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Stories From the Rohingya Clinic

February 11, 2019
by Dr. Steve Nelson & Rachel Gunderson
Three Rohingya children in a refugee camp in Bangladesh

Eight-year-old Effie* came in looking pretty sad. In fact, sadness seemed to be her only diagnosis. She had been referred around a bit, trying to get to the bottom of why she didn’t go out and play and why she wasn’t eating. She had certainly lost her smile along the way. After going over the medical history and looking her over without finding a specific reason for her problems, I asked, through the translator, what was going on at home. Was her dad there? Did the family get along? Was anybody hurting her in any way? Negative answers to these questions brought me to the mom one more time. I asked, "Did anything happen to you all on the way to the camps?" It was then that she said her daughter had witnessed an aunt being hacked to death during the flight from Myanmar.

Medical school, and for that matter, forty years of practice, doesn’t much prepare you for this. They allowed me to pray for her – for them – and we did, asking for our Father to bring some healing to the family and especially to Effie. But we knew that she was going to need some gentle, same-language coaching and counseling to come along towards health again. There is a Dutch NGO in the camp doing trauma counseling and we accompanied her to that clinic.

These stories are everywhere, but now and then, you get caught up into the pain and misery of a whole people through the eyes and heart of one little girl. Pray for Effie. Keep praying for the Rohingya. The end is far from over. And in the meantime, pray that the ones who can be in the camp sharing the light of Jesus in a more open way find exactly the right words to share.
- Dr. Steve Nelson

A 35-year-old woman came into the clinic. Her chief complaint was pain all over her body, nothing specific. Her eyes were so sad, just dark and dead. She had no smile. I could not find anything physically wrong with her except for a small patch of tinea. I requested a photograph as she was so beautiful, and she said yes. I took one but noticed that she did not smile. When I asked her to smile, she told me she did not have any smiles left. She began to tell me about fleeing Myanmar and watching her husband and 12-year-old son killed in front of her. She escaped with her 10, 6 and 4-year-old children. We asked if we could pray for her, and she said yes. When she started to leave, I told her I would pray for her. She hugged me hard. That was a huge highlight and heartbreaking at the same time.
- Rachel Gunderson, RN

*names changed