The United States is known to be home to the most advanced medical technologies in the world. In the clinics of the African country Zambia, even an electronic thermometer is a luxury.
So when 16 Southampton doctors and nurses set off on a medical mission to Kitwe, Zambia, this May, they will be bringing more than just their expertise.
Raphael Ministries, a ministry of the Community Bible Church in Sag Harbor, secured donations of used equipment from Southampton Hospital, including an incubator, bassinets, a sonogram machine and electrocardiogram machines, to give to Kitwe Central Hospital.
“It’s somewhat outdated, but it’s better than what they have,” said Scott Silverberg, the chief of anesthesia at Southampton Hospital and the director of Raphael Ministries. Dr. Silverberg will lead the mission to Zambia to provide free surgery and care to the impoverished. A surgery team will work at the hospital, and a second team will serve clinics in the African bush.
“We’ll continue to do surgery for four straight days from morning until evening,” Dr. Silverberg said. They will treat patients with cleft lips and burn scars, but a major focus of the mission will be obstetrical and gynecological treatment, such as removing uterine fibroids, which are benign tumors of the womb.
Dr. Silverberg has participated in medical missions to Guatemala twice before, but he decided to make Africa the subject of Raphael’s first mission because of his connection with Lubuto Nsofu, a Zambian pastor.
Rev. Nsofu and Dr. Silverberg met at Church on the Sound in Stony Brook, where they both attended services. Rev. Nsofu was training at Christ for The Nations College, which was formerly located on Long Island, and Dr. Silverberg was starting his residency training at SUNY Stony Brook. Since Rev. Nsofu became a Christian through an American mission in Zambia, he often visits the United States, and Dr. Silverberg hosts the pastor at his Water Mill home.
Rev. Nsofu’s Victory Bible Church supports Kitwe Central Hospital’s Luena Ward, which is reserved for women who cannot afford obstetric care.
Last April, Dr. Silverberg, along with Southampton Hospital attending obstetrician Florence Rolston, took a trip to Zambia to assess the medical needs and what they could do to help.
Dr. Rolston explained that in Zambia hospitals are divided into high-cost wards for those with the means to pay for care and low-cost wards for the less fortunate.
Since the mission is for a finite amount of time and they want to help as many needy people as possible, Dr. Rolston said, the operating rooms will most likely be open from 7:30 a.m. to 10 or 11 at night.
The mission will last from May 1 through 10, but Dr. Rolston said before they even arrive and set up, the medical director of Kitwe Central will triage the patients.
Dr. Rolston has been on three medical missions before, though she says, “You never quite know what to expect.” She added that making this mission especially unpredictable is that the organization is brand new. Her past trips had been with HELPS International, a non-profit organization that was established in 1984.
“Having seen the need first-hand,” she said, “it’s hard to realize how much suffering there is and not want to do something about it to help.” She said for herself and many doctors and nurses on the assignment, it is viewed as part of their Christian mission. “Although we’re from different churches and different denominations, we all feel a sense of obligation to help people in need.”
Raphael’s slogan is “Bringing healing to a hurting world,” and Dr. Silverberg said that means much more than medical healing. “We want to impact the community in any way we can.” The ministry’s name is derived from the Aramaic word for healer,