Manassas Journal Messenger | Doc, staff to leave for The Gambia

Boxes and bags of medicine, vitamins and stuffed animals cluttered Dr. Young K. Kim’s Manassas Internal Medicine office.

Those items will be shipped to the Gambia in Africa, — with Dr. Kim and two of his office staff members following May 26.

The small country extends 180 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean along the Gambia River, and is only 15 to 30 miles wide. It is surrounded by Senegal.

Gambia had a population of 1,546,848 as of July 2004, according to The Republic of Gambia uses English as its official language, with many local dialects.

Kim, 37, office manager Linda Allen, and receptionist Kris Yun will spend 19 days living without running water or electricity in Gambian villagers’ huts, providing much-needed medical care, as part of a Christian missionary team.

Kim has traveled almost every year since 1999 to either Russia, Mexico or the Dominican Republic on medical missions.

“The primary reason for these missions is really for church missions — spreading the Gospel and love of God to the rest of the world,” Kim said. “Number two is really service. We spend most of our time doing medical service.”

This year, a fellow religious doctor implored Kim to try Africa. Some of the mission group will spread Christian beliefs in this mostly Muslim country. But the group from Manassas Internal Medicine will focus on treating patients, said Kim, a born-again Christian.

Kim expects to find a harsher climate and severest poverty in Africa than in the other countries he has visited.

But like the other places, people desperately need medical attention.

“We choose places that are not very civilized,” Kim said. “In order to find a doc, you’d have to travel for days.”

They expect 600 to 1,000 patients per day to line up for help. Allen, a licensed nurse, will aid Kim in treating patients. Yun will register people and keep the groups organized.

“For me it’s a means of showing the talents that God has given me,” said Allen, 48.

All three will leave behind families and children. But their families have been supportive, they said.

Yun, 31, lives with her mother-in-law, who encouraged her to participate. Her mother-in-law will help care for her two young children during her stay in Africa.

“She said ‘don’t think about your children,’ ” Yun said. “Because if you do you’ll never go.”

Yun’s husband had joined Kim on a previous mission, inspiring her to help.

Allen plans to keep a journal to document her experience. Lately, she has been praying a lot to get herself ready, she said.

The group will also begin their rounds of malaria vaccinations, so as not to expose themselves to disease.

The remaining staff at Manassas Internal Medicine will keep the office running while they’re gone.

But little will be able to immunize them against the emotional strain.

“It will make us very appreciative when we get back,” Allen said.

These missions make Kim feel fortunate to live in America, he said, where he has access to food, clean water, electricity and health care.

Kim enjoys helping those in need, but he feels bad when sometimes nothing can be done for a person, he said. The missionaries can only treat acute, not chronic illnesses, and they can’t perform any major surgeries.

Some conditions that could be monitored and cured in the United States, like heart diseases, mean certain death in third-world countries, he said.

“We try to do our best, but you can’t exactly perform surgery where there’s no running water, electricity and sanitation is an issue,” Kim said.

The medical missions encourage Kim to live a good life, he said.

“In America we tend to focus on a lot of the smaller things in life and complain about them,” Kim said. “One of the things you learn is that maybe there isn’t that much to complain about living in America.”


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