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LP couple starts non-profit organization to bring medical care to people in need world-wide

February 25, 2008

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

Lester Prairie resident John Williams went on a mission trip to Kenya in 2006 with his church, the Riverside Assembly of God. Before he returned, he was hooked.

Williams and his wife, Melissa, decided they needed to find a way to help bring medical care to people in need.

John and Melissa started a not-for-profit organization called Medical Missions World Wide. Their goal is to provide a variety of medical, educational, and spiritual services, while providing for people’s basic needs.

John is employed as a trauma nurse specialist at the University of Minnesota. He has 17 years of experience in emergency medicine, both as a paramedic and as an emergency room trauma nurse.

Melissa has a degree in education and home schools their five children. She is also a member of the Lester Prairie school board.

“We are not trying to re-invent the wheel,” John explained. “We will partner with groups that already exist to bring in food, medicine, and education.”

John and Melissa plan to accomplish this by facilitating short-term mission trips to countries that have disadvantaged populations, such as Liberia, Tanzania, and Kenya.

Last November, John traveled to these countries to make contact with other organizations and lay the groundwork for future missions.

They plan to make their first mission trip with volunteers in August.

They will travel to Liberia, which is recovering from 15 years of civil war.

The mission will be divided into two groups.

The first will include construction workers and cleaners to help refurbish hospitals damaged during the war.

These hospitals are “about the size of an average rambler,” according to John.

They will ship a container of supplies for the mission, and the shipping cost alone is expected to be about $7,000.

The second group will focus on medical care and training.

Team members will work with Phebe Regional Hospital, a 300-bed facility that serves a population of 1.5 million people with a staff of only three doctors and a group of “nurses,” many of whom are volunteers with no medical training.

“That is why training is so crucial,” Melissa commented. She added that many of the educated people either left the country or were killed during the war.

The group will also work with Cuttington University.

The school was established in the 1800s, but was taken over by rebels in the 1990s.

John said the university was re-opened a couple of years ago, but lacks supplies and teachers.

John and Melissa hope to bring in nursing instructors to help train the 600 nursing students at the university.

“Malaria is the number-one killer of kids and pregnant women,” Melissa said.

By training students and helping to establish “bush clinics,” they hope to bring medical care to those who currently do not have access to medical care.

“We are teaching them so they can learn to survive on their own,” Melissa commented.

She added that Liberia has the highest infant mortality rate in the world, and she hopes to be able to bring people with midwifery skills to train local people.

Volunteers needed

John and Melissa are looking for volunteers, and team members need not have medical backgrounds. The group needs people with a variety of skills.

“Safety is not an issue,” John said. He explained that he will arrange the missions, from airfare to accommodations, to security.

Volunteer team members will need to pay their own way, but the organization may help potential team members with fund-raising efforts.

Volunteers also need passports, visas, and immunizations for the destination country.

“I believe it is our Christian duty to not only spread the word of God and the message of Christ, but to attend to our brothers’ and sisters’ physical needs, as well,” John said.

To find out more about Medical Missions World Wide, call John or Melissa Williams at (320) 282-3816, or visit their web site, www.MedicalMissionsWorldWide.com.

John and Melissa said they will not draw any salaries from the organization, and donations will be used to support their missions.

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