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Published: Saturday, 6/10/2006

Area nonprofit a blessing for medical missionary

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Young Shim Baek is building a hospital in Malawi, and many of her needs were met by Waterville s International Services of Hope/IMPACT.
Young Shim Baek is building a hospital in Malawi, and many of her needs were met by Waterville s International Services of Hope/IMPACT.
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I cannot build a clinic or hospital by myself. I can only lay down one stone, said Young Shim Baek.

The registered nurse from South Korea came to the Toledo area this week hoping to find someone to lay the next stone for a hospital she is building in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.

Construction began on the 200-bed medical facility in October, with the president of Malawi attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Building costs are covered in full by a $1 million grant from You Keun Chung, CEO of Korea s Daeyang Shipping Co.

But there is more to a hospital than walls and ceilings, and Ms. Baek was in need of everything from medical equipment to office furniture.

Much of that need was met this week after a Toledo pastor, the Rev. Yong-jin Kim of Hanmi Covenant Presbyterian Church, introduced Ms. Baek to Stan and Linda Greene, administrators of International Services of Hope/IMPACT. ISOH/IMPACT, a nonprofit Waterville-based ministry founded 25 years ago, helps coordinate medical care for underprivileged children in 58 countries.

Mr. Greene showed Ms. Baek a warehouse stocked with donated medical and office equipment and selected enough gear to fill two 40-foot containers that will be shipped to Malawi. Mr. Greene said shipping costs are usually underwritten by grants.

We came here Monday and we are so impressed with the equipment. It was such a blessing, Ms. Baek said.

The containers heading for Malawi will include examination tables, operating-room tables and lights, a ventilator, an anesthesia table, a hemodialysis machine, chairs, desks, computers, and much more. Mr. Kim said the value was estimated as at least $500,000.

The medical equipment is all first-rate, said Min Hee Hong, Ms. Baek s friend and a registered nurse in Korea whose husband is a doctor. She added that ISOH agreed to provide the help much more quickly than Ms. Baek had expected.

In Korea, the procedures with NGOs [non-governmental organizations] are so complex and they take such a long time, Mrs. Hong said. Here, they believed us and the next day they said they will provide for the Malawi hospital. We are very, very surprised. It was so fast.

I think America is the best country in the world because the people are volunteer-minded and charity-minded. They want to bless from God, so God blessed America. We are very thankful.

Ms. Baek, 45, said she became a Christian while in nursing school and when recruiters said they needed nurses to help the Masai tribe in Kenya, she immediately raised her hand.

She spent two years in Kenya, and after returning to Korea briefly, decided to go back to Africa.

Ms. Baek arrived in South Africa, but said she didn t feel God s calling there. So she traveled around to different nations by bus until arriving in Malawi.

There was so much need, she said.

That was more than 14 years ago and she has been serving as a nurse and missionary ever since.

Her first project was to operate a mobile medical clinic. She later opened a clinic that has been treating about 2,000 people a month.

During the day, clients are lined up awaiting medical help, most of them suffering from complications from malnutrition.

Like much of Africa, AIDS is becoming an increasingly severe problem in Malawi, which according to the World Health Organization has the fewest medical professionals per capita on the continent.

Outside of her medical clinic, Ms. Baek drapes a white sheet from a tree during the evenings and shows the movie Jesus dubbed into Chichewa, the language spoken by 80 percent of Malawians.

Ms. Baek also has built a church, opened a school, and started an orphanage near her Lilongwe clinic.

Her dream of starting a hospital began about 10 years ago after she tested the blood of an infant at her clinic and discovered the baby had an alarmingly low hemoglobin count. The child died as Ms. Baek raced to get to a hospital.

Last fall, as Ms. Baek was overseeing the construction at the hospital while also running her medical clinics and orphanage, the workload overload caught up with her and she collapsed.

She had to return to Korea for a blood transfusion and some rest, but is now eager to see the Daeyang Mission Hospital become a reality. The facility, expected to open in the summer of 2007, will be one of the finest hospitals in Malawi and will provide health care free of charge to all patients, Ms. Baek said.

The facility will have a small medical staff and will rely on volunteer medical teams and supplies to be donated from all over the globe. Some American and Korean church and medical groups already are lining up for short-term mission trips, she said.

Once the hospital is up and running, Ms. Baek has a number of other major projects on her to-do list. First, she said, she hopes to open a nursing college on the 160 acres where the hospital is being built.

After that, she wants to start a medical college to train Malawians.

Ms. Baek said she seeks to be obedient to God s calling in her life, citing the Bible verse of Philippians 2:13, For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

She may be small in size, Ms. Hong said of her friend, but her spirit and faith are very strong.

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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