KAPSOWAR, KENYA – In a remote part of eastern Africa, American missionary doctors and African medical professionals are bringing compassionate care to some of the area's neediest people.
It's led one American family to dedicate the rest of their lives to serving on the continent.
CBN News traveled 7,300 miles to a remote outpost in northwest Kenya to find out why a group of African medical professionals working with American missionary doctors would choose a life of selfless service to bring desperately needed medical care to one of the poorest regions of this country.
We discovered why in fairly short order.
"Everything you do, you do it as unto the Lord, for God's glory," Dr. Patricia Chesang, a Kenyan surgeon, told CBN News.
That, plus a deep desire to demonstrate the saving and healing ministry of Christ to this community.
"We feel very, very fortunate to be able to do what we do, there's nothing else we would rather do," Dr. Bill Rhodes, an American missionary surgeon, told CBN News.
Americans Bill and Laura Rhodes moved to this corner of Kenya to work at AIC Kapsowar Mission Hospital.
Located near the Ugandan border, the 140-bed Christian hospital opened its doors back in 1963.
"It was not like it is now, it was so much more rustic and rural and isolated and difficult to reach," Dr. Rhodes told us during a tour of the medical facility.
Rhodes, who had no medical background, was pursuing a master's degree in Biblical Hebrew in Jerusalem when he and his wife picked up two Christian medical students hitchhiking through Israel.
"The answer of one of those young medical students, whom we have never seen since, never even knew his name, changed the trajectory of our lives," Laura Rhodes told CBN News.
"He said, 'I would just like to see if couldn't alleviate a little bit of suffering in some small corner of the world someday in the name of Jesus,'" said Rhodes.
That set the Rhodes family on a 16-year odyssey, with numerous setbacks, in preparation for a surgical career that would change the lives on the African continent.
"Just because you decide to do something that you think will honor God or be pleasing to God or be helpful for moving the Kingdom of God forward, doesn't mean that you have a guaranteed easy path to get there. In fact, you should probably buckle up tight, because it's probably going to be challenging."
When Bill and Laura moved here to Kenya in January of 1999, some 23 years ago, they knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was a lifetime commitment to serving the people of this country, but more importantly, to come to a region of the nation that had some tremendous needs. And today, Bill, his team, and his wife are all committed to serving the people of Kapsowar and beyond.
"When we see the staggering disparity in this world of the people who have and those on the other end who have not, the disparity is only growing wider and for all of our days, however many we have, we want to try and bring healing and wholeness," said Laura Rhodes.
In recent years, Dr. Rhodes' vision to bring medical care has gone beyond the valleys that surround Kapsowar to include other countries. For example, he, along with his wife and members of the mission hospital, often travel to countries like Liberia, Chad, and South Sudan.
Accompanying him is Kenyan Thomas Kiptoo, who heads up AIC Kapsowar Mission Hospital's anesthetist department. Kiptoo came from a very poor family and a missionary doctor acting as a mentor urged him to pursue the medical field.
"I couldn't imagine that I could come all the way to this position," Dr. Thomas Kiptoo with AIC Kapsowar Mission Hospital remarked to CBN News. "Looking back, I never had a future but since I believed in God and I'm a product of a missionary, this is why I've become what I am."
Dr. Rhodes' passion is to train and equip the next generation of African health professionals.
36-year-old Kenyan Patricia Chesang has worked closely with Rhodes over the last three years.
"He's going to leave a wonderful legacy," Dr. Chesang told CBN News. "He has left his family, all the comfort he could have afforded, but he's given of his life, of himself, to come and serve here so for me it's really humbling."
The annual prize comes with a $500,000 award, which will go toward the hospital, surgical work, and training.
"He envisions the opportunity to train and raise up whole surgical teams, not just surgeons, but anesthetists, nurses, to go to these hard places where he's now going and go and stay there," Scott Marcello, president of Africa Mission Healthcare, told CBN News.
Bill and Laura Rhodes are determined to spend the rest of their lives either here, in northwest Kenya, or somewhere on the continent.
"Yeah, this is the end of the rainbow for us," exclaimed Rhodes. "Very few people get to really do what they really want to do. We bless God, every day, because we know we are in that little minority that is actually getting to do exactly what we wanted to do."