Ugandan church partnership offers free health care

The Rev. Tom Wall, a United Methodist campus minister at the University of South Carolina, brushes a boy’s teeth during a free health camp in eastern Uganda. The United Methodist Church in Uganda and the African Methodist Episcopal Church jointly sponsored the weeklong event. Wall served as the team leader of the group from the United States. Photo by Vivian Agaba, UM News.  

The Rev. Tom Wall, a United Methodist campus minister at the University of South Carolina, brushes a boy’s teeth during a free health camp in eastern Uganda. The United Methodist Church in Uganda and the African Methodist Episcopal Church jointly sponsored the weeklong event. Wall served as the team leader of the group from the United States. Photo by Vivian Agaba, UM News.

Thousands of people in the Busoga region of eastern Uganda received free health and dental care services through a weeklong health camp sponsored by The United Methodist Church in Uganda and the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  

Between May 15, at Wanyange Central United Methodist Church in the Jinja District, and May 23, at the Africa Methodist Church in Magamaga, a village in the Mayuge District, the medical team treated more than 2,000 patients. 

The 17-person team included volunteer medical experts from the U.S., with support from a local team. The teams provided health education on sanitation, hygiene, proper food preparation and diet and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV and AIDS.

Team members also attended to many patients with colds, joint pain and chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and gave out some free medications.

  Olivia Halvorson, a volunteer with the Wesley Foundation Methodist Student Network of the University of South Carolina, checks a patient’s eyes during a health camp in eastern Uganda. Photo by Vivian Agaba, UM News.  

Olivia Halvorson, a volunteer with the Wesley Foundation Methodist Student Network of the University of South Carolina, checks a patient’s eyes during a health camp in eastern Uganda. Photo by Vivian Agaba, UM News.

The Rev. Tom Wall, a United Methodist campus minister at the University of South Carolina and the U.S. team leader, said the health camp was a teaching and learning opportunity for everyone about healthy living.

According to the World Health Organization, non-communicable diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, kill up to 100,000 people annually in Uganda, accounting for 35 percent of the country’s annual deaths.

To prevent those medical conditions, Wall said, “people need to exercise regularly, reduce salt intake, quit smoking and alcohol use, eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water,  eat whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy products and cut sugar and refined carbs from their diet.”

He encouraged the public to go for regular medical check-ups, which help to find potential health issues before they become a problem.

Wall also called upon churches to partner and work together to improve the lives of people they serve beyond preaching the Gospel.

“It is easy to say, ‘I love you, have faith,’ but people want to see this love illustrated into actions. As a church, we can work together, be a ministry that touches and changes the lives of all people. That is what will make us good witnesses of Christ,” he added.

Abigail Smith, a team member from the United Methodist student network at the University of South Carolina, said she was impressed with the dedication of volunteers from the local church, noting that they had been of great help in the success of the health camp.

Among those benefiting was Emmanuel Mwesigwa, a 22-year-old student at Jinja Secondary School, who was born with an eye defect and can only see things very close to him.

“My eyes have affected my studies — I can hardly see what is written on the blackboard,” he explained. “Last year, I went to Jinja Hospital and doctors told me to buy eyeglasses. My parents failed to raise (the money) to buy them. I’m so happy being among the many eye patients that have got glasses from this health camp. This is a miracle for me. May God bless them; they have done a great job on my side.”

The Rev. Hildah Barabye, 73, a pastor at Bujo-Wali United Methodist Church, was full of praise for having benefited from this opportunity.

“We are lucky that they chose to come to Uganda and the Busoga region in particular to give us free health services,” the pastor said. “They gave me two pairs of eyeglasses. I pray for them to be alive and treat more people in different parts of the world.”

Bishop Ronnie Elijah Brailsford Sr., presiding prelate, African Methodist Episcopal Church, said he appreciated the partnership that he has developed with the East Africa Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church, led by Bishop Daniel Wandabula.

Brailsford noted that it is very important for churches to work together to address the spiritual and physical needs of people, adding that touching every person’s life is what makes a difference.

Dr. Julius Stephens, a retired dentist from South Carolina, volunteers with the health mission held in eastern Uganda. Photo by Vivian Agaba, UM News.  

Dr. Julius Stephens, a retired dentist from South Carolina, volunteers with the health mission held in eastern Uganda. Photo by Vivian Agaba, UM News.

Churches need to be holistic, the bishop said. “In our ministries as churches, we should go beyond focusing on the spiritual being of our parishioners and support them to ensure they are doing well socially, emotionally, physically, financially and in their relationships.”

Wandabula said he thanked God for the partnership with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Speaking from Kenya, he pointed out that Methodists have provided medical, surgical, nursing and dental care and shepherded environmental health infrastructure and health-impacting economic development projects in East Africa for many years.

He said the visiting medical team had encompassed true outreach by providing free health services to thousands of people at local church sites for a full week.

The church in East Africa is not only a worshipping place, Wandabula said, but also a place where people are welcomed and helped through counseling and the provision of medical care, by nurturing and giving people hope.

The Rev. Isaac Kyambadde, the pastor of Wanyange Central United Methodist Church and the superintendent of the Jinja District, applauded the U.S. team for working with the local personnel to provide free health services to those in local communities who sometimes struggle to go to health facilities to access services due to financial constraints.

Agaba is the communications officer for the East Africa Episcopal Office of The United Methodist Church in Kampala, Uganda.

News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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