Dan and Kim Scheels, missionaries to Ethiopia, will never forget their first trip to visit the congregation of the Pittsburg Presbyterian Church.
“It was Dr. Bob Bardeen who actually connected us with the church,” Kim Scheels said. “The first time we came here there were tornado warnings and we had to go to the basement of Dr. Bardeen’s house. It made an indelible impression on us.”
Fortunately, there were no severe storms Aug. 26 when the couple came to Pittsburg to give the church congregation an update on their work. They work through the organization Serving In Mission (SIM), and are an important part of the Langano Health Center. The Langano Health Program officially provides low-cost medical care to more than 10,000 people in the Lake Langano area.
Mrs. Scheels is a nurse practitioner, and her husband is an engineer and builder.
“We started out in Sudan, but there was a civil war there, and SIM said that to continue there would be a problem,” he said. “They requested us to go to Ethiopia, and we were at a boarding school at first. I was in charge of the workers and my wife was the nurse.”
Now they have been in Ethiopia for more than 30 years and are at the health center.
“We see about 100 people a day for things such as malaria and water-borne diseases,” Mrs. Scheels said. “We pull teeth and deliver babies. We have an ambulance, and if someone needs something we can’t do at the center, such as a C-section or treatment for serious injuries, we transport them to a Catholic hospital about 1 1/2 hours from us.”
She said that SIM also has an elementary school with 325 youngsters in kindergarten through sixth grades.
“Within about a year or so, we’ll be adding seventh and eighth grades,” Mrs. Scheels said. “My husband Dan will be involved with constructing the buildings for that.”
Another program for youth in the area is Sports Friends, a sports camp associated with SIM that seeks to partner with the evangelical churches of Ethiopia for sports ministry. Sports Friends is also partnered with Missionary Athletes International, parent organization of the Charlotte Eagles soccer team, a professional Christian soccer team.
“They use our camp for sports camps, and the young people learn more than just sports,” Mrs. Scheels said. “They have 2,500 projects in Ethiopia, and are now reaching into Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Thailand.”
During the presentation to the congregation, she told of a young boy with spina bifida, a serious birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. Langano Kids Aid helped him, and the child was sent to a Korean hospital in Addis Ababa for surgery to close the opening. However, he was paralyzed from the waist down.
Page 2 of 2 - “About a year ago, he came in to our center to play, and he was walking with crutches,” Mrs. Scheels said. “He has a picture of himself with the president of South Korea who came to the hospital to give him crutches. And now he can walk unaided. We have healed many children, and as a result, many of their families have come to Christ.”
Her husband noted that good works are a part of showing the Gospel.
“This year, I added a library computer building to the school,” he said.
Scheels looks forward to constructing the additional space required to add the seventh and eighth grades to the school and said that they will be a special benefit to the young girls attending school.
“What’s the next step for young girls finishing sixth grade?” Scheels said. “We see a trend where these girls are being married off. We’re adding two more grades so the girls can go to school a little bit longer and be able to make decisions for themselves.”
He’s also going to build housing for nurses.
“The Baylor University nurse practitioner program sends students to us once a year for their field clinicals,” Mrs. Scheels said. “Now we have two of them working in Langano.”
She and her husband have been traveling in the United States since April, and visited the West Coast just before coming to Pittsburg.
“We were in Los Angeles and Seattle, and after this will have a few days in Kansas, then go to Texas, then Chicago and New York,” Mrs. Scheels said. “We’ve already been in Arkansas and Oklahoma.”
In addition to speaking to church congregations, they have had family matters to deal with.
“Since we’ve been home, we’ve married off a daughter, buried a mother, sent another daughter and her family to the Rift Valley Academy in Kenya, and Dan has had knee surgery,” Mrs. Scheels said.
They plan on returning to Ethiopia in January, but it’s likely they’ll be back in Pittsburg sometime in the future to make another report to the Pittsburg Presbyterian Church congregation.
“We have been blessed to have the church as part of our work,” Scheels said.