The scope of a dream – The Jesus Saves Medical Centre, Angola
by Dr Juan Palacios
Drs Juan and his wife, Adriana, (Argentina) have served in Angola since 2004.
During 1997, while the violent civil war in Angola was still ongoing, the elders of the Angolan Brethren churches had a dream to build a health centre. Supported by mission partners from the United Kingdom who were serving in Angola at that time, including the late Ruth Hadley, they chose a location in the Alto Campo neighbourhood of Luena, in Moxico Province. The centre offered a place where people could receive support in their time of illness, loving assistance and the opportunity to hear and accept the
message of salvation. It would offer an alternative to consulting healers or seeking the ‘help’ of witch doctors.
The construction process was long and, due to the scarcity of economic resources, the centre was built with blocks of salalé mudbricks made from anthills 20-30km away. The dedication of the local believers was great – they worked with united hearts, regardless of the financial limitations, carrying out construction through donations from the members of the different congregations. Finally, on 1 September 2000, the building was inaugurated as the Jesus Saves Medical Centre. In the early years, medical assistance was provided by nurses. In April 2004, the arrival of four Argentine Christian doctors expanded the services offered. The original construction was modified with the financial help of believers from the UK and the professional support of believers from Bolivia, Argentina and the USA.
Later, in 2016, the Lord continued to expand the scope of the dream and we received a donation from the BP company. Currently, the centre provides 24-hour emergency treatment and consultation for chronic diseases such as tuberculosis, leprosy and HIV. It has an intermediate therapy room, 20 beds for hospitalisation, a paediatric ward with a games room for children, a clinical analysis laboratory, a vaccination room, a pharmacy and an administration office with archives for medical records. The staff consists of 40 national workers and six mission volunteers. There are three doctors, two of whom are medical missionaries, and one Angolan doctor. There are nursing graduates, health technicians, laboratory technicians, administrators, ambulance drivers, cleaners, maintenance personnel, porters and a gardener, who are all salaried staff. The Jesus Saves Medical Centre functions as a self-managed health centre. It charges a minimum amount for medical consultation and sells medicines at an affordable price to the community. People with limited resources, like those widowed or orphaned during the war, are welcomed and treated.
An average of 2,000 patients are treated each month: 41% are children, 39% are women and 20% are men. After the provincial hospital in Luena, the Jesus Saves Medical Centre is the main centre of medical help for the local population. For the staff of the medical centre and for the church, the poor sanitary conditions in the province of Moxico continue to be a challenge. But that further motivates us to provide better health for the citizens of Luena.
Expanding the Dream
In addition to providing medical care, the centre offers spiritual assistance through the chaplaincy service. A group of believers go through the wards to pray for the hospitalised patients. Before starting
consultations they give a devotional talk, encouraging the patients to know the Lord and place their faith in Him. The dream of the medical centre is expanding to become a mission training base, providing
opportunities for those who want to serve the Lord using their gifts and professions. We have received believers from Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and the USA who have served short- or medium-term. Some of these have been confirmed in their calling and others have been inspired by the Lord to become more committed to mission.
Nilton & Lizzi
‘We are from Bolivia. It was a blessing to be in Angola for 17 months, supporting the work of the Jesus Saves Medical Centre. God is using the medical centre to help the people with their health. Low-income patients are supported with free medicines. Friendships are established between the health personnel and the patients and, in this way, they are able to speak to them of the love of God. We had the opportunity to serve the Lord with our gifts, trades and professions.
‘Nilton served in his profession as a doctor, attending patients and in personal evangelism in consultations. He also preached in the devotions that took place each morning. Lizzi helped as secretary and in personal evangelism with the patients. We are waiting for the pandemic restrictions to be lifted so that we can return to Angola to serve for a longer time.’
‘I am a paediatrician from Argentina. God permitted me to go to Angola for the first time as I was finishing one stage of my life, with many plans for the next but nothing definite. I found myself in a different culture with very special children. Experiencing the lives of the missionaries and the medical centre made my heart beat in a special way.
‘At first, with limited resources, I was confronted with my own limitations and I couldn’t work in the way I was used to. This made me frustrated, but God brought me through and He had much to teach me. I learned that it is not about me nor my abilities, but about God and His power as, in our limitations, He is glorified. I enjoyed seeing His miracles and I was humbled that the Lord could use me with what He had put in my hands. I also learned that God’s call does not bring sadness, but it enriches. Throughout my journey with the Lord, He has been equipping me for this moment. There is no better investment than to use my resources, time and strength in the work of God, which is eternal and lasts forever.’
A Living Testimony
I remember the day that a boy, aged almost ten, arrived at the emergency clinic in a coma with a fever and frequent seizures. Immediately, medical treatment began with appropriate antibiotics. After two days, members of the maternal family, who typically have the most rights over a child, suggested taking the child to a traditional healer because he was not improving. His parents, faithful to the Lord, did not permit it, although it could have cost them if the boy had died. The fight was intense but on the twentieth day, Caumba* woke without a fever and began to recover from his meningitis. The Lord rewarded the faith of his parents and the child recovered without any lasting effects from his illness. Caumba continues to be a living testimony that God works miracles.
The Scope of the Dream is His
There has been much immigration from China and different countries in Africa. The majority of these people come to Angola from the Islamic countries of Chad, Egypt, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal and Sudan. This presents a great challenge and an opportunity to share our faith in Jesus when they come for consultations.
The scope of the dream has overtaken us. We pray to the Lord as Moses did, ‘May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands’ (Ps 90:17). We need doctors, dentists and health personnel who desire to serve the Lord working in this place. Pray that people will be challenged to receive Christ as their personal Saviour. We know that the medical centre has been a blessing in the lives of many Angolan families. Thank you for being a part of this dream for the glory of God.