda has rounded up are now stored in San Antonio, scheduled to depart for Mozambique in April. To ship everything already in hand will likely require a second container.

We must now furnish the entire hospital with cabinets, shelves, and desks, which shouldn’t be made of wood for sanitary reasons. We are still seeking the best way to do this—perhaps by importing modular materials from abroad, or by recruiting an expert to design and oversee construction of these items here. From our supporters, we would appreciate prayers and any leads that could be offered for accomplishing this task.

Government Pre-Inspection

The hospital will have to pass a careful inspection before the government will allow it to open. Besides having all the necessary equipment, we must line up a full staff of workers, all of whom must have the required government certifications to do their jobs.

A few months ago I contacted the department of health asking for a pre-inspection just to know how close we were to being ready. The inspector came and made some astute observations on deficiencies that will require redesigning a couple of rooms, but nothing that we cannot manage.

I was gratified to find that the government inspector was not hostile toward private medical facilities, but in favor of them. To my further surprise, it turned out he was a nurse who had worked with me during some of my eight years at Marrere. He still thinks I can do amazing things no one else can—which was indeed the case 27 years ago when I arrived fresh from completing nine years of sophisticated American surgical practice and began operating in a province with no other credentialed surgeons. The situation is considerably different now after nearly 20 years of progress in Mozambican medical care, during which time I have been engaged only in church work!

He also was impressed with our facility. He said that it will be the largest and nicest privately owned hospital in the province, that everyone will want to come to us for their operations. He does not realize we are a charity hospital, and believes we are poised to make a fortune from our facility.

Dental Clinic Now Operational

While waiting for the medical equipment to arrive, we have proceeded with converting two consulting rooms into a dental clinic for Aquiles Junior, son of Arnaldo. Arnaldo was my surgical assistant throughout our medical ministry at Marrere and was eventually trained by me to perform both surgery and anesthesia. He was the first Mozambican to come to salvation under Grace Missions’ ministry and is one of the four leaders of our church.

Aquiles grew up in the church and benefitted all his life from a godly father and regular family devotions at home. God saved him at an early age, and today he is one of our most eloquent preachers.

As God would have it, the year Aquiles graduated from dental school was the first year the government ceased hiring all dental graduates to man its understaffed government clinics. This was due to an abrupt halt in foreign aid by the 14 donor countries that have contributed so much to Mozambique’s remarkable development since its rejection of communism in 1992. Suddenly Aquiles found himself a fully trained dentist, one of the top graduates in his class, but without any prospects for employment! This was indeed a hard providence. I have been impressed with the unflappable trust he has manifested in the Lord’s dealings throughout this time, though he would tell you that within he has been often distraught and repeatedly driven to the Scriptures to restore his spiritual equilibrium.

Unable to purchase the equipment necessary to open a private practice, Aquiles began doing odd jobs for the mission at a little over minimum wage—only $100 a month, about a tenth of the salary he would have earned as a government dentist. After feeding his family there is no money to save and thus no prospect of ever starting a private clinic through his own means. But during the two years since his graduation, Don and Belinda Dickey have secured everything needed not only for the hospital, but also for Aquiles to open his own practice in our clinic.

Aquiles was able to get his rooms organized for inspection just three weeks ago. The inspectors made helpful observations on minor points that need improvement, but gave him the green light to begin working after only the first inspection, with the understanding that he will soon come up to their standards. The permit was duly issued last week amidst thanksgiving that the authorities did not seek to hinder Aquiles or demand bribes despite the obvious fact that there is a foreign organization with presumably deep pockets standing back of his effort.

Pray with us that the government’s helpful spirit will continue when the rest of the hospital is furnished and finally ready for their inspection and authorization!

Administrative Help

When the board of Grace Medical discussed my returning to the O.R. months ago, one of the biggest questions was how to find time for a surgical practice in addition to all the administrative work I do to keep the many other ministries functioning. In that regard, the Lord soon supplied at least a partial solution.

Hannah Malone, daughter of one of my closest friends while I was a surgical resident, whom I have known from her birth and who has followed the Mozambique ministry all her life, had for some years desired to serve long-term in Nampula. We asked her if she would be willing to take over the administrative work that so encumbers me, and she happily agreed. In January she arrived and has already lifted us clear of hurdles that have been insurmountable for a long time. One of them has been re-establishing our mailing list and preparing all these reports for distribution. Everyone with Grace Medical hopes her sense of call is indeed from God, can see no reason to doubt it, and is certain that the ministry greatly needs her assistance if it is to advance to the stage of opening the hospital.

In the next installment I will explain the ultimate and most compelling motive driving us to resume the medical ministry as soon as possible.