The talk between Eswatini and the States, via Skype on the computer, is about miracles – mountaintop miracles in a tiny African country caught in the clutches of an AIDS pandemic.
“God has been preparing us for years to work here with the HIV population,” Echo VanderWal said. “He gives us peace, but it’s not peaceful. Now is the tip of the AIDS iceberg.”
“As much as we try to organize medical clinics for people who have little or no health care and are battling the deadliest of diseases, we see God work in ways we could never coordinate,” said Dr. Harry VanderWal.
A young mother handed Echo her one-year-old son. He looked like a 2-month-old and obviously was HIV positive. The baby had hanging skin and the monkey-faced appearance of malnutrition. With little hope for the baby’s survival, the VanderWals took the baby and mother to the Manzini hospital at the end of that day’s clinic.
At the next clinic, Harry treated another young mother with a similar baby boy. When that baby was taken to the hospital, the admitting doctor said: “You’ve brought me the same baby again.”
“The Luke Commission will pay for the babies’ care until they die, and both mothers will probably follow them in the next few months,” noted Harry.
“We see unbelievable manifestations of AIDS and related diseases,” Echo said.
In the end stage of AIDS, one 25-year-old man had huge smelly, draining lesions all over his legs. He had been suffering three years and could no longer walk.
“Medically, there are few options,” Echo said. “This man needs a double amputation, but it is difficult to weigh the quality of life issues involved.”
Examining the young man, an Ethiopian doctor who has practiced in Eswatini 10 years told Echo, “Even for me, this is the first time I’ve seen such a thing.”
What’s it like treating more than 500 sick Emaswati a day? “We try to be organized, but never know what will happen,” Echo said. “God finishes the puzzle just in the nick of time, and He slides us into home plate.”
Take the ongoing task of acquiring or replenishing medications. “I could not find or buy bladder worm medicine,” explained Echo, “even though I pressured the pharmaceutical companies since day one to get us this medicine.”
Bladder worms are different from intestinal worms, which most Emaswati regularly contract from their drinking water. Everyone who comes to a Luke Commission bush clinic is given intestinal worm medicine for his whole family. One pill will kill the parasites for four to six months. Bladder worms are less common but debilitating to those who have them.
“Finally I met a nurse who knew of a small government-run center that might have the medication. God talked her into going with me and interceding on our behalf. I know it was God because the experience was amazing.”
The “center” was a hard-to-find little office with one table and two chairs. The nurse slowly explained the need. The lady in charge pulled open the desk drawer and gave Echo 2 bottles of the precious medication, each with 500 pills.
“That’s enough for 1,000 suffering patients,” Echo exclaimed. “It was another miracle.”
Harry added: “So often, we have to remember not to hurry, even though the press of the urgent is all around us. I find great satisfaction in knowing every patient waiting in line has been taken care of, even if it’s the middle of the night.”
On one of those late nights, The Luke Commission vehicles ran out of petrol 2 hours from Manzini. The team spent the rest of the night dozing and waiting for one of the few service stations to open.
On another late-night return, Echo was driving the larger vehicle, pulling the bigger supply trailer. “All of a sudden we had a terrible blow-out. I knew God would have to take control; I had none. When the car drifted off the side of the road and stopped, I realized once again that we could never get this job done or be safe without His power and His presence.”
Please keep praying for the VanderWals and The Luke Commission Team.
Love in Jesus, Janet Tuinstra for Harry and Echo.