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Team of Southern Baptist nurses provide healing touch in Bosnia

SARAJEVO, Bosnia (BP)–A. — Civil war. Destruction. Mine fields. Serbs vs. Muslims and Croats. Danger.
B. — Warm smiles. Happy children. Fresh vegetables. Plush, green gardens. Beautiful mountains. Cool weather. Great physical and spiritual needs.
If the selections above were the multiple choice answers for the question “How would you describe Bosnia?” most would select “A.” But, if you were one of 12 nurses who recently returned from the country, the answer would be “B.”
“I’ve never been in a country devastated by war,” remarked Wynyard McDonald, a registered nurse from Live Oak, Fla., and member of First Baptist Church there. “I somehow felt that the people would not be receptive, but was pleasantly surprised by the graciousness and gratefulness of the people.
“Most of all my heart was burdened for their souls,” she continued. “They have so little and need so much. I know God sent me to touch their lives … and to show them his love.”
McDonald and her colleagues from six states are among the first Southern Baptist volunteers to enter the country under the auspices of Woman’s Missionary Union’s Volunteer Connection. The medical team, led by national WMU president Wanda Lee, was in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Aug. 17-31. Five other volunteers worked in a children’s camp July 26-Aug. 11.
WMU is sending volunteers into Bosnia as part of its partnership with the Southern Baptist personnel in the country. The partnership is the overseas expression of Project HELP: Violence, WMU’s social emphasis for October 1998-September 2000.
“I was so proud of the work done by this team of Southern Baptist nurses,” said Lee, who herself is a registered nurse. “I believe nurses are one of the most overlooked resources in Southern Baptist life. They are by nature nurturing and compassionate. Add to that their Christian commitment and you have a powerful source for dispensing just what people in places like Bosnia need — someone who can provide healing physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
Providing that healing touch for Bosnians, as well as Kosovo refugees living in Sarajevo, was the top priority of the team of nurses. Divided into six teams, they conducted multiple health clinics, made home visits, and lead nutritional and health-related workshops. In addition, they led Bible classes with adults and children, and shared testimonies and musical/dramatic talents in worship services. The team saw over 650 people and had eight professions of faith through their ministry.
The team also carried more than $5,000 in over-the-counter medicines, Lee noted. The medicines were donated by Baptist Nursing Fellowship chapters in Alabama, Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland-Delaware, Tennessee and Texas. BNF members attending the 1999 national meeting also donated medicine.
Another $1,000 was given in monetary donations by BNF chapters in Arkansas, California, Tennessee and Texas, and several churches and individuals connected to the volunteers. The donations were used to purchase prescription medicines for patients on an as-needed basis. The medicines not used by the nurses were sent to two sites in Bosnia and into Kosovo.
The major problem during the trip was the confiscation of the medicine by customs officials when the team entered the country. The medicines were not released for six days. The team operated during the first three days of clinics with the medicines and supplies they had packed in their suitcases and others that were purchased locally.
Despite the handicap, team members were able to meet the needs of dozens of patients.
“It was amazing to see the work we did without them,” said Matthew Lee, son of Wanda Lee, and a senior pre-med student at Samford University in Birmingham. “God used the time to strengthen us and to teach us that he is always in control. If we can learn to rely on him for everything then it will all work out for his glory and according to his plans.”
Debra Scudder, a registered nurse from Wilson Baptist Church in Wilson, Wyo., noted the lack of common medicines and high-tech equipment helped the nurses get back to the “basics” of nursing and ministry.
“As an American health care worker, I have high-tech, state of the art equipment to help me deliver care to the patients,” she said.
“During our first week in Sarajevo,” she continued, “I had to go back to the basics of treating patients. Through a translator I would ask questions. I ‘watched’ the patients’ body language as they spoke the Bosnian language, and I ‘listened’ to the English translation. I ‘touched’ the patients and the human touch with a smile put the patients at ease. The lack of equipment forced us — allowed us the opportunity — to return to the basics.
“Jesus didn’t need high-tech to bring God’s love to the people almost 2,000 years ago,” she commented. “He used whatever was at hand and turned it into an opportunity to teach God’s love. I too had to use whatever was on hand and turned it into an opportunity to share God’s love.”
The major medical needs of the patients seen by the nurses were hypertension, diabetes, allergies and sinus problems, and a variety of stress-related problems, including ulcers and headaches. But, just as great, was their need for a listening ear and compassionate heart.
“I’m grateful to God that we had an opportunity to help even a few hurts with primary care, counseling, love and hugs, and the tears we shared with them,” shared Myrtice Owens, national BNF president and a member of First Baptist Church, Paris, Tenn. “Now we pray that our medical ministry will have a powerful impact for Christ and lives will be touched and changed by the gospel.”
*Name changed for security concerns.

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  • Tanya Dawson*