Dr. David Warkentin of Verve Wellness Center Returns from Medical Mission in Uganda
In October, CEO and Founder of Verve Wellness Center in the East Valley, Dr. David Warkentin traveled to Uganda as part of a medical mission with The City Church in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Warkentin was one of two doctors along with his sister-in-law a neonatal ICU PA and a pediatric RN. The rest of the 23 people on the mission were missionaries and there to help in many ways.
The more than two dozen medical staff that traveled to the African country had their work cut out for them. The two villages that they serviced are among the poorest of the poor, and the staff treated everything from infections, eye worms and open wounds to insects in people’s ears, skin disorders and circumcisions gone terribly wrong.
“The first few days of our trip were to the slums of Katwe,” says Dr. Warkentin. “It’s the second biggest slum in Africa and is, of course, in Uganda, the poorest country in Africa.” In addition to Katwe, Warkentin also went to a very dangerous village south of the Sudanese border. Two of the Christian missionaries on the mission prior to his arrival just north of where Dr. Warkentin served in the South Sudan were executed by a militia Muslim group. Undaunted, Warkentin traveled to the Karamoja region of Rupa of Karamojo to help villagers so poor, that some of them don’t even have clothing. Often, unclaimed children are just left to die in the streets and raw sewage flows down the streets. Mobbed at the bus, he and the other doctor used as a make shift clinic in one of the remote villages, as they were desperate to be seen.
“All these children just wanted to hold my hand,” Dr. Warkentin explains of the little villagers he encountered. They would also rub furiously on their own skin to see if somehow their skin would possibly be the same color as the good doctor’s. Another observation that Dr. Warkentin made was how, regardless of their poverty and sickness, the villagers would praise God and dance and sing about his goodness.
Compassion and Care in the Face of Adversity
There certainly was risk involved in the medical mission trip. Dr. Warkentin once relayed to his worried sister-in-law, who also served on the mission, “You know what? I’m not here to serve me or you. I’m here to serve God in this mission and I’ve been asked to go somewhere I’m needed.” Dr. Warkentin, a pilot of 13 years, was also given the opportunity to strike another thing off his bucket list by being given the privilege of flying the Cessna 16 passenger turboprop to the red dirt runway in Rupa where the second half of the medical mission took place.
During his medical mission he was not shocked by what he saw, rather the entire team gave aid and compassion to all those that they possibly could utilizing the medical supplies, antibiotics and antiparasitics that they brought to the country, and performing the medical procedures that they could. “Ninety-nine percent of people had parasites from Lake Victoria,” says the doctor. There is a pill that can be taken once per year and costs only forty cents that can keep parasites away. It’s a quick, simple and easy solution to temporarily protect people from parasitic infection complications.
“There is so much poverty there, it made Tanzania look like Dubai,” Dr. Warkentin said in comparing his Ugandan medical mission to the Tanzanian medical mission that he made last year. Although the work can be heartbreaking, and the conditions in which these people live are deplorable, the doctor is happy he can make a difference and ease some of the suffering.
Many children and young adults work in the gold mine in Uganda. They often will work barefoot or in flip-flops, and rocks are often pelted at them, creating sores and infection. “The mines are owned by the Chinese and they just don’t care,” explains Dr. Warkentin. He treated many infected wounds while he was there.
As in many poor countries, the children often suffer the most. Unbelievably, children who are orphaned or unclaimed are put into “kid prisons,” complete with barricades to keep them from getting out of the facility. Because of an outcry, the facilities are now called “child re-education centers,” but up until just a few years ago, children were even shackled within those facilities for “crimes” such as being an abandoned child.
Planting a Legacy
While he was in one of the villages, Dr. Warkentin learned of a local young man who wants to go to school to become a doctor. Dr. Warkentin says, “I thought, ‘What I did here didn’t make a dent.’ Then the pastor of our group said, ‘Hey, this young man wants to go to school and can’t afford it and he wants to be a doctor. Would you pay for his schooling? I asked, ‘How much is his schooling?’” The boy’s schooling was literally only several hundreds of dollars a year. The doctor continues, “I said yes and I made a deal with him. I said, ‘We’re going to stay in contact and I’ll pay for you to go to school in Kampala, Uganda. However, you’re going to sign a contract with me. When you’re finished with medical school, you are staying in Uganda to help your people.’”
Since Dr. Warkentin has been generously donating his time doing medical missions in Africa the past two years, he has become deeply passionate about the care that he is able to give people who so desperately need it. He has plans to found his own nonprofit and continue in this medical mission work.
Dr. Warkentin plans to return to Africa on future medical missions, either as part of a larger Christian medical mission or possibly as part of his own nonprofit. . “They are the kindest, most polite people. They’re always smiling and they were very appreciative we were there with a clinic,” he finishes.
Verve Wellness Center located at 4824 E. Baseline Rd., Suites 110 and 140 in Mesa. Visit www.vervewellnesscenter.com or call (480) 969-4040 for additional information.