‘We’re Treating the Whole Person’

April 20, 2018 • Kenya

Chaplains and doctors, supported by Samaritan's Purse, serve patients with the love of Christ.

Lying in his bed at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, a man named Geoffrey reflected on his wayward life as he recuperated from an illness. He had been struggling with drinking and wondered if there was hope for change and a brighter future.

He had heard about Jesus Christ and His promise of new life for those who surrender their heart to Him. As he fell asleep, he wondered: How do you make that commitment?

The next morning, Tenwek’s head chaplain, Rev. Elijah Bii, walked into Geoffrey’s room. Their conversation led to an earnest talk about the young man’s spiritual questions.

Chaplain Elijah Bii, left, shares the Gospel with Geoffrey.

Chaplain Elijah Bii, left, shares the Gospel with Geoffrey.

They talked about how Christ through His death on the Cross and resurrection from the grave gives victory over the penalty of sin for all eternity and also victory over the power of sin in daily life.

“I’ve never accepted Christ,” Geoffrey told Elijah. “I was thinking about that last night.”

Elijah responded, “There’s no better time than right now.”

They bowed their heads for prayer, and Geoffrey asked Christ to forgive his sins, to become his Savior, and to help him overcome his drinking problem. Elijah gave Geoffrey a Bible and said it would encourage him and enable him to know God through Jesus Christ.

At mission hospitals like Tenwek, chaplains like Elijah play a vital role in the healing process—spiritually and physically.

“Our chaplains join us on rounds and they see our patients pre-op and post-op,” said Dr. Russ White, chief of surgery at Tenwek. “It’s integral to what happens. We’re not separate, because we’re treating the whole person.”

Magnets for the Gospel

Just as the chaplains and doctors work together, Samaritan’s Purse and our partner hospitals also share a common purpose—to share the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as we work to save lives and relieve suffering.

Samaritan’s Purse has been supporting the ministry of Tenwek Hospital for nearly 40 years through our medical arm, World Medical Mission. Each year, we send hundreds of Christian medical volunteers on short-term trips to more than 60 hospitals around the world. We also are working to raise up a new generation of medical missionaries through our Post-Residency Program, and we provide these hospitals with tons of desperately needed equipment, supplies, and technical support.

Not only do World Medical Mission volunteers pray with patients and share their faith as God opens doors, but they fully welcome the spiritual ministry of compassionate care by chaplains so they can reach even more people for the Lord. Chaplains go from bed to bed, sitting with patients, praying with them, and telling them about Jesus—in their own language.

Chaplains pray with patients and tell them about Jesus.

“World Medical Mission is doing all we can to bolster the chaplaincy program at each of the hospitals we support,” said Dr. Richard Furman, co-founder of World Medical Mission. Dr. Furman still visits partner hospitals each year, as he recently did in Zambia.

“Mission hospitals are like magnets that bring people in with opportunities to hear the Gospel,” he added. “We’re committed to make certain all the hospitals we partner with have the proper number of chaplains and that they have Bibles to give to each new believer.”

Training Chaplains

Rev. Bii’s own chaplaincy was enhanced when his life was saved through emergency heart surgery at Tenwek in 2010. “I’m now better able to empathize with patients,” he said.

In 2003, Franklin Graham presented David Kilel, left, with a vehicle to use in his chaplaincy ministry.

In 2003, Franklin Graham, Samaritan’s Purse President, and Bill Frist (middle), former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, presented David Kilel with a vehicle to use in his chaplaincy ministry.

He thanks Samaritan’s Purse for supporting the work of the chaplains. In addition to the Bibles, we have provided the Tenwek chaplains with computers for their offices, televisions to show Christian programs and The Jesus Film, and books for a small library.

“Through your ministry, you have helped us touch so many souls as they’ve come to know Christ,” he said.

The Rev. David Kilel, who became the first chaplain at Tenwek Hospital in 1975, couldn’t agree more. Not only did Samaritan’s Purse help David as a seminary student, we were instrumental in the establishment in 1991 of the L. Nelson Bell Chaplaincy School, which he oversees. The school was named for Franklin Graham’s grandfather, who was a longtime missionary doctor in China—and a strong believer in the chaplaincy ministry.

More than 200 chaplains have been trained at the school—not just Kenyans but also students from Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Madagascar, and Sierra Leone. Graduates of the program are prepared to serve in hospitals and beyond—in prisons, schools, and the armed forces.

‘Every Day, Someone Is Saved’

“Chaplains need a compassion deep in their heart and a burden for lost souls,” David said. “We’re training them and sending them out to proclaim the Gospel.”

The school has outgrown its designated classroom—which the hospital needs for its ongoing expansion. A separate school will be built on a nearby piece of property. “I believe God is pouring His blessing upon us here at Tenwek and in our community,” David said. “Every day, someone is saved, and that is wonderful.”

“Chaplains need a compassion deep in their heart and a burden for lost souls.”

Samaritan’s Purse will extend its support for chaplains by organizing a special retreat conference for mission hospital chaplains. It will be held at the Brackenhurst Conference Center in Kenya and will be geared toward chaplains from English-speaking mission hospitals around the world. It will offer teaching and a time of testimony, when chaplains can share their struggles and their victories.

“Chaplains can feel isolated, so we want to bring them together, encourage them, build them up, and highlight the vision as to how important their ministry is,” said Ed Morrow, director of development for mission hospital relationships at World Medical Mission.

“Doctors do a wonderful work, bringing someone back from the brink of death,” he added. “But chaplains can, like the Psalmist says, bring someone ‘up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and establish my steps’ (Psalm 40:2). That’s life-changing.”