Caring for Cambodia
5 Mar 2018
The kingdom of Cambodia is home to the Khmer people, and famous for the large temple complex of Angkor Wat, a popular tourist destination. Cambodia has a complex religious culture, with strong roots in Buddhism and Hinduism. Australian Pioneers worker Joanna* has been serving in Cambodia as a medical doctor, and trainer of medical students, for over 10 years. Here’s some highlights from her recent ministry update:
Work at the Mercy Medical Center has its frustrations but many joys too. My main role there now is to take care of patients taking the drug: Imatinib. Most have chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) but we also have a few with a type of abdominal tumour which is controlled by this drug. Drug companies are criticized at times, but this company donates the drug to patients in almost 100 countries who could not otherwise obtain it. It’s a great privilege to help deliver such a valuable gift – for the patients, it’s literally a life-saver.
As we are the only source of donated Imatinib in Cambodia, our patients come from all provinces and all levels of society – and they regularly spend time at the clinic where they hear about Jesus and see people being loved and cared for. For some, it’s a very strange experience. One patient was heard to ask someone near him “Why are these people so kind to me? Don’t they know I’m poor?” Love speaks loudly! Some respond quickly; some never seem to understand.
This 11yo girl is a new CML patient – her parents borrowed money and gradually sold almost everything they owned – their farm, their house and one of their two motorbikes – to pay for travel to Thailand, and tests and consultations, all in the hope that she would live. Now the family of 6 are staying with a grandmother, in a tiny house, until they can “get back on their feet”. The Dad is a farmer so is now looking for work on other people’s farms.
For the last year or so, we’ve had a special machine at our little hospital – also donated by generous people. It does complex DNA analysis otherwise available in only a few major laboratories (none of them in Cambodia). I could not have imagined such testing could be packed into a little kit and done in a machine no bigger than a small microwave oven. It is helping to get new patients diagnosed clearly and quickly and to improve the ongoing treatment for everyone.
Joanna, like most medical missionaries around the world, works in difficult conditions, with limited resources. Yet her choice to push through the challenges and live a life of service can so often make a life-saving difference to disadvantaged people, just like the little girl with leukemia (who Joanna says is a real sweetie and doing well on her new medicine). Let’s pray that many patients at the Mercy Medical Center will be the type to respond quickly to the good news of Jesus and the love they are shown.
*name changed for privacy