what's in a car

Sometimes a mission field looks like the backseat of a car.

The typical technical stories and/or pictures that I share contain very little excitement or interest. Medical equipment and the related technical stories can put most people to sleep. Therefore, I would like to switch the subject of this story from medical devices to a car. Although this Subaru Forester appears to be just another car, the story it carries is far from boring or insignificant.  Moreover, it is really not as much about the car as it is about what happens inside the car.

Working at several of the CURE Hospitals in six different countries has been an honor for me.  Their work with disabled children around the world has blessed an unknown number of patients and their families and it is a joy to serve them as they serve others. CURE Children’s Hospital of Uganda is a little different from the others that specialize more in orthopedics. CURE Uganda is one of the world’s leading hospitals for treating children with hydrocephalus, spina bifida, and other neurosurgical conditions. The research, developments, and reputation of CURE Uganda are internationally known. Health care professionals have traveled from around the world to be educated and trained on new neurosurgical procedures developed at this hospital.  But more importantly, families have traveled many hours from surrounding countries to obtain critically needed medical care for their children at this hospital.

These neurosurgical conditions are most often life threatening and very challenging to treat. Additionally, due to cultural beliefs, transportation challenges, and  other hindrances, many children arrive at the hospital too late to be successfully treated for their condition. Even in the best surgical hospitals like CURE Uganda, the hospital still faces three to four patient deaths per month. When this tragic loss of an infant occurs, the traditional and cultural practice is for the mother to wrap her baby in a blanket and place it in some sort of bag to carry the child home. Most often she then must board a bus and travel anywhere from two to ten hours on this public transportation while carrying her child.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Romans 5:8. It says that “God demonstrated His love for us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”. God does not say, I love you and have a pain-free life waiting for you here on earth, but demonstrated His love by giving His own son so that we might receive forgiveness for our sin. There is no promise that life will be easy or even long. But because of His love, He offers us the gift of eternal life.  A gift that says, I love you and have a pain-free life waiting for you in Heaven. He demonstrated this gift by sacrificing His own son.

So what is so significant about this Subaru Forester?  CURE Children’s Hospital of Uganda uses it to demonstrate Jesus’ love for the mothers and families of the children who have passed away at the hospital. Instead of having the mom’s place their babies in a bag and climb on to a public bus, the Subaru Forester is used to transport the mothers and their deceased children back home. Not only do they not have to travel home on a crowded public form of transportation, but they also do not have to make the trip alone.

In addition to the driver, the mom is accompanied by a hospital spiritual care giver or pastor. They do not return to their villages bearing their burden alone, but receive compassionate spiritual care and support from someone who demonstrates the love of God by grieving with them during this difficult loss and painful journey.  The spiritual caregiver can provide answers regarding life, death, and a proper relationship with Christ.  The CURE staff who travel back to the villages are also able to share the truth about the child’s medical condition and the fact that the mother and baby were never cursed.  They can educate the village surrounding the true causes of hydrocephalus and the urgent need for these children to be brought to the hospital.  They also demonstrate to the entire village that Jesus makes a difference in the lives of his followers – those who then go the extra mile to care for the suffering in His name. 

The mission field for this Subaru Forester is not an easy terrain, but CURE is using this simple vehicle to provide life-changing ministry, bringing hope and comfort in the midst of sorrow and death. In the backseat of a car, these mothers learn about a Heavenly Father who says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).  While their arms may carry loss, their hearts will carry hope.