I had the privilege of meeting Racheal, a Medical Teams International Program Manager in Uganda, a few months ago. Despite being 8,500 miles apart and chatting over a video call, we bonded quickly. We were around the same age and both pregnant with our second babies. We shared a passion for the work of Medical Teams. Despite these similarities, it quickly became evident how different our lives were – and that Racheal was someone special.
While I was driving to work on nice, smooth, suburban roads, Racheal was bumping along potholed, dirt roads at nearly eight months pregnant. While I said goodbye to my husband each morning, Racheal said goodbye to hers for weeks on end. A fifteen-minute drive took me to a quiet corporate workplace. An eight-hour journey took her to work in a remote refugee settlement. While I sat in my climate-controlled office, Racheal was out under a hot sun, visiting clinics and working to deliver life-saving care to 150,000 refugees.
After only a few minutes of talking, I knew that Racheal exemplified the sacrificial love, courage and determination of so many of Medical Teams’ field staff. She was passionate and knowledgeable. Driven and courageous. Every day, she was putting her love into action, being the hands and feet of Jesus to people who were suffering.
Called to Care
Racheal lives and works in the West Nile Region of Uganda. She oversees seven health centers in two refugee settlements. Most of the refugees are women and children who have fled war in South Sudan.
A calling to care for children was what drew Racheal to this work. As a mother herself, she feels a connection to other mothers who are struggling. When she sees a child who is sick, she can’t help but see her own daughter. She imagines if her daughter were a refugee. Would anyone help her?
Racheal tells me how her heart breaks when she sees mothers and children who have walked long distances through the wilderness. By the time they reach the settlement, many are sick, exhausted and hungry. They arrive with nothing. Survival means finding sources of food, water, shelter and medicine. It’s in these moments of need that Racheal sees her purpose – to help people find hope after so much loss.
A Witness to Suffering
For nine years, Racheal has seen suffering that most of us can’t comprehend. She’s seen newborn babies die. She’s watched parents crying out in anguish as they grieve their children. She’s witnessed children, hungry and sick, struggling to walk in the oppressive heat. Racheal sees the faces of these people as she tries to sleep. She can’t forget their stories. Their pain is real, and it breaks her heart.
The idea of even one person being left behind or forgotten keeps Racheal up at night. She tells me that she can’t leave one baby suffering. She can’t leave one mother alone.“To us, one lost refugee is a nation lost,” Racheal says.
She and her staff go to remote areas of the settlement to make sure no one is left behind. They bring children who are malnourished to the clinics. They check on pregnant women. They go beyond medical treatment to show refugees – people who have lost everything – that they are seen and loved.
“Sometimes a patient just needs someone to talk to. Even a smile can make them feel better. The way you talk to them and listen can be enough to heal them,” Racheal explains.
More Than a Job
As Racheal describes the reality of her work, I can’t help but wonder how she does it. How she has the fortitude to show up every day to pour out love. How she continuously sacrifices the comforts of home and enters places of pain.
For Racheal, this work is more than a job. It’s a calling – a calling to show God’s people who have lost hope that He still cares and loves them. She says many of her staff feel this same calling. Without it, she explains, it would be hard to sustain working in such difficult environments. It would be impossible to show love without first being filled by God’s love.
Day in and day out, Racheal demonstrates God’s love to people who are suffering.
“I am always thinking, ‘What more can we do? How can we deliver better health care in better conditions?’”
Seeing Light in the Darkness
It would be easy to be overcome by the suffering she witnesses, but Racheal sees light in the darkness. She sees hope because it’s so easy to save a life. Sometimes it only takes a few pills, an IV, a mosquito net. She sees hope when a small child with malaria is brought back from the brink of death. When a mother delivers a healthy baby. And when a family is able to get the food and medicine they need to lead healthy lives.
Racheal also sees hope because of people like you who care about our brothers and sisters in need. People who care about refugees you will never meet. She sees the very real effect of your generosity. She sees the lives saved by your compassion.
Sitting at my desk in Redmond, Washington, I often think about Racheal and other field staff like her – the people on the frontlines who are doing hard work every day. People who show up despite the physical and emotional challenges of the job. People who are healing the sick, giving hope to the hopeless and showing the vulnerable that they are loved.
Send a gift today to ensure loving staff like Racheal are on the frontlines, restoring health and hope to people who are suffering.