What do you know about Togo? To be honest, I didn’t know much when the Global Outreach Pastor at College Park, Nate Irwin, asked me to consider being part of a recent Vision Trip to Hôpital Baptiste Biblique (HBB) in Tsiko and the Hospital of Hope (HOH) in Mango. Both facilities are operated by ABWE and seek to meet the medical and spiritual needs of the people of Togo. After spending a week there, two things were clear to me: the needs are greater than I could have imagined, yet God is at work in a powerful way.
A First-Hand Account
Of all of Jesus’s disciples, Thomas may be my favorite. I can relate to his struggle with unbelief and his desire to “see” first-hand when he said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails…” (John 20:25). A trip to Togo—and a Vision Trip in general—is similar to Thomas’s experience: I can tell you about it and you can read about it, but actually being there is an entirely different matter.
Seeing the physical and spiritual needs up close leaves an imprint on your heart that words cannot adequately convey. I could describe to you the overwhelming need for basic medical care in Togo by citing the waiting time for a clinic visit (approximately ten days when we left) or by noting that if Indianapolis had the same number of surgeons per capita that Togo does, we’d have five or six surgeons for the entire city! However, these are merely data points. Meeting with the missionaries, doctors, and chaplains who work and minster there each day and “seeing” the people in that line was a powerful reminder to my heart that the people of Togo— and their needs— are far more than just a number to our God.
Scripture tells us that the methods God uses to accomplish his purposes can be very different from those we would choose. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord (Isa. 55:8).” It was humbling to see this passage being lived out right before my eyes in Togo. The operational model for health care delivery at both hospitals relies significantly upon volunteers and missionary staffing. I found myself comparing what I saw in Togo to what we experience as the norm in the U.S., and I was astounded at the barriers and obstacles that surgeons and administrators had to overcome on a daily basis. But it became clear through the stories I heard and the staff I met that God was providing and being glorified in ways that made sense only in light of his Word and his sovereignty.
“God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:28-29).
Seeing God at Work
One of the staff members shared a story that helps illustrate this reality: A boy was brought in with a heart condition that required a complex procedure not normally performed at the hospital. However, during preparations for the day, the administrator asked the surgeons present, just in case, if anyone happened to know how to perform the necessary procedure. One doctor raised his hand—he had arrived only days prior to the boy and was an expert in the procedure. A successful operation was performed, and the boy’s life was saved.
As author Wendell Berry’s character, Jayber Crow, has noted, “telling a story is like reaching into a granary full of wheat and drawing out a handful: there is always more to the story that can be told.” My account is “just a handful” and I can’t possibly relate the depth of the need. However, after seeing it with my own eyes, I can report that God is at work in Togo and that College Park’s partnership and willingness to support this ministry is of strategic importance for the advancement of the gospel. Please pray for the missionaries, staff, volunteers, and patients at HBB and HOH. Pray that many would come to know Jesus and that the gospel would continue to be boldly proclaimed.