In which Ralph and Coralee write to supporters regarding work with leprosy patients in Azande-land.
Last week it was possible for us to leave our medical work here for a few days to
make a hurried trip to the West to see about the new leper colonies in our Azande
Section. It was a journey of about 1200 miles thru hot, dry and rather monotonous
country but there was never a dull moment during the 6 ½ busy days we were away,
for so much was packed into each day.
It was precious to meet these groups of lepers. To renew with the ones seen last
trip, and to meet the many new lepers that have come into the Leper colonies
located in that big area stretching 500 miles west from Aba. Doctor usually sees the
lepers on the new Diasone  treatment first. This is always a special thrill for it is
wonderful to see the changes and improvement. The results of this Diasone
treatment has given all the lepers new hope. So far we have only had enough of this
drug to treat about 70 cases. Doctor has tried to introduce this new treatment in
each leper group, that is in each colony because everywhere these cases have been
the means of drawing in many new lepers. All of the other lepers (over 600) are
receiving Chaulmoogra  oil injections. This is a much slower treatment but it usually
helps treat sores to heal, and also their general condition to improve. When the new
supply of Diasone, now enroute to the field, arrives it will then be possible to add
quite a large number of lepers for this newer treatment. We hear that there is now
another new drug available which is very effective, but as yet we have not been able
to get information about it.
After seeing all the new lepers, making their diagnosis and prescribing treatment
Doctor sees each of the other lepers seen on previous visits. At Bafuka Station, our
first stop, (200 miles west) it was very encouraging to find that the brand new village
of 20 tiny mud huts seen on our last trip had grown and not only was there a whole
row of new houses in all stages of construction, but around the houses were nice
gardens, some hens busy with their chicks, and several native dogs, added to the
picture of a real native village. Mrs. Stauffacher, the nurse in charge, said the
patients (around 70) seemed very contented and cooperated well. Mr. Stauffacher
said, “I just love to go down and visit with those lepers.” Their friendship and loving
help does much to prepare their hearts to receive the Saviour.
Our next stop was at Banda Station, 360 miles west. It was a joy to find that this
colony has made a real beginning and that now about 100 lepers were living in the
colony, in their own tiny mud huts. Last trip not a single house was then in the
colony. We gathered with this group for an early service on Sunday morning.
At the Asa Colony (500 miles west) things had become more established and the
Lord has been saving souls. The number of patients remained around 240. Some
had gone away to see about their “affairs” and quite a few new cases had come in. It
was precious to see how many had improved physically. These lepers have built a
large new chapel that would seat about 200. Miss Congleton has been having school
with them, and recently she held a Daily Vacation Bible School. I believe she said 16
out of the 20 that began, finished all the verses and showed real interest in all that
she taught them.
At Dungu the colony had become more established and there were crowds of new
cases to been seen. Some of the Diasone cases here have responded so well, it is like
a miracle! One of these is a little girl of 12, another is the eldest son of Chief Ngilima.
This has caused much comment and interest.
The Lord undertook in special ways. We were able to meet the Government
administrators in the Dungu, Ango and Faradje territories and talk over plans for
advancing the work. Continue to pray definitely regarding the establishing of these
Colonies. It now seems definite that the Government will grant us land for chapels
and dispensaries without charge, and it may be they will agree to help in other ways.
But Government formalities move terribly slow in this land, and meantime we are going
ahead caring for these lepers just as the Lord enables. At present our 9 Leper
Colonies scattered over an area of about a 1000 miles are the only active places for
treatment of lepers. But as yet we have hardly scratched the surface. There are
thousands of lepers in this area. Join us in prayer that this work may continue, and
be used to lead many of them to know the Saviour.
Here at home, our Aba lepers had a real treat last week when Doctor was able to
buy gunpowder and one of the men shot an antelope. Meat is a real treat and we
rejoice with them for we had been unable to provide any meat for them for at least
2 years. We have been enlarging our brick leper chapel to 3 times its former size
because so many new lepers have entered.
Here in the hospital the Lord has been blessing in our medical work, and in recent
days, not only have souls been saved but it has been our privilege to help many
Christians who steadily have real physical needs. Samwele, the youngest son of
Yakebe Sulimani, one of our oldest Christians, has been here in the hospital some
weeks very ill with tuberculosis and bilharzia , a very bad combination. Last week
he became critically ill and it seemed he was very near the end, but the Lord has
undertaken and now for several days he has regained consciousness and seems very
happy and radiant. So here again it has been precious to minister to him and the
many needy folks that come daily. There has also been a lot of surgery.
Yesterday Doctor left to take one of our native nurses out to the Maitulu Station in
the mines section to the Southeast. Remember Enosa in special special prayers he
begins the work in the new dispensary and also caring for the lepers in that dark and
Remember to pray for our native nurses for they join in every part of our dispensary
and hospital work. They are earnest Christians. This year’s class of 15, from 8 mission
stations in this section, have been doing good work. Finding time for classes is often a
real problem for us, with all the many demands of each day.
To you each we send our sincere thanks for your interest, and prayers, and also for
the generous gifts, that have done so much to make this work possible. We know
our Father will return richly to you all that you have done in His dear Name. We are
asking Him daily to remember and to give you many blessings.
With our grateful thanks, Ralph and Coralee
1. Diasone is a sulfa drug that was used in the treatment of leprosy. It does not cure, but does improve symptoms in many patients. The drug was being trialed in Carville, Louisiana beginning in 1940, so the use in Congo is interesting.
2. Chaulmoogra oil is an older treatment. It was usually administered by injection since taking it by mouth induced severe nausea in a significant number of patients. At Kivuvu, the leprosarium and hospital where my parents worked for several years, we had a small planting of chaulmoogra trees. When we left in 1973, they were about 6 feet tall. I do not know their current status.
3. Bilharzia is another name for sleeping sickness, a parasitic infection.