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Pipes, rebar form rudimentary delivery table in Ghana

Mission partners can use a little to get a lot done

By the Rev. Joshua Heikkila | World Mission regional liaison for West Africa

The delivery table at the Kwahu Praso clinic in Ghana,  complete with a fresh coat of paint and new cushions. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Back in 2013, I joined a German colleague of mine who was working in Ghana at the time on a visit to a rural health clinic run by the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. The clinic was in the community of Kwahu Praso, about three hours northwest of Accra, the capital of Ghana, and for several years, it had been receiving financial support from some German Protestant congregations. The visit was a chance to learn more about the place and see how it was doing.

The clinic provided a wide range of basic health services to its rural community, like giving vaccinations, treating malaria, and helping people recover from minor illnesses and injuries. But I was especially struck by the busy maternity ward, which served as the primary pre- and postnatal care center for women in the surrounding towns and villages. Each month, more than a dozen women — and sometimes up to two or three dozen — gave birth in the Kwahu Praso Presbyterian Health Centre.

Inside the delivery room of the clinic’s maternity ward, I couldn’t help but notice a very rudimentary delivery table. If I remember correctly, the clinic administrator said it had been made by a local blacksmith from pipes and rebar bought in a nearby market. That delivery table left quite a strong impression on me, for two reasons in particular.

The thin cushion, metal stirrups, and plastic bucket didn’t look very comfortable (although perhaps nothing is comfortable when giving birth), so I felt a sense of compassion for the women who were using this table. But at the same time, I was impressed with how resourceful the clinic had been. It was incredible that a local blacksmith had built this table, meeting the clinic’s needs with local ingenuity, rather than waiting for an outsider to bring in supplies!

The past couple of years, as I’ve visited churches in the U.S. to speak about the mission and ministry of our West African Presbyterian partners, I’ve often shown the picture of this delivery table as an example of how our partners are doing so much good work with so few resources. It certainly provokes a strong reaction.

One of the groups from the Presbyterian Church (USA) who has a mission partnership in Ghana is Living Waters for the World, from Synod of Living Waters. If you’re not familiar with LWW, they install simple water purification systems and teach about water-related health and hygiene with partners in 10 countries worldwide, and Ghana is one of them.

Working together with the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, LWW has been able to provide water purification systems to about a dozen different institutions in the country. The systems have done well in schools and health facilities, where there is a great need for clean water and enough expertise to sustain a purification system. Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., has been the main sponsor of Living Waters’ work in Ghana.

Earlier this year, when I learned that LWW would be coming to Ghana, I was excited to discover they would be installing a water purification system at the Kwahu Praso Health Centre. The system would certainly be a benefit to this rural health clinic. I was also looking forward to visiting the clinic once again to see how they had progressed over the past five years.

When I arrived in Kwahu Praso in early November, LWW had already installed much of the water purification system. Now that a dozen systems have been installed, the Ghanaian team can do an installation in a fast and efficient manner. When I peeked inside the maternity ward, I was surprised to see that same delivery table, only with a fresh coat of paint and newly sewn cushion. It was amazing to think that perhaps 1000 babies had been born on that table over the previous five years.

When I think of that ward in Kwahu Praso, I’m reminded how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is supporting partners in Ghana in the area of maternal and child health. Presbytery of Lake Erie is giving funds for the renovation of the maternity ward at Wapuli Clinic in the north of Ghana, and the First Presbyterian Church of Fairfield, Conn., is funding the expansion of another ward at Dzemeni Clinic on the shores of Lake Volta. Both of these clinics are run by our partner, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana.

Together with the LWW clean water system in Kwahu Praso, I know these projects will enhance the health and well-being of people in Ghana, and especially the health and well-being of women and children in these rural communities. I’m happy that I can support these efforts and think of ways to improve and expand upon them. Just recently, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana indicated that all 35 of its health facilities could use a water purification system, and LWW is considering how this dream might become a reality.

As 2018 comes to a close, I want to thank you for the financial support you have given to Presbyterian World Mission, which allows me to work together with these mission partnerships in West Africa. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I pray you will be generous in your gifts so we can continue making God’s light and God’s love known in West Africa.

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