I feel odd. Or perhaps curious is a better way of describing how I feel . . .
This is my third year of mission trips without counting on a large group of local supporters I see regularly to help support me. In the past, my patients rallied around this vitally important cause and their generosity enabled me to go. I guarantee you the twelve years that Epik Missions has been serving the world through Chiropractic care would never have happened without them.
Think about that for a moment . . . that’s 325,000 people who would’ve never received a Chiropractic adjustment if Epik Missions wasn’t able to go to their cities, towns, and villages. A third of a million people! Remarkable.
But what about the results of all those adjustments? Do they really help? Does Epik Missions make a difference? You decide . . .
- Over 25,000 lame men, women, and children can now walk;
- 89 deaf people have regained their hearing;
- More than 300 people unable to speak because of strokes have regained the ability to talk;
- Tens of thousands with “waist pain” move freely again;
- 16 with complete paralysis have full movement again;
- Six suicidal people are alive today because their minds are now clear;
- Numerous people at “death’s door” have experienced amazing healing;
- At least eleven blind people have regained their sight;
- Thousands of immune-compromised people have experienced healing;
- Over 15,000 HIV positive people have been adjusted;
- Thousands in deplorable slums have been given a chance at health care who would have never had that opportunity.
As incredible as these events have been, they are not the only impact Epik Missions and our supporters have had on the lives of our precious brothers and sisters around the world:
- School absenteeism has been cut by 75 percent in most schools we visit annually;
- Thousands of orphaned children have been served, and money has been generously donated to clothe and feed them;
- Three schools that previously had no sanitation facilities now have toilets;
- Hundreds of imprisoned children have been loved, served, and cared for;
- One radicalized Muslim cleric, who was plotting the death of 3,000 Christians, renounced his fatwa against local Christians and now lives in peace with them.
I could go on and on. As I write these examples down, my mind is playing back hundreds of moments of joy, pain, challenge, and opportunity I experienced on these mission trips around the world. I’ve had mothers hand me their dying babies and plead with me to help. I’ve had teenagers beg me to bring them back to the U.S. with me so they can escape the poverty and pain in which they live. I’ve had husbands of dying wives cry tears of thanks because we took time to visit those women and ease their pain. I’ve had the poorest of the poor offer me their most valuable possessions for helping them.
I’ve spent nights in my room crying and praying for little boys and girls with deformities and sicknesses because I could do nothing to help them despite my best efforts.
I’ve missed my family tremendously while away. I’ve nearly died from malaria in 2007. I’ve been beaten by corrupt police officers. I’ve had thousands of dollars stolen from me at gunpoint. I’ve felt alone and insignificant. I’ve been prideful and arrogant. I’ve made bad decisions.
But, I continue to go. Though it all, people are helped and lives are changed.
This is my calling. I go to the most remote villages in Uganda. I go to the highest places in Guatemala. I serve in the hot sub-Saharan regions of Ghana. I go to the sick and dying right here in the United States. In order to go, I need your help. I know you don’t know any of the people I serve. Simply, I need your financial support today.
This is the curious feeling I mentioned at the beginning of this letter. I am apart from my support community I’ve always had in place to help me. I have to do what I can so that the mission can be provided for in ways I don’t understand. Please consider helping me so I can continue to go and serve our brothers and sisters around the world.
I need to raise $25,000 to complete this year’s mission trips. Next year, I need to raise $75,000. Will it happen? I’ve no doubt it will, as God touches the hearts of people here at home to do their part to help the suffering victims of poverty and disease wherever they may be.
My next trip is approaching quickly. San Mateo, Guatemala, is where I began my international missions work more than a decade ago and it is where I am returning at the end of September.
I am going to offer something very special to those who can donate $500 or more to Epik Missions. I will send you a hardback “coffee table book” featuring pictures and stories from last year’s mission trip to Guatemala. I know you will love it!
You can donate online at http://www.epikmissions.com or you can mail a check to 575 Scottish Place, Castle Rock, CO 80104. Address the envelope to me, Chad Hawk, and make the check payable to Epik Missions. Please help me complete this fundraising as soon as possible so I can focus on my upcoming trips. SEE LAST PAGE FOR DONATION INFORMATION
I thank you for your support of Epik Missions. But even more important, the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children worldwide whose lives have been impacted by this ministry thank you. God bless you, my dear friend!
Why I Go
While I was teaching a seminar in Atlanta, I was asked a question that I have answered many times, but never recorded in written media. The question was an obvious one that often follows when people find out that I do mission work in Ghana West Africa. “Why Ghana?” I would like to share the answer with you. It is a story that means very much to me and I hope it impacts you as well.
Growing up in a Chiropractic family, I had many advantages beyond the regular adjustments from dad. My dad and I would spend hours talking about health, life, and the call to serve others. Many times we would talk about doing mission work and every time we did, I would feel my heart take flight to far off lands filled with unfamiliar cultures and languages. I would get visual images of people lining up to receive care and experience dramatic healings from their adjustments. These images would be so real and vivid, filled with color, smells, and sounds.
When I worked in Colorado, I met a Scotsman. His name is Barrie Flitcroft. He and his wife train medical doctors, nurses, and laypeople to go into the harshest and difficult conditions and provide medical care to people in need. I was fascinated by his commitment and devotion to his program. Every year he would return, I would pick his brain for hours. I wanted to know what serving the poorest of the poor was like. Again, hearing his stories created visuals in my mind that were crystal clear. He offered to have me attend one of his training sessions with my father, but our schedules never coincided.
During Chiropractic College, there were a number of mission trips that came up, but I never felt the release to join the teams. It wasn’t the right time. Mark Howarter and I became great friends in Chiropractic College and we often talked about serving the whole world as Chiropractors. Our first opportunity came in 2004. One of my patients, Beth Neville Evans, ran an outreach in San Mateo Ixtatan, Guatemala. One day she asked me if I would be willing to join her on a trip and adjust the community. My answer was a definite “YES!” I called Mark and he was on board as well.
Let me tell you a little about San Mateo Ixtatan. It is a small community of thirty thousand people located high (8500 feet) in the Northern Mountains of Guatemala whose denizens are native’s of Central America and are of direct Mayan descent. They speak their own language; Chuj (pronounced similar to “chew”) but many of the children and men speak Spanish as well. The town is known for its black salt that rises up in wells outside the city. The word “ixtatan” means abundance of salt.
The trip was a great success and my first venture serving another culture. Our small team of three, Dr. Mark and I adjusting and Tara, one of my staff members, organizing, served about seven hundred and fifty people during the six days in San Mateo. I learned many important lessons that proved valuable for my future trips to Ghana. However, my trip to Guatemala was also a way for me to avoid a calling in my life. I used it as a substitution for what I should have been doing.
In June of 2000, I had been in Charlottesville for six months. Kate, my wife, and I were trying to find a church to call home. We attended Christ Episcopal Church one Sunday morning because the church we planned on attending had already started and didn’t want to walk in late. This church was across the street and we thought, “why not give it a try.” During the processional as the song was being sung, I looked back and one gentleman stuck out. It was as if my eyes were drawn directly to him. He had a kind happy face and a joy about him, but that was not what was so overpowering to me. The feeling on the inside that I could not silence was the absolutely overwhelming knowledge that I must, “Serve his people!”
I had no idea who this guy was or where he was from. I knew he was one of the ministers because he was dressed in vestments. I kept waiting for him to speak so I could figure out where he was from. I kept telling myself Dallas or New York. Maybe Atlanta or Miami? Alas, he did not say one word that day. We attended that church for the next two weeks and he was not there. I began to question whether or not he was really there that first Sunday. I was afraid to tell my wife what I had felt or heard every time I looked at him. Then on our fourth visit he was there again.
Not only was he there, but also he was preaching. When he approached the microphone and opened his mouth and with his first words my heart felt like it was lifted up and my mind entered a state of confusion. He was clearly not from the States. He was from someplace in Africa. I found out after the service exactly where. We literally bumped into each other in a reception room and he introduced himself as Nana Ghartey from Ghana. When he said the word Ghana, the butterflies in my stomach took flight and my legs got weak. My head was spinning. I have no idea what he said to me that day. I am sure I responded with some mindless drivel. The whole time the words “Go serve his people” kept leaping around inside me. How was it that everyone in that room didn’t hear it?
I was scared. I was new in practice, my daughter Allie was just a year old, and I had no financial security. How could I go to Ghana? So what did I do? I ignored it.
The reality of the situation was that I could not ignore it. Every time I saw Nana, the voice was there. It would haunt me for days afterwards. I was not afraid of going to Ghana. I did not take the time to see how the opportunity would present itself to me. I was not willing to take the time and see what God had for me in my life because I was too busy doing what I thought I should be doing. After all, I wanted to have a successful practice and provide for my family and going to Ghana did not fit into my immediate plans for practice growth and family comfort.
In 2006 all of that was about to change when I met Joseph Opoku. I was attending a men’s Bible study on Friday mornings with about sixty guys. One of the men that sat at my table, Chuck, brought Joseph one winter morning. Joseph went around the table and introduced himself with a greeting and handshake. When Joseph got to me he extended his hand and said, “Hello my name is Joseph. I am from Ghana. Come serve my people.” It came out of his mouth so naturally and nonchalantly. I was floored. I cannot remember anything else from that day except a brief conversation I had with Joseph afterwards. I was just hit squarely with the reality that my secret was no longer secret. Everyone at the table heard it. I thought everyone in the room heard it! I talked to Joseph immediately after the study and asked him what he meant by his comment. He had no clue what I was talking about. I was befuddled.
That soon passed and I decided that I could no longer keep avoiding the call on my life. The plans began to take shape and the date of October 2007 was set for my first trip. With the help of my wife, Nana, and Joseph, I hopped on a plane in JFK and headed for Accra and hoped that someone I had never met would pick me up from the airport twelve hours later.
That trip was an amazing experience for me on so many levels. I was there alone but I never felt lonely. I felt like I was…home. I remember one night after hours of adjusting all day long thinking about how much peace my heart felt. Physically, I was spent. The hours were so long. Several days I would start at six in the morning and not finish until late in the night. One night in Winneba, I worked until 1 AM. It was so hot and humid that night I lost my vision from the profuse salty sweat running into my eyes for hours. I adjusted without my eyes for the last three hours that night. I kept thinking that I needed to adjust by faith and not by sight.
Returning from that trip was a culture shock to me. I sat in my driveway the first morning I was going to go back to work and I could not bring myself to start my car for almost thirty minutes. I had just left a place where people were desperate for hope and healing and so many found that hope and healing. I was jaded now. I didn’t want to go back to my practice and hear patients complain about how their arm was sore from playing tennis or how their low back was sore from being a hundred pounds overweight. I just had cared for people who were grateful for scraps of food and their backs hurt from carrying one-hundred-pound water jugs for miles every day just so their family could drink water. I slowly got over my animosity towards our cultural tendency to take many things for granted. I realized that I was not showing grace to my fellow Americans and I was judging them.
After I had been home two months, I was working in my office one Wednesday morning. It was exactly one week before Christmas. My right shoulder and neck started to hurt around 9 AM. I had my associate, Dr. Peter Strauss, check and adjust me, but something was very wrong. I made the decision to go home. Little did I know it would be a long time before I would work in my practice. I spent the next week trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Nothing made sense. I had lost the use of my right arm and hand. I was getting terrible headaches and fever spikes followed by chills that racked me. Christmas Day, I had a reprieve. I actually got some strength in my arm and didn’t have a headache or fever spike all day. I thought I had turned the corner. We had enjoyed a great day at our friend’s house. All was about to radically change for the worse.
Once we got home, inside my body there was a sense of impending doom. About an hour after we got home, it hit. The fever spikes hit an all time high. They were well over 105 degrees sometimes spiking at 109. I was delirious during that time. I dreaded the fevers because they were followed by convulsions. I remember twice that night struggling to keep my eyes on my wife as the convulsions started because I knew I was about to die. The next morning, I called my dear friend Dr. Ed Rose. He had been keeping tabs on me over the past week. He told me to meet him at his office at UVA hospital. Inexplicably, I drove myself to his office. To this day, I have no memory of driving there.
I began a battery of tests that day. Clearly things were wrong with my internal chemistry. I had bruising all the way up my arm from the phlebotomist’s sticks. Now I had a black and blue non-functioning right arm. The MRI’s were fun. How do you stay still when you are having convulsions and sweating profusely? I remember the radiologist that had to be called in to administer the scans on me. First off, he was very upset that he was called in on his vacation the day after Christmas. Secondly, he apologized to me when he saw the condition I was in. The pathologist was the same way. He didn’t want to come in during his Christmas break. Then he got to see something under his microscope not seen very often in the States: plasmodium falciparum (Type II), the deadliest form of malaria. The nasty little parasites were living inside me.
The hospital didn’t know where to put me. First they put me in the cancer floor. Then I was moved to the transplant floor. Word spread quickly to the medical students. They wanted to see someone with deadly malaria. I admit that I would yell at residents and interns the moment they entered my room. I did not want to be an experiment or curiosity to them. I only wanted to see Peter, my chiropractor, Dr. Rose and Dr. Richard Pearson, UVA’s tropical medicine specialist. I trusted them. I knew them. I was not willing to be a specimen for experimentation. The malaria hit my liver very hard. I had developed functional hepatitis from the malaria. My blood results were depressing. My platelets were almost non-existent, my white blood cells were down seventy-five percent and my red blood cells were down drastically as well.
I was dying.
By God’s grace, I healed. Against all odds, I recovered with time. But I was different in ways that I could not quantify at the time. My life was different. My attitude was different. It would take several years for me to discover all the new changes in my spirit and attitude.
I have been back to Ghana many times now. I lead teams of chiropractors and Chiropractic students on my trips. I have even had the intrepid layperson join us! I do not adjust nearly as many people as I once did on the trips. Rather, I try and set the stage for the team members to serve. I also try and get to know each member of the team and encourage/challenge them in areas of needed growth.
My conviction to travel to Ghana is more resolute than ever. It is part of me. It is one of the greatest calls in my life. In order to do what I have been called to do, I need help. Everyone that joins the team is referred. These trips are not mass marketed or advertised. I also need about $10,000 in donations for each trip. So if you can share this with others or make a donation, I would greatly appreciate it.
Now you have heard my story. I hope it shows you something about my shortcomings and my willingness to change the course of my life when I finally figure it out. I hope it touches you and encourages you and maybe even prods you on to new action in your life.
Uganda- An Epik Mission 2014
Our life is formed by the experiences we have. Those experiences are like 2x4s that provide the frame. How we move through those experiences determines how the frame is decorated. This year’s trip to Uganda was such a blessing for me. I was given an incredible team of remarkable people. Each one of them contributed from their gifting and served from their heart. I think this trip’s group had a greater impact on me than any other group. This does not diminish the past trips groups’ impact, but I had more time and freedom on this trip. I did not have to spend hours every day bent over an adjusting table taking care of thousands of people. I was able to spend quality time with each member of the team on many occasions. That was a very welcome change for me. I still adjusted many people, but it was much different.
Our group’s connection with the Ugandans seemed to be cemented our first full day at Bwerenga, while attending Pastor Ernest’s church service. We hadn’t been there two minutes and team members were holding children. Each person was open to giving and receiving love.
I was so humbled during the service. A mother was asked to bring her small child up as a testimony to a healing that occurred last year during my visit. The boy was unable to stand or walk before he was adjusted. He only received one adjustment and was healed. When Pastor Boaz, the associate pastor, announced this, I was moved to tears. I had no idea this had happened. I wanted to go up and hold him in my arms and praise God for his life. But, I was too overwhelmed. I sat there and just took it in. That night before I went to sleep, I wept tears of joy. This event served as a reminder of how important these trips are to the people we serve. I will never know all of the people who have experienced life-changing healings from these mission trips.
After church, we ventured to a tiny fishing village a few miles from Bwerenga. I went there the previous year and they remembered me. I let the team take the lead. Dave and Crystal adjusted the villagers. These are a very simple people. They live in dirt structures and spend their days on the water and drinking gin out of plastic bags. It is a hard life. I am certain everyone, even the children, is an alcoholic. Gin is cheap and numbs the pain of hunger and life. Even in a haze, you could see the life return to the people after they were adjusted.
Ernest’s wife, Ruth, prepared us a Ugandan feast for lunch. What a wonderful time, sharing a meal with them and their thirty foster children. Yes, you read the right. Earnest and Ruth have taken in thirty children from orphanages and prisons. They give them a loving home, food, schooling, shelter, life, and, most important, a family. I feel so at home in their church and village.
We relaxed the rest of the day. That was important time for us, allowing us to form a tight team. I had the privilege of serving with most of the team in Ghana on previous trips, but there were a few new faces. Please allow me to introduce the team.
Danielle Hill is a Chiropractic student at my alma mater, Cleveland Chiropractic College in Kansas City. She contacted me after speaking with my friend Mark Howarter, who I will introduce in a moment. Daneille jumped at the chance to serve in Uganda and is the only student I allowed to be part of the team. She had a huge learning curve and faced it head on. Danielle gave from her heart and grew immensely on this trip.
Amber Longo joined the team because of her chiropractor, Jamie Michael. Dr. Michael has served on two previous trips to Ghana and was originally going to join Amber. However, a new baby’s arrival date changed her plans. Amber is a wife and mother who felt the God calling her to go and serve on a mission trip. Before she set off for Uganda, Amber hadn’t met anyone else on the team. She was a valuable asset in so many ways. Amber’s motherly instincts quickly kicked in as she loved on the orphaned kids. She also served as our team’s “missionographer.” This is what I call the person who documents the mission trip through the camera lens.
Crystal Jones is a chiropractor in Atlanta and a former student of mine from Life University. This was Crystal’s second mission trip with me. Crystal may have grown the most on the inside during this trip. Being new in practice, it was a huge commitment for her to leave and serve in Uganda. Crystal knew in her heart that it was right for her to go, even when she knew she could not afford it. During the week, she overcame internal fears of her future and left Uganda strong.
Christie McDonald was new to Epik Missions. What a blessing she was; with years of experience, a quiet certainty, and gifted hands. Christie practices outside of Edmonton, in Canada. She has traveled in Africa before and embraced the opportunity to serve in Uganda. Christie’s unshakable abilities as a doctor gave an assurance to those she adjusted and served. Watching her care for children and women was a beautiful gift for me witness. I also learned a new way to adjust from her!
Emily McLoud joined Epik Missions in Ghana last year. That trip sparked a flame in Emily for missions work. Like Christie, Emily is a tremendously talented chiropractor and adjusts from her heart. Emily and I attended Chiropractic College together and have known each other for many years. Emily has a heart for people and cares for their body and soul in a very unique way. What a pleasure to serve with her again.
Steve Koberlein is the head pastor of a church in Lawrence, KS. Steve had wanted to go on a mission trip for many years and the doors opened for him to join this group. Before the trip, Steve made it clear to me that he was there to support the team and help in any way possible. And he did. From helping carry around the adjusting tables to praying for the people we served, Steve was there for everyone at any time. On our last day there, Steve led the group in a first century style communion service. It was a fitting end for the team and his discernment proved to be memorable for all.
Dave Brisbin was part of the 2011 trip to Ghana and hails from Edmonton. Dave is not only a skilled chiropractor but considers everyone he meets his friend. Dave reaches people with his smile and warm nature, and then provides an adjustment to seal the deal. Having someone as generous as Dave shows others that there is so much joy in giving! Why would you want to live any other way?
Mark Howarter is a long-time friend, whom I consider a brother. In fact, we act like brothers. Our adventures date back to 1997. We have traveled the world together and I treasure his friendship, accountability, and humor. His healing touch and prayerful service bless so many. Mark brought wisdom and leadership to the group, not to mention Steve and Danielle!
Monday was a day of disappointments and victories. We had been scheduled to visit two remand homes. The first one was expected to be the most difficult of the trip because of the conditions the children live in and the fact that it is a prison. That door was slammed shut. Nothing was going to open it. So we moved on to the second one that serves as a type of orphanage for abandoned children or children who may have committed petty crimes as very young children. The time with these children was full of joy and laughter. The orphanage staff welcomed us and were so grateful to have Chiropractic care for the children. The beaming smiles we received after adjusting the children, warmed our hearts and helped offset the disappointment from the earlier setback.
When one door closes, be patient because another will soon open. Unexpectedly, we were asked to serve in the Karamojong slums in Kampala. The Karamojong are an ostracized tribe from northeast Uganda. Their region was hit with flooding then years of drought. They are poor, without food, and disregarded. Just the type of people we want to serve. We walked into the slums not knowing what to expect. Initially, there was disagreement with some of the Karamojong leaders. Several of them nearly came to blows about why we were here and if they where they would let us setup. Our advocate, a native Karamajong, grabbed the chief that was threatening the most and forced him on the table and told me to quickly adjust him. I did. He arose and was smiling ear to ear! We were in the heart of the slum. Raw human sewage ran along two sides of us in shallow dirt trenches. We setup our tables on trash heaps. Most of the small children had no clothes and were covered in sewage. They live in houses made of rubbish and mud. Like the fishing village, alcoholism is prevalent in the slums for the same reasons -cheap gin deadens the pain of starvation and disease.
As with everywhere we go, the power of the adjustment changes things. The previously contentious factions were standing shoulder to shoulder encouraging others to get their adjustments. It is like a light switch is turned on after people get adjusted. Smiles ensue and healing happens. I am in awe at how quickly Chiropractic works. I can’t wait to go back and serve these people. Below is an journal entry I wrote about two people I adjusted while in the slums. There were hundreds served, but these two stand out to me. (The following excerpt contains my personal beliefs and experiences.)
“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling amongst us…” Really? How is that when there is so much pain, suffering, and depravity in the world? How can that be when there are those that are consumed with pursuing happiness through success, things, or power?
While adjusting in the slums of the Karamojong people of Uganda in Kampala, I served a woman who had a large, deep open wound in her right side between her breast and armpit. I saw a lot of dead flesh that was moving. As I looked closer, it was full of maggots. Her dead and dying flesh was being eaten away by the parasitic activity of soon-forming flies.
Twice, I had the urge to vomit while in this slum. Neither time was from the wretched smells of human waste mixed with rubbish and decomposing things that were once alive. The first time came from a naked little boy who was handed to me with a grossly distended stomach, covered in flies and raw sewage, snot pouring from his nose, and small open cuts covering his body. While flies filled their stomachs on his blood and puss. His jaundice eyes looked hollow and unable to focus. Did you know you could reach a point where you can’t “feel” anymore? I was numb. But, something deep down inside me revolted. As hard as I fought it, I started to dry heave. Thankfully it passed quickly so I could get back to work and serve this little one. Almost instantly, he looked better. His eyes were able to focus and he transformed from listless to happy and ran away after I was finished adjusting him.
The other time I fought the urge to vomit was when I was with a woman who was being eaten alive. I had never seen such a sight on a human before and my brain had a hard time processing it. At that moment, my body revolted and tried to vomit. As difficult as it was to look at, it was a good thing. The necrotic tissue would create a horrible infection and possibly lead to her death. The larvae were removing that part of her that was no longer needed. It was grotesque to see, but vitally important.
I have had dead flesh as well. We all do.
The sacrifice of perfection for my dead flesh has never meant so much to me in my life until this experience. My dead heart, my spoiled mind, my rancid soul need to cleaned. I cannot do it. I never can. Yes, there were flies swarming around this dead and dying part of my life but I need these parts! I can’t lose them to continual decomposition or I will forever die.
There is only one thing that can make me whole again. And I can do nothing on my own to fix my rotten nature. Just as this lady in the slum could not repair her dead tissue, I cannot stop my own rot. I needed something without blemish to heal me. I needed something perfect. Nothing else would do. Anything short of perfection would only be whitewash.
My solution was offered to me by the gift of the blood of Jesus. It was poured out from a perfect man and is the only thing that not only removed my dead flesh but made it whole again. The maggots and larvae are gone now. The stench is removed and I am complete. I did nothing to earn it. The solution was free. I am whole.
I learned so much from the woman. By seeing her wound, I saw where so many people are in their life. In the States, we buy more or do more to anesthetize our soul to the pain of inevitable death. We use stuff as distractions for death. How silly and fruitless.
The sacrifice of Jesus’ flesh and the shedding of his blood was an eternal healing for me. For that, I am eternally grateful, free and alive. Death no longer has a grip on me. I am whole.
The next day we took a several hour trip to Kampiringisa, which is a remote children’s prison. I was able to serve the children there last year. What a difference nine months can make! I haven’t mentioned Sixty Feet yet, but I will now. Sixty Feet, also known as Children’s Justice Initiative in Uganda, has been working with the Ugandan government to make sure children are appropriately placed and cared for once the children are placed in prisons, orphanages, or foster homes. Last year there were about 600 children from ages two to sixteen at “Kamp.” At Kamp, there were girls who were “positive,” meaning they had HIV, and food at Kamp was not managed correctly and often ran out. This year, there were only about 180 children. Sixty Feet has done an amazing job of placing children and helping the government facilitate healthy changes to the system. I cannot tell you what a difference there was. I was stunned at the improvement.
I have reached a point where I cannot say much more about the prisons. Out of respect for the children, the government, and the positive inroads Sixty Feet has made, I cannot comment further. I can say that the entire tone of the prison changed dramatically once the kids were adjusted. It went from somber and quiet, to a playground atmosphere in no time. To be in the midst of that joy was wonderful.
Wednesday we were off to a remote village in the bush East of Jinja, to meet with a missionary who is reaching out to this community. This was the quintessential African experience for most of the team. Many we met did not speak English; there were no modern amenities such as running water or electricity. When we arrived, we learned that some people had been waiting for us since 6 A.M. I cannot tell you how many times this has happened in the small villages I have served in. We arrived around 4 P.M. We began work immediately at the small church in the center of the village. A small boy whose left eye was turned in towards his nose was literally thrust onto me by his mother. Because the boy was blind in one eye, the father did not acknowledge his son because he was imperfect. I prayed for him and followed it up with an adjustment. When I looked down at his face, he was smiling ear-to-ear. His left eye was straight! I checked his visual fields and he could see!!! Sight was returned to the blind. Every trip this happens. I think I must be the most blessed person on Earth to witness such miracles on a regular basis.
Throngs of people from the village and surrounding villages showed up in the village center and hundreds were cared for that evening. It seemed to me that some unseen barrier was lifted the longer we served. There was a sense of trepidation when we arrived. Not from us being chiropractors or from North America. There was a spirit of distrust. I will never know why it was there in many of the men. But, I was very thankful that it quickly passed. I am going to let the pictures tell more of the story of our time here.
As wonderful as our time with the villagers was, I felt it would be best for us to return to Kampala the next day. We worked Thursday morning at the church in the village and at a school. Afterwards, we began our long journey back to the Sixty Feet guesthouse. Dave had shared his bed with bedbugs the night before and was covered from head to toe – no exaggeration here – with bites and was very uncomfortable. It turned out to be a good decision on many levels. The team had experienced many emotionally challenging events over the past few days and the stress was accumulating. We all needed to decompress, do personal inventory, and process our thoughts on many different levels.
The remaining time in Uganda was very intentional and deliberate. The door that was previously slammed shut to the first prison on Monday, was thrown wide open and we were able so send a portion of our team in to serve the imprisoned children. Something that looked impossible days earlier would now be accomplished with ease. Another orphanage, unrelated to Sixty Feet, invited us to come and care for their children. Word was beginning to spread about our work and other organizations wanted their children cared for as well. Uganda has so many orphaned children. Part of the problem, is that husbands leave their wives and remarry. When this happens, the woman is left alone and unable to provide for her children. Another cultural difference is, that the value of a child is viewed differently in Uganda. Much of this stems from old tribal beliefs and dogmas. Thankfully, this view is changing. Sadly, the impact of AIDS on Uganda cannot be overstated. The millions that have died from AIDS have left hundreds of thousands of orphaned children. Misinformation and scam “cures” for AIDS have prolonged the simple correction for the AIDS epidemic in Uganda. Furthermore, Uganda has begun limiting out-of-country adoptions. The burgeoning population of orphans will hopefully plateau soon and begin to diminish.
The number of foreign aid workers in Uganda is extraordinary. It is amazing to see so many people who are doing wonderful work to help the children. Frankly, I am skeptical of many NGOs (non-governmental organizations are similar to our non-profits) because there is much waste of funds. However, over the past ten years, many new ones have emerged and are doing things much differently. For example, the US and European workers at Sixty Feet are all self-funded and only Ugandans are considered part of the operating budget. This means that the overwhelming majority of the money goes directly to the children. Compare this to some long established NGOs where mere pennies on the dollar actually help children. You won’t see me providing my services free of charge to UNICEF workers. But I willingly serve those expats who are in the trenches with the children and making a real difference. Several of the evenings while in Uganda, we would have humble expats drop by and ask us if we would care for them. Our door was open, adjusting tables ready, and hands wiling to serve. Late one afternoon, we had five twenty-some year olds, drop by for an adjustment. They had taken regular public transportation (an overcrowded van), just like the typical Ugandan, across Kampala, in the rain and walked several miles to get adjusted.
One was a nurse caring for orphans and women. I could see the weariness in her eyes. She came to Uganda fresh from Nursing School. She had been caring for her patients for months alone. I know the look first hand. I adjusted her atlas and she began to cry. Months of fear, stress, and trials began to purge. The more she tried to hold it in, the more I poured out. Her nervous system and heart were clearing. I sat her down and encouraged her. After a few minutes a smile came across her face as I told her to think about how many special memories she has from helping others. I related my own struggles in caring for people over the years. I think that her realizing that she wasn’t alone and she was having an impact, made a huge difference to her. I wiped her mud-covered feet off, looked her in the eye, and told her to get back to work! She laughed and I knew she was going to be okay.
As I said at the beginning, our events might be the 2×4, but how we experience them makes all the difference in how they are seen. Several members of my team hit their breaking point at different times. Good. They needed to break. When we break, I see it, as time to remodel the house. Yes, it is messy as you are ripping out the plaster of your heart, but you get to replace it with something much better and make it look the way God sees you. So much of our heart’s decoration is accumulated junk from others or useless crap from our own thoughts.
You see, we all need help and we all need to help. We all need to do missions work and we all need to accept missions work. My work is not done. I am preparing for Ghana as I write this mission report. I just took a call from a Chiropractic student who wants to go to Africa. I asked him why? He gave an honest answer, “Because I need to heal from the damage my education has done to my ability to be a caring doctor.” I always hope that those who go with me return home much different than they left. Most do.
Are lives forever changed through these trips? I can say with no doubt, YES! Healing happens in adults, children, communities, and my prayer is, in countries as well. Literally, tens of thousands of people have been touched from Epik Missions’ trips. Thousands have had life changing experiences. I am finally realizing that the impact is phenomenal and only works because of God’s call on my life and others. I am so grateful for this opportunity to be a servant to others. I don’t think I am necessarily qualified to lead these teams or help all of these people, but I joyfully do it because I am called to do so.
I ask that you prayerfully consider helping me do this work. Each trip costs me about $10,000 and costs each team member at least $3,500. I cannot offer you anything in return. I won’t send you a picture of a sponsored child or lots of mailers. I will let you know about my next trip. I will tell you about the impact each trip has on the people we serve. I will go and serve. And, I will come and speak to your office, church, event, or civic organization if the details can be arranged. There is a special message to share of real hope and faith that emerges from these trips, which can truly impact others. Help me share it. It is a powerful story. You can contact me at email@example.com and Epik Missions at http://www.epikmissions.com./
Chadwick Hawk, DC
YES, I would like to help Epik Missions!