Port YWAM Team Nurses Togolese Bodies, Spirits
By: Raymond Billy
The outreach team sent to Togo from Port YWAM this past spring got to play a hands-on role in health-care ministry in the West African nation. The team — part of the justice-themed Discipleship Training School at YWAM Ships Kona in January — helped facilitate programs related to medicine and hygiene in Noépé. Nikki Davidson, a Justice DTS student from Idaho, said the team received a crash course in medical ministry during its outreach while working at YWAM Togo’s medical clinic.
“The clinic was closed on weekends, so the waiting line would be huge when we got there on Mondays. There would be a group of 70 or 80 people lined up when the clinic opened,” Davidson, 19, said. “Part of our ministry was just to pray with the people as they waited. Sometimes we would be praying for two or three hours with them.”
David Donner, 23, said that the limited number of health-care professionals in Togo meant members of his team found themselves with a high level of responsibility as they partnered with the Noépé clinic.
“It was really cool working there because we were actually the doctors — I was the doctor — which was really humbling and scary because I realized how much I didn’t know,” said Donner, 23, who intends to enroll in medical school this year. “Even though I’m going to be a doctor, it made me see how much I really needed to go to school to learn those skills — to learn so that I can be effective.”
Donner also said he saw the connection between people’s spiritual and physical well-being.
“Sometimes people would come in complaining of illnesses and” clinic director Amy Holten “determined that the problem was more of a spiritual issue, so we would just pray with them and a lot of times they felt better after that.”
Many Togolese spiritual traditions revolve around the practice of voodoo. Some have visible scars related to elaborate cutting rituals. Members of the Togo team said they noticed clear negative consequences for voodoo adherents. For one thing, according to 21-year-old Finnish student Kaisa Kuismanen, villagers who submitted to voodoo practices were “controlled by fear,” especially fear of witch doctors who served as voodoo priests. Davidson said she saw a distinct negative correlation between voodoo and agricultural health among the villages.
She said that whereas most of the villages the team visited appeared to have depressed crops and livestock, “We came across this one village that was completely different. The atmosphere was so uplifting and the animals were healthy and fluffy. They, somehow, had come across the Gospel. The village chief’s daughter had brought it in,” Davidson said. “Everyone in Togo says that they’re a Christian, but they still practice voodoo. So we asked the people in this village, ‘Do you do voodoo?’ And they said ‘Oh, no. God tells us to only worship Him so we burned all of our idols.’ There was a drastic difference between that village and the other ones.”
Despite this clear contrast, many Togolese people refused to pledge allegiance to Christ, Donner said.
“My biggest disappointment was people seeing God and understanding how powerful He is and, whether out of fear or wanting power and not wanting to lose face or whatever, not turning to him,” he said. Davidson said this experience altered her perspective on spiritual reality.
“I crossed over into this genuine understanding of the urgency of what we’re doing — that we’re actually in a war for God’s children and their lives,” she said. “Some of the Togolese people will fully admit that they’re going to hell and they’re OK with it,” because they believe their livelihood depends on voodoo instead of Christ. Despite such challenges, Kuismanen said the team still saw Christ triumph over other spiritual forces in Togo.
“God showed up for us in amazing, spectacular ways,” Kuismanen said. “He demonstrated His power and gave us His love for the Togolese people.”