Thursday in Sumatra – Visiting the Villages

American beach-front property is usually owned by the mega wealthy.  Not so in Sumatra.  Wealthy Indonesians prefer city living, leaving the pristine beaches to the poor.  Today’s adventures took us to one such area along the Southern tip of the island.  We wanted to visit a medical clinic that had once been supported by our mission partners.  Management has since passed to a mission hospital organization, but visiting was an eye-opening experience.  The clinic itself is quite small, not much more than a small one-bedroom apartment, but the care is excellent.  Though grossly understaffed, the doctor and his staff of one nurse and three midwives administer aid to the needy in this region.  It is truly astonishing to hear about the abysmal treatment these people face in a country that boasts free health care.  The closest private hospital is 2 1/2 hours away, though there is a state hospital 30 minutes away.  The only problem is that if you go to the state hospital  seeking medical attention, you must arrive at 5-5:30 AM just to get a number (like a deli counter).  After that, you wait.  Your wait could take you well into the evening, and that assumes you get a number at all.

This tiny clinic, limited as it is, provides quality care in a timely manner.  I am truly impressed with the dedication of the staff.  For example, the newly married doctor lives in an adjacent house during the week, then drives five hours to get home on the weekends.

After lunch, the team visited another village for a reason we’d not yet addressed on this trip.   In addition to reading and English language training, our mission partners are dedicated to educating people on nutrition and healthy living.  People here have a very loose appreciation for germ transmission, a fact compounded by open sewers, open markets (with meat sitting out), and tap water so contaminated even the locals drink only bottled water.  Instruction on  hand-washing, covering their mouths when they sneeze or cough, and proper nutritional choices can go a long way to help people live healthier now, and open doors of communication in the future.

The mission team continues to work diligently through obstacles created by a community so mono-faith that they would rather let their people suffer than allow Christians to render aid.  It is a frustrating situation, but one that yields great rewards when the suspicions relax, and we are allowed to make a difference.

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