Sick people: My experience caring for them through Christ Hospital Ministry
At 71, Deaconess Joyce Olamibosipo Akinola still goes about with the gait of a 50-year-old. Her comportment and panache set her apart as a woman with a vision and mission. Age for her is just a number; reason she still carries the burden of helping people who are challenged. She is one of the founders of Christ Hospital Ministry; the ministry with the vision to reach out to sick folks, pray with them and help in all possible ways.
In this interview with Church Times team, Deaconess Akinola who authored the book, Let the Bud open, gives an insight into the ministry and the giant strides the ministry has taken over the years. Below are excerpts:
Tell us the story of Christ Hospital Ministry. How did it start?
Christ Hospital Ministry began in United Kingdom in year 2000. It has spread to Ghana, US, Zambia and India. We came to Nigeria a year after the ministry started. Initially we were not thinking of a ministry. It was just a prayer group. We were praying for people who had challenges and we were doing some counselling too. The president myself and a few others were doing this. The president is currently based in UK. But we soon discovered that there was a need to make it a ministry and trust God to meet the spiritual needs of people especially those who have health challenges. We were inspired to make it a ministry that cares for the sick. The ministry was launched as such 2000.
So what do you do basically in the ministry?
We pray for people in the hospital and follow them up. We also render assistance as God gives us the grace. We discovered that health issues that may not cost more than N10, 000 could actually lead to the death of some people in the hospital especially in Nigeria. So we step in in such cases to assist as God makes the supply. In the UK the situation is different. We don’t really have problem of people looking for money for their health care because the government cares for its people through their National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). But there is the emotional side which health insurance can’t provide. Those who fall sick need those they can talk to and they want fellowship. So our work is split between rendering emotional support and financial support.
So what kind of support have you been rendering so far?
God has enabled us to support a lot of people. But just to mention a few. There was this boy we met at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital. He was a Muslim and nobody was attending to him. He broke his leg and he was supposed to undergo surgery that would require a metal being planted in his leg so he could walk again. But his parents could not afford the cost of the operation. So they abandoned him in the hospital. We stepped in around that time. We paid the money for the surgery. He was able to walk again. But the parents were not forth coming. We had to take him in. Eventually he recovered fully. We had to rehabilitate him. He is now married. He has children from the marriage now. He is doing quite well. His child has gained admission to the university this year. He lives around us here. He is a testimony of God’s goodness.
We come in contact with several other people in the hospital who need our prayers. But when we realize some also need financial assistance we step in and help financially. There was a lady who had goiter but the Lord used us to intervene in her case. We have some good surgeons working for us who stepped in and helped her out.
There was the pathetic case of a brother who had 18 surgeries. I got to know the man during one of our programmes. At the programme the doctor talked on the kidney and how people consume stuffs that could damage their kidney. A lady came for the programme and she brought the man to me and said we needed to talk to him because of his condition. The man was crying. He had been slated for dialysis and was crying that people had disappointed him. We solicited assistant internationally. We got something substantial to help him. He went to one hospital in Abuja and was operated upon. He survived. But because of the cost of staying in the hospital, he had to come home. But the moment he entered Lagos the sickness relapsed again. He passed through a lot and had to undergo all kinds of surgery for close to 18 times. But thank God he survived them all. He has come to share his testimony in our meetings.
In the first place what informed your passion for the sick?
When I retired I had more time to pray and do a lot of other things. I was in my late forties when I retired so I still had so much of energy. We had regular activities praying for people and that got into my system and made me develop a passion to help people the more. The passion to assist people was so strong. It was that passion that exposed me to a lot of things in this life. People share with me their deep thoughts and it sometimes reveal to me that they would have been in a better position if they got assistance. I have seen so many failing to achieve their vision not because they are not good but because they lack helpers. That is what prompted the book: Let the bud open. I came from the angle of looking at human being as a rose bud. Incidentally the passion to help people has rubbed off on all the people around me.
But do you get to experience people take advantage of your kindness?
I have had something like that. But usually when I sense that something like that is going to happen I draw the line. Initially when the ministry came to Nigeria people thought it was an avenue to make money. We had one or two occasions of people who came with fake conditions which we detected early and quickly dispensed with them. We get pressure but when it is too much on me I push it away and draw the line. But the fact that there are needs all around does not even make me bother myself so much about people who want to take advantage of what we do. We have discovered that people die for flimsy reasons and they needed help. That to me is important than thinking about those who want to take advantage of the situation. But I thank God that my family is part of the vision especially my husband. Also there are men and women who are part of the ministry. They devote their time and resources to ensure the success of the ministry.
But what was your experience in the UK concerning the ministry?
We use the ministry as a tool of evangelism in the UK. Usually what happens is that people invite us to come and pray for them on the sick bed in the hospital. When we go in, while we pray for them some other people will invite us to pray for them too. There was a woman, an Alhaja in the UK who invited us to pray for her. We did and she got healed. That experience made her surrender her life to Jesus thereafter. We deal with all kinds of issues all over the place.
So what has been the testimony of your outreaches?
The testimonies are numerous. We have had cases of cancer that have been completely cured against doctor’s postulation. We discovered that through prayers and proper diet, some of the terminal diseases could be cured. Hippocrates is considered the father of modern medicine. One of his most famous quotes is “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”.
Doctors are quick to recommend chemotherapy in cancer cases. But that should not be the first thing to do. It’s always good to seek a second opinion when chemotherapy is recommended.
There was a lady that was diagnosed for cancer. Her husband sent the report to me. I sent it to a group of doctors in the UK. I said to the sister not to agree to chemotherapy. This thing happened July last year. The tumour on this sister’s body was isolated and it was going to be operated. She went to India and it was found that it was not cancer. She is back in Nigeria and she is doing well. Her voice is okay. She was told she could eat anything. There was another one who had cancer of the breast. She had one chemotherapy and they referred her case to us. I called the husband and asked if she could be disciplined enough to maintain a strict diet. I asked her not to eat anything that is processed. And she obeyed. By the time I went to see her, her breast was hard as stone. I recommended some vegetable diet. Three to four times vegetable diet was served to her on a daily basis. After she started taking the recommended diet, by the 4th week her conditioned had improved tremendously. She went to see the doctor at OSUTH. They were wondering at the change. But right there in the hospital another lady who had followed the doctor’s prescription was getting worse according to the doctors. The unfortunate thing is that some of our doctors see their patients taking soft drinks and other injurious food items and they will not discourage them. Anything that we eat that has been processed is not ideal for our health. Anything that has passed through machine is not good for the health especially for people who are going through critical conditions.
Do you get foreign support for all that you do?
We don’t have foreign support. We are trying to create awareness that can help us to get more support. Everybody is looking for what they can get. Some churches join us to learn from us how we operate. There are times we go to churches and they don’t give us the desired attention. But we take time to tell them we are not a church. We meet every month depending on our activities to pray for the sick, those who are challenged and for people all over the world. Now we have online prayer meeting every Saturday 9-10 pm. We encourage people to phone in to join. Its between 9pm and 10 pm. The phone number is 09024647884.
What has the ministry cost you as a person?
It has cost us a lot. But we do it joyfully because we are doing the master’s bidding. I remember we had to mobilise funds to visit one of the people we were handling in India. The person was sick and we had to visit him in an Indian hospital. We linked up with our India Chapter. He was happy and comforted that some people could be so caring to travel thousands of kilometres to come and visit him. We share the burden of the sick.
So do you have major programmes annually?
Yes. We do our conference once a year. It comes up every December. This year’s conference comes up on December 1. All are cordially invited. During the conference we take time to explore health related themes. This year we will be dealing with mental health issue and drug addiction.