During the Finding Faith Tour, VOX Editor Ruth Garvey-Williams met Dr Jubil Thomas and his wife Neeta in Drogheda, Co. Louth. Originally from India, the couple moved to Ireland in 2005 and joined Solid Rock Church in Drogheda where they quickly felt at home.
A consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care, Dr Jubil volunteers his time with medical missions such as Mercy Ships, which offer life saving and life changing surgeries and health care in parts of Africa. Working with highly skilled teams of surgeons and nurses, Dr Jubil has also discovered that even when human resources run out, there is still hope!
We grew up in Nagpur in central India and that was where I finished medical school and postgraduate training. For a short time, we worked in Kerala bringing medical assistance and the Gospel message to tribal villages alongside the Church of South India.
We moved to Kuwait in 2000 before coming to Ireland in 2005 where we eventually settled in Drogheda, Co Louth. Here, I completed my specialist training to become a consultant in anaesthesia and in intensive care (I call it “buy one get one free”) and I now work at hospitals in Louth and Meath.
It is amazing how the Lord brought us to Ireland - He just plants you in the perfect place. Solid Rock church is an absolute blessing. We even got baptised here (although I wonder why we didn’t get baptised back in India where it was so much warmer!).
I came to know about Mercy Ships after reading an article in our medical journal and made some enquiries about volunteering on board the ship. The Africa Mercy operates as a hospital ship off the coast of Africa and, since 2007, I have served four times on board in Benin, Sierra Leonne, Guinea and Congo.
We do on-ship surgeries as well as going into the communities to run clinics. Prior to the ship docking, there is a team that goes in and screens the patients. We operate on cataracts, cleft lips and palates and fistulas as well as removing tumours.
Sometimes, medically speaking, you would not treat the patients we see on the ship because of the lack of resources or the severity of the situation. In these situations, we need to go in faith and treat the problem!
In some communities, we also have the opportunity to show the “Jesus” film and to share about our faith.
God is the author of science. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He completes us. We sometimes think that things are not possible. A few times, when people wanted to give up, we prayed and the patients did significantly better. We need to pray regardless of what our medical knowledge is saying.
In Guinea, we were working to repair fistulas. Often caused by childbirth, women with fistulas have to wear incontinence pads. As a result, they are despised and rejected by their families. Surgery can literally transform their lives.
On one occasion, we met three women who were lined up for fistula surgeries the next day. My good friend Ebe offered to pray for the women. As he began to pray, he noticed that the interpreter was praying in the name of Allah, so Ebe stopped him and said, “No, you have to pray in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Again the man began to translate the prayer but this time he used the name “Isa Nabi” (Jesus the prophet). Ebe stopped him a second time and said, “No, you need to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God.”
Finally, the interpreter correctly translated the prayer. We prayed for them to be healed during the surgery the following day. However, when the three women were brought down to the theatre for their surgery, the surgeon discovered that their fistulas were completed healed and they were sent back to the ward. As you can imagine, they were dancing on the ward!
I was also involved in a campaign to help children in sub -Saharan Africa who had been abandoned by their parents because of treatable problems such as cleft lips. We went out there as a team to Chad. It was extremely hot and we had no oxygen cylinders, just older equipment.
One patient was about 45. We had gone out to treat children but he begged to have his palate repaired. I explained that we had poor facilities and it was a big risk but he was determined. Everything went well until, towards the end of the surgery, he had a cardiac arrest on the table.
I have never lost a patient on the operating table and we were all very upset.
We had hardly any adrenaline and no oxygen. Several minutes went by as we tried everything but there was no sign of life. He had flatlined. Eventually, we knew we needed to call it off.
But then someone said, “Let’s pray!” We held hands and prayed in the name of Jesus. And suddenly, he woke up. He spoke to us and shook our hands. I noticed that his blood pressure was very low. We realised he would probably suffer another cardiac arrest soon but we shared the Gospel with him. He prayed to accept Christ and then had time with his family. He died the next day!
Introducing Mercy Ships
International Christian charity Mercy Ships offers free medical care and humanitarian aid to some of the world’s poorest people. On board hospital ships like the Africa Mercy, volunteers (like Dr Jubil Thomas) deliver free, world-class health care services in the developing world.
Founded in 1978, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services to over two million people.
The Africa Mercy is currently docked in Congo-Brazzaville, a country that is recovering from two civil wars that resulted in the displacement of over a million people. Despite progress made since the peace agreement in 2003, more than half the population now lives below the poverty line. The country also has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the region.
The Africa Mercy is staffed by up to 400 volunteers from 40 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, health care trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort.
Its state-of-the-art hospital includes six operating theatres, X-ray equipment, a CT scanner, pharmacy and laboratory. There is capacity for 78 in-patients in four wards and a small intensive care unit.
In addition to surgeries on board the ship, the charity offers medical and dental clinics in villages without access to health care and works on a range of sustainable community development projects such as water, sanitation, education and improvements to agriculture.
For more information visit www.mercyships.org.uk