International Ministries

About the Vanga Hospital

November 30, 2001 Journal

We thought it would be good to give you an overview of the Vanga Evangelical Hospital where we live and work.

Vanga is a 350-bed hospital (425 if you include the tuberculosis ward patients) located in the interior of Congo 500 km (about 300 miles) east of Kinshasa. It was founded not long after the turn of the 20th century and has been a blessing to many people throughout the years. During the last 30 years, it has been noted as the major reference hospital in the Bandundu region for medical treatment, however its major task has been in its efforts in training and education. There are several training programs in place at Vanga, including a family practice residency program, nursing school, semi-formal training programs for lab technicians as well as in anesthesiology. There is also a chaplainry training program in place.

Briefly, the nursing school has had a very good reputation for its rigor and commitment to excellence especially in a climate where most educational institutions are more like diploma mills than places of learning. The school is headed up by M. Mvumu who is a committed Christian nurse who has had special training in nursing education as well as Fr Reinhart who is the physician overseeing the education. There are around 20 students per class, which comes to 80 students altogether. The lab and anesthesiology programs are semi-formal programs that are geared to help hospitals in the region as well as health centers to improve the care that they give. Usually they receive special training for about three months to augment their skills. There is also a program for training chaplains. The major emphasis of this program is counseling people who have been newly diagnosed with AIDS how to cope with the problem and be useful to God's Kingdom while infected with the disease. The program has enjoyed international success having candidates coming from Ivory Coast, Benin and Cameroon. Vanga has been blessed with this aspect of care for the whole person.

One thing I (Mark) find significant is the family medicine residency program, which is here at Vanga. It is a program funded by a German organization that is linked academically with the Medical University of South Africa. There are usually two residents per year, for a total of three years. In terms of medical personnel there are at present six family medical residents, three Congolese staff doctors, three expatriate doctors. The medical director of the hospital is Dr Alfred Mpoo, a prince of a guy and a fine Christian man. Dr Tonda is the health zone doctor (The Vanga Health zone serves about 250,000 people, with many health centers and one secondary hospital.) Dr. Mayala is the ophthalmologist. Of the expatriate doctors, Dr Reinhart is the supervising doctor of the nursing school as well as the person in charge of internal medicine. Dr Friedhelm is a pediatrician who also heads up the nutrition center as well as serving as chief of staff. I am the person responsible for the residency-training program as well as responsible for the operating room and the surgical ward and am involved with the supervision and oversight of the other Baptist medical works in Congo. Dr. Kutuloka is still in his surgical training in Kinshasa, which we hope will come to an end this December. He will join us then at Vanga and will take the OR/Surgical ward, which I will gratefully give to him. We really see the need for all of us to work together as a team, sharing responsibilities according to our capacities. Thus, there is a balance that we have which we enjoy and we enjoy a harmony between us that we can only attribute to God's hand upon us.

Training Doctors

I think training doctors is the most significant program at Vanga. In many ways, especially in the Interior of Congo, doctors carry much influence, often as much as pastors. One example of this happened just recently. There is a mission in our Baptist work that has had very difficult times in the past five years. In fact the last time I was there, I felt strongly that the Lord must have left the mission, at least in part. It has been struggling with conflicts, lack of direction and lack seeking the face of God in these problems. Just recently we sent a person who was trained at Vanga to this mission because there was a sudden opening. My colleague Bill Clemmer visited the hospital only two months after this doctor (Jerry) arrived, only to find that he has been on fire for the Lord, reestablishing morning devotions at the hospital, preaching in church, as well as serving as a doctor. What was an empty hospital before now has become a hospital filled with patients, especially in pediatrics.

Prayer Needs

So, this is only one example of how training doctors, (after medical school) can have long reaching and long lasting effects here in this country. For prayer concerns, again the war and the economy have taken a toll on the medical works throughout Congo. Also, there is doctor Kutuloka who is in a surgical training program in Kinshasa who we have been waiting to come to Vanga; however, there have been delays for the last three years. Please pray that he finally will make it here. Also pray that the Lord will protect the good "corps d'esprit" that is here, amongst the medical staff. It has been our precious jewel here and we want to keep it alive and healthy. Also pray for the education system throughout the country that has hit a all time low in quality which also includes the Baptist schools.

Where We Minister

Mark shares the coordination responsibilities for the Family Practice Residency Program; he also trains resident doctors in surgery and follow-up care. Mark does a lot of teaching, too—at the nursing school and at the Milundu Teacher College. Mark also helps in coordinating construction and restoration projects for Baptist hospitals in the Bandundu Region.

Sandy teaches English as a Second Language to medical residents and students in the hospital primary school. She also helps in evangelism by purchasing Bibles and other materials. Both of us are involved in the local evangelism and nutrition teams, which visit villages throughout the Bandundu region.