The Words The Kwak Family

WRFF Medical Team Visits Zaire

Chung Hwan Kwak
March 1981

On October 11, 1980 at 3:00 a.m., a DC 10 Air Zaire plane landed at N'Djili International Airport in Kinshasa. Among the passengers on this flight from Paris were ten members of an international medical team of the World Relief Friendship Foundation (WRFF). The team included two doctors, five nurses, a male nurse, a midwife and a physical therapist -- from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Malaysia and Nigeria -- under the direction of Dr. Colette Melard. They went to Zaire for one month of medical work.

Dr. Melard's work had begun almost a year before. She reports about the preparations for the medical team: "I wrote to the parents of our members, outside members and associate members, asking for their aid -- either in money or medical supplies -- for our project, and to laboratories and medical doctors for donations of medicine. In addition, our French magazine. Nouvel Espoir, carried an appeal for support. Through these three methods we were able to obtain donations of $2,000 and 500 kg. of medicine.

"Our team members earned money for their plane tickets and expenses while in Africa through jobs or fundraising, and the American WRFF also sent financial aid. In addition, after many efforts we were able to arrange for free air transportation for the 500 kg. of medicine.

"We met as a team once in June as preparation for our trip and set a 21-day prayer condition for September."

The object of this trip was to make a survey of the problems and real needs of the population in the field of health and also to lay the foundation for a larger medical work in Zaire in the future. In this relatively short time it was obviously not to be expected that all the bold objectives of such a large project could be fulfilled. But a certain number of essential things for the future could be accomplished.

First, the members of the WRFF medical team were able to develop a clear and concrete understanding of the medical situation in Zaire, which is a prerequisite for extended work in the future.

Second, on a more practical scale, an effective healing and preventive medical work was accomplished, especially through the distribution of 500 kg. of medicine. Dr. Melard writes:

"We went to work in two Kimbanguist health centers, alongside medical staff members from the Kimbanguist Church. It was good training for all our members to get used to tropical diseases and realize the misery of the medical conditions, malnutrition and lack of medicine and medical supplies. Our sisters were amazed to see that one syringe was used for 50 patients. It was a good opportunity for us to work side by side with our Kimbanguist brothers and sisters and even with two Catholic doctors sent by the government to work in the Kimbanguist dispensaries. "In addition, we worked in the Mama Yemo Hospital in Kinshasa, where our brother is vice director; the University Hospital; and the Presidential Medical Service."

"We met with the president's physician, who expressed his gratitude to us and the president's concern about improving the medical conditions in the country and supporting all medical initiatives. He also said he would be very grateful if we could send a doctor to Gwadolite, where they have a hospital but lack medical staff. I explained to him our desire to have one of our sisters remain in Zaire to set up a program of education in nutrition, hygiene and preventive medicine in different areas of Kinshasa (through our home church system)."

Third, the medical team's tour was the occasion for experiencing an international brotherly harmony with the Zairian people -- a universal feeling which left a deep impression in each heart. This was not the least achievement of the tour. The visit was also a great inspiration for the Zairian brothers and sisters. For many of them, it was the first opportunity to meet European members, apart from the missionaries.

One sister from the French family, Francoise Carre, remained in Zaire for a few months in order to work in the mothers' and children's wards of the Mama Yemo Hospital and also with the pioneers in the home church program, developing methods of nutrition education. She is joined by one Zairian member, Nsimba Dibakanga, a nurse who assisted the medical team during its work in Zaire.

Miss Carre reported in Nouvel Espoir on the significance this visit had for her:

"Shortly after our medical team arrived in Zaire, we were invited to work in the Kimbanguist dispensaries. Although I was well informed by Dr. Colette Melard of the medical situation in Zaire, I could have never imagined what I came to experience.

First the dispensary was a little house of several rooms without any kind of special equipment and with no conveniences: the cement walls with their fading paint, a few wooden benches in the hallway which served as a waiting room, a few cabinets in which one might hope to find medicine, but which in reality only contained files. I first asked myself, 'What can one do here?'

"But as I began to work with the nurses of the dispensary. to my surprise I found them diagnosing ailments and prescribing medicines -- something reserved only to doctors in Europe. To tell the truth, I felt a little lost. Then I began to notice many things concerning the situation of the population of Zaire."

"Many of the patients come in an advanced state of illness, because they do not have enough money to come to the dispensary until their condition is totally unbearable. Thus, the problem of malnutrition, due to either ignorance or poverty, made me feel much responsibility in educating especially the mothers about everything concerning hygiene and nutrition."

"Our stay of only one month in Zaire has permitted me to be more conscious of the situation and the real problems in the medical field, which are at the same time linked to the social, educational, political and economic evolution of the country and also allowed me to plan for projects in the near future."

Fourth, a remarkable coupling of practical medicine and spiritual medicine was realized. The goal of the WRFF medical team was not only that of ministering to the purely bodily needs, but also of giving the spiritual warmth of true love, in such a way that healing can touch the patients in their whole being. Isn't that just as wondrous as the promise of Jesus to make his disciples "fishers of men"?

One Zairian sister, Kasongo Yanampe, expresses her heartfelt appreciation for the WRFF medical team's visit. In Nouvel Espoir, she wrote, on behalf of the Zairian members:

"What we retain of the work that was accomplished is this sincere and selfless effort, characteristic of the spirit of the Unification Church, which permits each of us, brothers and sisters of the entire world, to profit from the give and take with each other. In other terms, this was an opportunity to transmit to Africa and Asia what Europe and America have to offer, and to have the latter benefit from that which comes from the most profound part of the former."

"What struck and moved us Zairians about the team members was their untiring search for all kinds of work. Their evident desire to serve was without any calculated interest. After their work in two Kimbanguist Church dispensaries, those of Kaza-Vubu and Kimbanseke, they went to help other establishments. Thus, they went to evaluate the situation in the Mama Yemo Hospital, the largest in the country; the University Clinics, which are much better equipped and have specialists on their staff; and finally the Presidential Medical Service, where the authorities promised to lend them a helping hand in the fulfillment of their noble projects."

"The daring and remarkable work of the members of the WRFF medical team made many faces beam with smiles, through their determination to accomplish and their common sense in the service of a high ideal. We have learned some lessons,' they declared in conclusion, to better prepare for the future." 

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