Mountain Trails No Deterrent for GFA Medical Camp

Remote. Rugged. These two words perfectly described the village GFA pastor Birkley visited. Two years prior, there had been no roads leading into the village. Nestled among a mountain range, the only way to reach the village had been by foot, traveling along paths that snaked up the mountainside. Now, there was a simple dirt road—but the trek was still difficult. So, why would Pastor Birkley lead a dozen men and women to this particular village, so out of the way and removed from everything?

Bringing Medicine to Them

Women serving at a GFA World free medical camp
Volunteers take initial readings of each attendee, so the doctors can quickly and easily see to the many patients.

The answer lay in the boxes of medicine the team carted along. Pastor Birkley is also a licensed medical doctor, and this was the third time he had visited this village—and the third time he and others had held a medical camp here. The first time Pastor Birkley had organized a medical camp in this isolated place, it had taken three days for his team to reach the village. Now it would only take a few hours.

But why still hold a medical camp, considering the new roads? Couldn’t the villagers easily make it to the nearest medical center? According to local pastor Tallan, no, they couldn’t.

“The nearest health care center is around [5.6 miles] from here,” Pastor Tallan explained. “For people like us who are young and healthy, we can reach the primary health care center in little more than one hour.” But what if a villager was elderly or seriously ill?

“If someone is sick, even if that person is able to walk, it will take no less than two to four hours for him or her to reach the nearest health care center,” Pastor Tallan said. “… It will take no less than three to four hours to carry a sick person on a stretcher.”

That is with the current roads. Before the construction of the roads, it took stretcher-bearers carrying a seriously ill patient nearly two days to navigate the winding and steep trails.

When sickness strikes, traveling nearly eight hours or more to seek treatment is not feasible. But, even if the villagers could make it to the nearest medical care center, many could not pay for care. Some of the families living in the village earn less than 166 U.S. dollars a year; they could not purchase medicine, even for minor ailments. If they did seek medical treatment, it would likely push them further into destitution.

It is because of these reasons, and many others, that Pastor Birkley wants to hold as many medical camps as possible. He wants to not only bring care to communities who otherwise cannot get it, but also educate the villagers and help protect them from further sickness.

“ … I’ve been treating people free of cost when they come to me with minor problems … I myself do it because the Lord has put that burden in my heart.”

“We give them some awareness of how they can prevent certain sicknesses,” Pastor Birkley explains. “… Certain things we teach in our free medical camp, not only simply giving them medicine and sending them away, but also we tell them what [they] can do, what [they] cannot do, [for their health].” Without knowing what to do in the event of a health emergency, the villagers typically either turn to witch doctors, or they simply endure the pain.

In addition to a lack of general health knowledge, limitations persist in both funding and supplying medical camps—but the need is still great. According to the United Nations, nearly 927 million people pay more than 10 percent of their household budget for medical expenses, and 209 million people pay more than 25 percent.1 Pastor Birkley finds himself unsatisfied with the number of medical camps that can be held.

“We need to be [holding medical camps] almost every month,” the pastor states. “… All this requires lots of funds and money, a lack of which will cripple us from [helping] these villages. … I’ve been treating people free of cost when they come to me with minor problems … I myself do it because the Lord has put that burden in my heart.”

Fruit Despite Obstacles

Woman receives medicine at a GFA World medical camp
Other volunteers help the attendees understand when they need to take the medicine and in what doses. Most the villagers are illiterate, so concise explanations help the recipients get the most out of their medicine.

Despite the challenges, Pastors Birkley and Tallan, along with many other GFA missionaries, are doing all they can to bring much-needed health care to communities in need. In the remote village they visited, as well as in other communities, the residents were thankful the pastors and volunteers came.

Petrina, a 52-year-old mother of three, attended the camp in hopes that her gastric problems and severe skin allergies could be addressed. She thanked God that the camp came when it did.

“A couple of days back … all my medicines ran out and I didn’t have anything to eat.” Petrina explained.

Without the medicine, Petrina couldn’t work. And no work meant no food. But through the medical camp, Petrina gained hope for the future.

“I’m happy from the bottom of my heart,” Petrina shared. “… I still have this problem, but now I think this medicine is going to help me and get rid of this sickness.”

Another resident of the village, 85-year-old Bainbridge and his 80-year-old wife, Daija, had difficulty traveling to the local health-care center due to their age. Even if they could reach it, they couldn’t afford the medicines. But thanks to Pastors Bainbridge and Tallan and the team, the dizziness, fevers and weakness that had been plaguing them were treated—for free.

“We needed treatment,” Daija said. “… And for treatment like that, we have to go to a place … very far from here; it takes us several days to reach there. But the doctor came and gave us medicines yesterday, and I feel very happy that a service like this was made available to us.”

Nearly 927 million people pay more than 10 percent of their household budget for medical expenses, and 209 million people pay more than 25 percent.

Give Health in Jesus’ Name

Doctor at GFA World medical camp looking after some children.
One of the GFA pastors who accompanied Pastor Birkley prays for an attendee after counseling him in preventative care and proper hygiene.

Currently, half the world’s population have no access to the health care they need, according to the World Health Organization,2 and 90 million individuals a year are driven into poverty for paying out-of-pocket medical expenses, as reported by the World Health Organization and World Bank.3

But GFA missionaries, including Birkley and Tallan, have made it their goal to bring communities the care they need in the name of Christ. And you can be a part of that.

By helping GFA World facilitate medical camps in areas where they are needed most, you can help provide medical care in Christ’s name and transform lives for eternity.

Help provide medical care

Your gift will help us continue to provide people with the medical care they need at no cost to them.

  1. “Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.” United Nations. 30 April 2021. .
  2. “Universal Health Coverage.” World Health Organization. 6 April 2022. .
  3. “Universal Health Coverage.” The World Bank. 19 May 2021. .

*Names of people and places may have been changed for privacy and security reasons. Images are GFA stock photos used for representation purposes and are not the actual person/location, unless otherwise noted.

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