The Himalayas are the highest mountain range in the world. With peaks extending about 1500 miles across South Asia, the Himalayas separate the vast plains of northern India from the Tibetan plateau. Nine of the ten highest peaks on earth lay along this vast, rocky terrain. The tallest, Mount Everest, is 29,029 feet high. I am in a Himalayan village in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh (HP). The elevation of this village is roughly 8,990 feet. The sight of mustard fields juxtaposed against snow-capped mountains makes for an absolutely majestic view. It is impossible to not worship our Almighty God, the creator of heavens and earth. He is worthy of all our praise! Amidst the beauty, however, there is pain and illness. My mission is resolute: to lead a surgical camp for poor and remote villagers who have no access to medicine. I breathe in and out, preparing myself for the weighty work ahead.
HEALING THE LAND AND ITS PEOPLE
In any nation, it is the women and children who are most negatively impacted by poverty and sickness. The majority of those we will be taking care of in this medical camp are women. Devie is one such young lady. Devie lives in a remote village. The snow in her mountain village has started to melt, allowing her to brave the journey to our surgical camp. Her village has no access to medicine, so she has been suffering from a thyroid condition for the last five years. “It began as a small lump,” Devie explains, “It has advanced to the size of a tennis ball.”Around 42 million Indians suffer from thyroid related disorders, and women make up 60% of those affected. Goiters, or growths in the thyroid gland due to iodine deficiency, are very common in rural villages. Our medical team plans to operate on Devie the next day. The people here need healing, both spiritually and physically.
HEALING THROUGH MEDICINE AND PRAYER
On day one of the camp, we completed twelve surgeries, and we anticipate doing about 12-18 more . Some of the surgeries will include gallbladder removal (cholecy- stectomy), uterus removal for prolapse (hysterectomy), kidney stone removal, and thyroidectomy. The first patient is Shanti. She is about 50 years old, but cannot calculate her date of birth. She hobbles up on her feet as I approach her. I can see intense pain in her eyes. Shanti tells me that the pain began on the right side of her abdomen. She goes into greater detail, “The pain comes and goes, but the intensity keeps increasing each year.” For the past five years, Shanti endured these attacks, hoping the pain would go away on its own. At one point, the village healer offered some herbs and did some chants, but there was no respite. The nearest doctor was several hours away, so she suffered quietly. Soon, the pain became too difficult to bear, so her husband decided to take her to the doctor. This required a three-hour trek from her village. At the hospital, the ultrasound revealed a stone in Shanti’s gallbladder, and surgery was recommended. However, going to the nearest surgical hospital would require a few more hours of travel by bus. Shanti and her husband were terrified by the prospect of staying in a city with complex, foreign ways.
Additionally, when her husband realized how much the procedure would cost, he was shocked. He knew they could never afford the surgery. Downcast and melancholy, the couple trekked back the three hours to their 10,000 feet high mountain village. Then, a few weeks prior to the medical camp, someone told Shanti about our ministry. Shanti eagerly came for a pre-check up, and a flicker of hope rose within her. Today, she returns to the medical camp for her operation. I hold Shanti’s pale hands. She is very weak. Because one’s Gallbladder contracts on food intake, Shanti had stopped eating properly. She is gaunt and emaciated from loss of nutrients. Her hands begin to tremble in mine. Her husband entreats, “We do not have money.” I smile and assure him that we are doing this out of our love for Christ. We do not serve for money.
Shanti is placed on the makeshift operating table, and spinal anesthesia is administered. I pray and take the scalpel. Making a vertical incision above the gall bladder region, I move quickly. It is going to be a long day. As the surgery continues, the team keeps talking to Shanti. There is no screen in such a rudimentary set up, so privacy is at a minimum. A person assisting remarks, “It seems that our verbal anesthesia (the ongoing conversation to keep Shanti distracted) is more effective than the spinal one.” The surgery goes well. I finally close her up. Now that this 30-minute procedure is complete, it is time to care for the next patient. Resting in a makeshift bed, Shanti will be kept under observation for 24 hours before trekking back to her village. By the grace of God, she should live a healthy, pain-free life. For the next several hours, we work non-stop, with the exception of a few breaks, into the early evening.
The Inspiration: A Beautiful Call
Serving our Lord is such a great privilege. It is truly a beautiful call to be His hands by bringing God’s healing to people through the power of medicine and prayer. In fact, a significant part of Jesus’ ministry was to heal the sick. Healing—of bodies, souls, and communities—is a central component in the Kingdom of God. It is our call to proclaim the good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, release the prisoners from darkness, comfort all who mourn, and bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes (Isaiah 61). What a privilege; what a beautiful call. May His Kingdom come on this earth, as it is in heaven.
SETTING UP THE CAMP
Compelled carries out medical camps in remote places in South Asia, primarily for the poor and those without access to any medicine. In the last twelve months, this ministry has completed twelve medical camp missions. I independently lead the general medicine camps with prayer and physical support from a handful of fellow missionaries. The knowledge of family medical practice enables me to treat various illness, while educating the villagers on immunization, hygiene, and female health. Ultimately, the cornerstone of our medical camps is praying for the people and sharing the truth of Jesus. Once we end the camp, the nearest missionary family follows up with those who received treatment in each respective village. In addition to general medicine camps, we also lead surgical camps. Because performing operations requires trained specialists, I join hands with few other friends , including an anesthesiologist. As a general surgeon, I do the surgeries, usually with the team. To set up a surgical camp, we typically find a confined space in the village or town, cleaning it thoroughly to serve as our operation room. At times, we must fumigate the room to drive out rats and insects. A wooden table or two covered by clean, plastic sheets acts as the operating table. Basic, necessary equipment, which team members bring, is set up the evening before the camp begins. Finally, it is essential to find good, working flashlights, in case the operations continue into the night and electricity is unavailable or does not cooperate.