Dear Luke Commission Team,
They say African soil gets in your blood. We are not quite sure about this mixture, but Africa does capture your heart.
And so it is with the VanderWals. Their hearts have been knitted with the Emaswati' hearts. Harry and Echo and their boys were due to return to the States in mid-May after four months of medical missions. Instead, they will remain in Eswatini five more months until mid-October, when Harry is scheduled to take pediatric boards.
"Jesus is blessing, and there's just so much to do," said Harry. "We've sought God's leading. While all the monetary needs are not in place, we have His complete peace and assurance that our great Provider will provide."
"The Liswati fields are ripe unto harvest. How can we leave?" Echo asked. "More and more bush communities are asking for clinics. They need medical care right now."
Many necessities already are in place for an uninterrupted lengthy stay. The containers are still full of medical supplies, equipment for clinics, eyeglasses, clothes and shoes. The Emaswati on The Luke Commission team are trained and dedicated. The VanderWals are healthy and at home in Eswatini. Long-term visas have been granted.
And the work waiting to be done here? At least 47 patients, from the 37 bush clinics led by the VanderWals this year, require surgery and extensive care.
"We need time to help these people," said Echo
Echo compiles a list that astounds, people with severe burns, tumors, hernias, cancers, and post-traumatic accidents never effectively treated.
For example, three Emaswati have large goiters on their necks. One lady has lived with this infirmity 20 years, another for 10 years. A woman cannot lie down to sleep, because the huge mass by her throat constricts her breathing. Most can be corrected with surgery.
A 50-year-old man has suffered from an infected boil on his buttocks for 10 years. A young man, age 22, limps and has been in pain 7 years because of a large tumor on his right foot. Several teenagers and young boys, including a 5-year-old dwarf, live daily with impressive hernias.
One 65-year-old man burned his arm when he was 10 years old, and the wound never healed. A skin graft would solve his problem.
Echo met with a surgeon at Raleigh-Fitkin Memorial Hospital, the primary hospital in Manzini. He agreed to operate on these folks, and Echo will assist in surgery.
The Luke Commission will assume financial responsibility, but costs remain remarkably low on North American standards. For instance, last year's bill for an amputation and 6-week hospital stay totaled $100.
The largest TLC clinic ever unfolded last Friday when 885 patients were treated and given free medicine. Another 250 were fitted with eyeglasses.
When the clinic is located at a bush school, Harry often treats the adults, while Echo walks up and down lines of school children diagnosing the obvious - scabies, bilharzia (bladder worms), intestinal worms, and tinea capitis (fungal infections on the scalp).
The VanderWals notice a remarkable improvement on children's scalps at schools where The Luke Commission visited last year. Also, intestinal worm medication routinely given at the pharmacy has upgraded health in whole families.
Besides the 47 surgery patients requiring extra assistance, 28 Emaswati need wheelchairs. In addition, 85 patients with cataract problems were identified at The Luke Commission clinics. Working with Christian Blind Mission and Dr. Jonathon Pons, 65 people have received eye operations and can see once again!
The Luke Commission does need an autorefractor to evaluate eyesight, since the one in use now is on short-term loan. However, even before the VanderWals decided to double their time in Eswatini, the Grant Township Lions Club in Illinois began raising the $10,000 to purchase an autorefractor. Currently, they have reached $7,000. If you'd like to add to this amount, please email Don Borgwardt.
Anticipating the time away from family and old friends, the VanderWals this week installed dial-up internet in their Manzini mission house, so if you'd like to communicate email them.
Meanwhile, we're reminded of those verses in John 13, when Jesus says: "A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (verses 34 and 35)
As we seek to love those who are sick and outwardly unlovely, we know that we are unlovely inwardly. Yet you love us. We are grateful for that love and support.
Appreciatively in Jesus,
Janet for The Luke Commission