About 6,000 people are on track to receive free healthcare at three clinics operating on the sidelines of a major Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic series in Rwanda.
Hundreds of people eagerly lined up Sunday for free dental, medical, and eye care at the largest of the three clinics, a recently constructed Adventist church in Rwanda’s resort city of Gisenyi. The site is also hosting evangelistic meetings led by Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson.
About 400 people received free treatment at the church on Sunday, bringing the total to 750 since the building, which doubles as a community center, opened its doors on Thursday, said Fesaha Tsegaye, coordinator of the three clinics.
“This church is open every day of the week, meeting the needs of the community,” said Tsegaye, health ministries director for the church’s East-Central Africa Division, which includes Rwanda.
The clinic runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Tuesday, but health seminars and other community outreach programs will be organized at the church in the following days and months, he said.
The two smaller free clinics are being held at sites in the capital, Kigali, and another city. Altogether, 130 doctors and nurses are volunteering at the three clinics.
Inside the Gisenyi church, husband-and-wife dental team Valentin Omonte and Susana Tito worked with a seemingly endless line of people seeking treatment for cavities and inflamed gums. A third dentist who volunteered on Friday was not available on Sunday morning.
So with the aid of a dental hygienist and a few assistants, the two married doctors examined patients on simple plastic chairs. Patients gargled and spit into large plastic cups on the floor.
“It’s an amazing time for us because we can serve God in a special way,” said Tito, who with her husband are from Bolivia and serve as missionary dentists in Kigali. “We may not have special facilities, but people are very happy that we are here to at least relieve the pain and to do some extractions.”
Outside the room, nurse Marthe Maniriho prepared patients for their dental checkups. Maniriho told how a small 6-year-old boy with a painful toothache had touched her heart. The dentist had pulled the tooth, and the boy had left with a smile.
“This was so special to me because I am a mother,” said Maniriho, who has a 3-year-old daughter. “So I am telling other mothers that we need to take care of our children and to give them healthy food, not only sweets that can damage the teeth.”
Also at the church on Sunday, a single optometrist gave eye exams to a long line of people, 80 people donated blood, and 500 church members, many wearing “Total Member Involvement” T-shirts and scarves, set out on a 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) march to Rwanda’s nearby border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“This is an occasion to invite people to attend our evangelistic meetings, but the main reason of this walk is to mobilize people to do physical exercises so that they may have good health,” said Mutuyimana Nkundakozera, coordinator of the walk and executive secretary of the church’s Northwest Rwanda Field.
Back at the free clinic, Fred Hardinge, associate director of the Adventist world church’s health ministries department, played with bored children by wiggling a walking stick at them, causing them to scamper away giggling and then come running back for more.
Hardinge also offered encouragement to the volunteers, telling many, “Thank you so much for what you are doing.” He gave his business card to Maniriho, the nurse, and asked her to keep him informed about her ongoing job search. In a back room, his words of encouragement left a wide smile on the face of dental assistant Thaciana Uwiragiye, who was hunched over a basin of soapy water, sterilizing dental tools.
“It’s clear to me that this clinic is very needed just by the number of people who are patiently waiting to see a dentist or a doctor,” Hardinge told the Adventist Review.
Hardinge is in Rwanda to provide support to Tsegaye, the division’s health ministries director, and to assist him with health presentations before Wilson’s evangelistic meetings every evening
Local church leaders are praying that 100,000 people will be baptized as a result of the two-week evangelistic meetings, which started Friday at more than 2,200 sites across Rwanda and and will end on May 28.
The Adventist Church seeks to bring physical as well as spiritual healing to communities, and it has held free clinics in conjunction with evangelistic series in the past. In May 2015, more than 3,400 patients received free treatment during a two-week clinic that coincided with major evangelistic meetings in Zimbabwe. About 30,000 people were baptized at those meetings.
Hardinge, meanwhile, said the Gisenyi clinic’s waiting line had been so long on Friday that volunteers had handed out numbers on pieces of paper and asked people to come back Sunday.
“They have come back, and many more have, too,” he said.