Friday, July 27, 2007

Changing lives in Romania: Dr. Ginger Williams goes on trip for Volunteers in Medical Evangelism


Submitted by Elena Valle

Dr. Ginger Williams, Chief Medical Officer at Oaklawn Hospital and member of Family Bible Church in Marshall, recently participated in a mission trip to Romania, providing free medical care and touching the lives of Romanian villagers, gypsies, and physicians.The trip, which lasted a week, was organized by Volunteers in Medical Evangelism, associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The mission of the trip was to spread the Gospel, but the group of 25 volunteers, including nurses, doctors and dentists, also provided basic healthcare. Over $80,000 worth of medications were donated to the mission.

The group was based in Campina, a town an hour and a half from Bucharest. Each day, Williams woke at six am and ate a breakfast of half a tomato, goat cheese, and scrambled eggs with the rest of the group at their hotel. After packing up the equipment, the group left on a bus at eight o'clock and arrived about thirty minutes later at a new village, where they set up their clinic inside a church, sometimes even in the sanctuary. On three of the days, the group traveled to gypsy villages with concrete block houses.

The churches advertised the clinic ahead of time, and on most days, about 150 Romanian villagers showed up. On the busiest day, however, the volunteers saw 300. Patients would first go through a triage staffed by nurses and then meet with an evangelist while waiting for medical, dental, or eye care.The day normally lasted about eight hours, but the volunteers always worked until all the villagers had been seen by a physician or dentist. The longest day was 11 hours long.Williams said many of the villagers had more access to healthcare than they chose to use. However, people at poverty level also had difficulty accessing the healthcare system and lacked education about their health.

Villagers commonly held superstitions, such as the belief that, if a breeze blew on them from outside, they would get sick, or that vitamins would make them fat. Interestingly, the majority of the people who came to the clinic believed their health problems were caused by anemia or low calcium, even though this was rarely the case.Williams was the only American physician in the group, and she found that the most common illnesses were high blood pressure, diabetes, rheumatism, and arthritis. Poor dental hygiene was also common, possibly the result of unfluoridated water or lack of education.People of all ages received care at the clinic, but the group did more than treat patients directly.

Williams believes their impact on the life of Daniel Negoita, a Romanian physician and Williams' translator, will have a long-lasting influence on everyone he works with in the future.Negoita offered his help to the group, expecting that there would be four to five other Romanian doctors and that he would be able to take most of the week off. However, there turned out to be no other Romanian physicians and no medically trained translators, so Negoita stayed with the group the entire week."

Although he was very shy and reserved initially, he really blossomed through the week and became endeared to virtually everyone," Williams said.Negoita was concerned that the gypsies, who are a minority discriminated against and somewhat feared in Romania, would be hostile to him, but they actually greeted him very warmly, and he responded very warmly in return."I think this will not only affect his interactions with this group in the future, but he will also be in a position to affect the prejudices of others," said Williams.

Negoita also told the group that the week spent following God's leading in this mission had changed his life and that it would change his practice of medicine in the future."Since our goal was to change lives for God, I was very touched by the change in him over the week," said Williams, who hopes to participate in more mission trips in the future. "I know this will have an ongoing impact and ripple effect in that culture for years to come."

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