About 6 years ago, the ILAG began the process of developing the Health Promoters ministry. Individual leaders from each congregational community have been trained over the years in basic hygiene education and other basic medical skills. With virtually no medical infrastructure available to the majority of congregations, especially in rural areas, the Health Promoters are the first line of care and support in their communities. 17 Health Promoters have participated in training-learning about basic hygiene, basic anatomy, diabetes education and treatment, reproductive health, suturing, wound care and infection control, pre-natal and post-natal care, and heart care and gastric health. Has the training made a difference?
Spring Garden Lutheran Church in Cannon Falls has a medical service team that supports the Health Promoters ministry. Members of this team recently visited the ILAG for our fourth Health Promoters two day training retreat and our second Community Health Clinic. The congregation at Aurora hosted our team for a two day clinic where our medical team, with the local Health Promoter, shared direct care in the community. As with all delegation visits, the hospitality and welcome is a humbling and overwhelming experience! But we also saw first-hand how significantly the Health Promoters ministry is impacting the lives of the people of ILAG.
The first day, we saw about 140 people from the church community, and 379 people over two days. The conditions we met among church members were primarily the chronic backaches, joint pain, headaches that can be traced to the physically hard lives people live, working in fields and carrying heavy loads on their backs. We didn't realize, despite these medical issues, how healthy the church members are until the second day of clinic.
The congregation opened up the clinic to the whole community on the second day. It was a wonderful gesture to the wider community, a community that is unsure about what a Lutheran is. The wider community was able to discover a welcoming and friendly face in their Lutheran neighbors. But from a medical standpoint, our team saw vastly different health issues - parasites, severe skin conditions from lack of hygiene, scabies, lice, insect bites, respiratory infection, concerns for mental health, and gastro-intestinal distress. Our team treated these suffering people to the degree that we could, with the medicines available to us, educating where possible about how they could care for themselves and their families. In listening to the voices of the people tell us of their hurts, their aches, and pains, we learned that while we sometimes can only do so much to cure, healing can still come in the care offered by compassionate hearts. In this most basic act, we see the ministry of Jesus unfold before our very eyes.
And we also saw that the Health Promoters Ministry is directly and dramatically improving the lives of the people of ILAG - reminding us all that Christ's call is to care for the whole person, body, and soul. We are thankful for this opportunity to serve alongside the leaders of the ILAG as they carry out Christ's work.
The Rev. Nick Fisher-Broin
Spring Garden Lutheran, Cannon Falls