Throughout 2017, as we celebrate the United Brethren denomination’s 250th anniversary, we are looking at events from our history.
With rebel activity rising, the UB Mission board removed its last missionaries from Sierra Leone at the end of 1994. The next month, rebels captured Mattru Jong. When the Sierra Leone army regained control ten months later, our hospital had been totally trashed. Everything was gone—the generators, medicine, equipment, beds, linens. Only the building shell remained. The Mission board announced they wouldn’t invest to reopen the hospital.
Then along came Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), better known as Doctors Without Borders. This European organization, which won the 1999 Nobel Peace Price, provides healthcare in war-torn and unstable situations. When things stabilize, they leave.
MSF entered Sierra Leone in 1994 during the early days of the rebel war. In the years ahead, they supported several dozen medical clinics scattered throughout the country. Among other things, they vaccinated tens of thousands of children for measles.
MSF signed an agreement with Sierra Leone Conference to run a clinic out of Mattru Hospital. They poured thousands of dollars into the facility–renovating the buildings, clearing brush, installing a generator and pump, bringing in new equipment. By 2000, Mattru Hospital was flourishing once again. In addition to the usual medical services, over 100 kids, plus their mothers and often siblings, stayed at the hospital as part of a feeding program. The spiritual emphasis was missing–that’s not part of MSF’s purpose–but quality healthcare had returned to that part of the country, with services offered at little or no cost.
A fair amount of the staff hired by MSF were United Brethren people who had worked at Mattru prior to the war. MSF’s head nurse, a German woman who had served in various world hotspots, told Global Ministries director Gary Dilley that in many places, hospital personnel were poorly paid and therefore didn’t put much effort into patient care. But Mattru, she said, was different. She was impressed by the dedication and personal attention of the hospital workers. “To me,” Dilley wrote, “it showed that she was coming in contact with Christians.”
On March 22, 2002, Medecins Sans Frontieres concluded its work at Mattru and transferred control to Sierra Leone Conference. MSF, essentially, took some devastated buildings, turned them into a well-equipped hospital–and then gave it all to us. It’s always interesting to see how God carries out his purposes.