Darla and Lowell Peterson visited Kenya last month to be part of a medical mission trip through an organization called the Caris Foundation. The Petersons' official capacity, as Christian missionaries who are not trained medical professionals, was to provide comfort and spiritual support for the team of American surgeons and for the patients receiving the free surgeries offered by the organization.
The Caris Foundation provides medical care for people in developing nations who would otherwise go untreated. They conduct surgeries for those suffering from birth defects or debilitating conditions so that they may live more rewarding and productive lives. In addition, they organize medical clinics that treat illness and injuries before they become life threatening.
"For this trip we had one gynocologist and two general surgeons," said Lowell. Surgeries performed on surgical missions trips are those appropriate for the type of surgeons available. The three-surgeon team provided sixty surgeries on three tables in fourteen days. Working from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., they fixed many hernias and a number of cleft paletes, they removed gall bladders, performed hysterectomies and more.
Lowell is a maintenance operator for Cenovus Energy and he is also an Elder at the Weyburn Church of Christ. His wife Darla is a dearly-loved Mini Go Team Leader at The Family Place. They had heard about the Texas-based organization through their own personal connections.
Lowell had been on two previous medical mission trips with the Caris Foundation, last fall to the same location in Kenya and in 2010 to Haiti. For the first two trips, he was brought along as a maintenance technician and operating room assistant.
This time, both he and Darla were invited to attend in a more specific capacity.
"Together, we served as the Chaplain team in the hospital," said Lowell. "We took care of the group spiritually, encouraging all of the Christian doctors and nurses."
Like many effective ministries, the doctors are often working hard at accomplishing their mission to perform surgeries, which are done for free out of their desire to help. Many must remain nose-to-the-grindstone, in an attitude of service.
"The doctors are too busy to demonstrate their Christian love outside of performing surgery," he said. As Chaplains using interpreters, he and Darla were able to offer more time to the patients before and after surgery.
Interestingly, the hospital the team was working from, located in Malindi, Kenya, is a private, Muslim hospital. The Petersons, however, did not find that to be a problem.
"We prayed with the patients, who were quite nervous about going through surgery," Lowell said, adding that every patient was happy to pray with them, because they consider there to be only ?one God?.
"(Caris) wanted someone to make that connection in a more real way," said Lowell of the progress that has been made as a result of the creation of a Chaplain role in the mission. The organization has been working closely with the Muslim community through the Tawfiq Hospital and has earned its trust.
"Now they had a good relationship with the hospital staff, so they felt more comfortable having Chaplains there. They weren't sure how receptive the Muslim people would be to that," said Darla.
Lowell said it was more powerful to have his wife along with him, as the women especially were far more trusting of his spiritual leadership and prayer was more effective. They even saw a miraculous healing of a woman whom the doctors had declared to be dying.
"Darla spent time with the daughter while I was with the mom, who was allegedly dying," he said, adding that it was an intense time. The comfort of Darla's presence was critical to the dynamic.
"That lady didn't die, by the way," said Darla, who was also able to use her natural gift with the Kenyan children.
The Petersons have confirmed that it is indeed more blessed to give than to receive.
"We were blessed beyond imagination," said Lowell.