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Great Stories: Jenna in Uganda

October 2, 2010

There are those of us who talk about living great stories, taking risks, and stepping outside of our comfort zones. And then there are those who just do it.

Jenna Funke, a dear friend of mine and a co-graduate of Belhaven University is one of those. Jenna recently traveled to Uganda on a short-term medical missions-trip. She graciously agreed to share a bit about her experiences there.

Tell a little about yourself.

I am from a small town in SC and am currently in graduate school getting my Masters in Occupational Therapy. I love working with children and hope to get a job in a pediatric hospital when I graduate. I also have a passion for horses and sharing love with other people.

Where did you go and for how long?

Uganda – We stayed in Masindi, but traveled to a variety of temporary clinic sites in Kasongoire, Kisuuga, Kimengo, and Bwayale, which were nearby. We also spent half a day each at Family Spirit Orphanage and Family Life Project. I was in Uganda for 13 days.

Describe Uganda:

The area of Uganda where we were was very rural. A lot of the people that we saw were farmers and worked in the fields. Uganda was very dusty, but a lot more lush and green than I was expecting. Most of the small villages we were at spoke the national African language, their own tribal language, and English.
We had some translators that spoke English and multiple tribal languages, and some of our patients actually even spoke English. It is very common for the kids to know English, because that is what they are taught in school. The living conditions are pretty poor. Most families live in a small hut and do not have access to clean drinking water. The healthcare system is also very poor.

With what organization did you go?
I went with the Medical Campus Outreach group from East Cooper Baptist Church in Charleston, SC. We partnered with Palmetto Medical Initiative, who is in the process of establishing a clinic in Masindi, Uganda. Over 100 people went on the trip; about 80 were healthcare students.

What was the purpose of the trip?

The purpose of the trip was to provide medical and spiritual care to the people of Uganda in the more rural areas.

What kinds of things did you do while you were over there?

We had eight days of clinic and saw about 200-250 people each day, and close to 2,000 people during the entire trip. I worked in the therapy clinic six of the eight days. While in the clinic, I worked with a team of 3-4 students and a therapist. We provided education on muscle exercises as well as proper body mechanics for work.
We made numerous hand and foot splints with material donated to our group. Some of the more interesting cases that I got to work with were a child with hydrocephalis, a man who had a stroke three years prior, and even a young girl who needed speech therapy, even though no speech therapists were on the trip. I also got to help manufacture a seating system out of random scrap material for a child with cerebral palsy.
On one of the clinic days, I was able to participate in the children’s ministry program. During this time, we spent the day playing ball or various games with the children who were waiting for their parents to be seen by the medical team. We also provided a short Bible story on “Daniel and the lion’s den.” This was a neat opportunity to really feel like we were getting to know the culture. The children in Uganda were very eager to try to teach us the language. It was also interesting to watch the children play and see how they interacted with and cared for each other.
During the other clinic day that I was actually not in the therapy clinic, I had the opportunity to be on the evangelism team. This was a really neat opportunity for me to grow spiritually. I really have not been stretched too many times to share my faith with people I do not know. It was amazing to see God at work in the lives of the people as they came up to us to ask for prayer.
We tried to ask almost everyone that we prayed with if they knew of Jesus Christ and if we could tell them more about Him. Most of them were open to hearing the Gospel Story and a few even wanted to know Jesus personally as their Savior. This day in clinic was probably one of the most challenging, but rewarding of all the days.
What is your favorite memory from the trip?
This is a hard question to answer. I guess my favorite memories were seeing the joy on a patient’s face after we were able to provide treatment that resulted in immediate benefits.
What surprised you most?
I w
as surprised at how many cases we saw of preventable disabilities. It was very sad to see a patient who, if he or she was here in the US, would not be in the same condition, or who would have started receiving therapy much sooner and have had the opportunity to make progress. We saw a few patients who made bounds of progress with just the one treatment session, but also others who we could not do much for because they had already developed such severe contractures.
What was the most significant thing that you learned?
One thing I learned that had an impact on me was how important our care was for the people of Uganda. On our first clinic day, I struggled to understand exactly how the role of an occupational therapist fit into short-term missions, since we only saw the patient one time. One of the occupational therapists in charge of my group told me that she thinks giving individual quality care and sharing the love of Christ with them makes more of a difference than sharing our OT skills.
Some of what we give medically might have a long term impact, but the bigger picture is what we share spiritually – Christ’s love. I think that learning that God can use me to help further His kingdom by giving me the ability to help therapeutically was one of the biggest things that I learned on this trip.
What is one other thing that you want to share?
If you want to learn more about our daily happenings on the trip, check out the PMI blog. At the end of the day, individual team members wrote small clips about the clinic experiences.


*Photo Credits: Jenna Funke

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