There’s a hospital in Rotifunk, Sierra Leone, that has no potable water and no air conditioning in its birthing room. An average of 40 babies are born there each month with the aid of a nurse and midwife. Their mothers push and scream on a narrow brown ambulance gurney, with rough gashes in its plastic fabric wide enough to see its foam stuffing. (The Rotifunk Hospital was decimated during the country’s brutal 1990’s civil war.) In fact, Rotifunk has the worst health conditions in the country, and Sierra Leone is last in the world in infant and maternal mortality rates, according to the United Nations Human Development report.
Conditions have slowly improved because of a $500,000 investment by Norwegian church missionaries and doctors. Dr. Martin Thormodsen has been visiting Rotifunk since 2007 and helped raise money to restore Rotifunk Hospital so far. Now, Wrightsville Beach United Methodist Church is partnering with the Norwegian church to revamp the hospital.
The church hosted a dinner on February 9th to raise money for its next trip there in May, but is still accepting donations to help defray the costs for the missionaries aiding the hospital. Wrightsville UMC is looking to interview nine candidates to travel to Sierra Leone on their next journey. The church will take applications for their May trip through February 14th.
Since March 2013, Wrightsville Beach United Methodist Church has visited the hospital three times in a longterm partnership to help restore clean water and improve infrastructure. They’re calling the project “The Sierra Leone Mission of Hope.” In August 2013, Sierra Leone’s United Methodist Bishop, John Yambasu, came to speak at the church.
Mission director Dale Smith has visited 40 countries over a lifetime of travel. “Sierra Leone is the worst place I’ve been to,” he remarks, “in that they don’t have basic infrastructure, no growth and very little clean or potable water.“
Because of the road conditions, it takes his team five hours to travel a distance of 60 miles to reach Rotifunk. After Smith’s battle with cancer last year, he decided to reconnect with his dream of becoming a missionary, praying for a higher, more important call in life. When the opportunity came to lead a mission to Sierra Leone, Smith was ready.
In May the church will dispatch another team to paint, clean, and set up medical supplies in an unfinished three-floor, 60-bed hospital, which was built without enough power to run it. In the long term, the group hopes to bring local and regional doctors, as well as dig a deep community well to help alleviate some of their largest killers: malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory infections.
One of Wrightsville UMC’s pastor’s, Reverend Edie Gleaves, says the work at the hospital is about building international partnerships. “This hospital will impact hundreds of thousands of people,” Gleaves states, “and to be an instrument of Christ’s love and healing that way is a tremendous blessing for us. This helps us to appreciate more of what we have and to grow in our faith.”
On their last trip to Sierra Leone, he says the group spoke to a class in the hospital about how to prevent malaria. He says the class literally clapped and cheered when they heard how a group of Americans were committed to improving conditions in their hospital. When the first teams arrived last year, they also discovered The Martyrs Church located on the property, which had housed a congregation for more than 100 years. Seeing the church solidified another affirmation of the mission for Smith.
“It’s a sad and difficult situation there on one hand,” he says, “but it’s exciting because we feel God is absolutely calling us to do this.”
To apply for the May mission trip, folks can call Reverend Edie Gleaves at 910-256-4471 or Dale Smith at 910-617-0277. To donate to the trip, all Mikki Perry at 910-256-4471.
Amanda Greene is the editor of Wilmington Faith & Values at WilmingtonFAVS.com. Do you have a volunteer opportunity to highlight? Email her at Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com or call 910-520-3958.