Greetings from Africa!!!
I write this from Soddo Christian Hospital nestled in the beautiful mountains of southern Ethiopia! In some ways it is exactly what I expected and in others it is far different and more wonderful than I could have imagined. Regardless, this trip is the culmination of almost two years of dreaming, planning, praying, and saving up hoping God would provide for such a trip to take place.
Needless to say, things have been a little busy for the Stephens family over the past several months. For the past year we have lived in St Paul, MN while I completed a one-year spine fellowship that ended at the end of July. We moved into our new home in Springville TN (my hometown) at the end of July - our 8th move in the last ten years of marriage - with hopes that this is our last. (I really hope my next move is to a nursing home or to the home office! :) I really hate moving!) As if saying goodbye to dear friends in Minnesota, moving across the country, and buying our first home was not enough transition, we decided to throw in a trip with four children across the Atlantic Ocean! Did I mention it was to Africa?
|Leaving on a Jet Plane from Washington DC. Pic by Bayleigh Laster|
Soddo is a town of about 70,000 people located 5-6 hours by car south of Addis Ababa, the country's capital city. It is nestled among beautiful green mountains of southern Ethiopia that offer up a sharp and welcome contrast of flying over the enormous deserts of Egypt/north Africa we flew over en route. Soddo Christian Hospital (SCH) is a 120 bed mission hospital that serves an area of approximately 2 million people. Only in existence for the past ten years, SCH has developed an wonderful reputation for high quality orthopedic care and as a result are extremely busy - they perform between 10-15 orthopedic cases per day 5 days (sometimes 6) a week. Part of my motivation for coming was the chance to get to observe some of the orthopedic surgeons I look up to - Duane Anderson & Bob Greene - who have committed their lives to proving excellent orthopedic care to the world's marginalized and often forgotten.
The idea that some lives are considered more valuable than others is the root of all that is wrong in the world. ~ Paul FarmerThe beauty of this area and the success of the hospital stand in stark contrast to the harsh realities that the people of this region face on a daily basis. Many people in this region live on the equivalent of less than $2 per day. As we drove south from Addis, the countryside was filled with lush fields, beautiful tilled soil with abundant produce, and winding creeks and rivers all intermingled with thousands of mud huts and poverty-stricken towns with very few visible signs of economic growth. Roads are shared by vehicles, tractors, donkey and horse-carts, people-driven carts, motorcycle taxis, and herds of livestock (cattle, goats, donkeys, horses) that all feel equally entitled to the right-of-way. The beautiful creeks were filled with both herds of animals, children playing, women washing clothes, and people gathering drinking water - all within reach of one another. And yet the people exude a warm, hospitable, joyous approach to life that belies their 'predicament' as perceived from the white family that just flew in from the USA driving through their homeland.
Even after being here only a few days, we are certain that though we came to serve and touch lives for the better, in the end we will be the ones blessed and profoundly changed moreso than any of the patients at the hospital. In a way, we're counting on it...