Working as a medical officer for an entire weekend in a situation where there are tens of thousands of men, few medical facilities, and no pay for your efforts that includes long hours could be disconcerting to say the least, and not something many doctors would look forward to, but Dr Leon Nell of Port Alfred and Dr Willem Van der Walt of Middelburg, keenly anticipate the Karoo Mighty Men Conference (KMMC) each year.
Van der Walt says although tens of thousands of men congregate, there has not been an emergency that has required intensive care facilities or many cases that have needed urgent specialised medical attention, which gives the medical officers time to interact with the men at the conference and hear of their experiences.
“The odd cases we have are rarely life threatening, which is miraculous in itself, given the number of men that congregate at KMMC,” says Van der Walt.
Sign of God’s grace
“Although the responsibility is big, we have been blessed by everything running incredibly smoothly, which is a sign of God’s grace present at the conference,” he adds.
Nell agrees, emphasising that it would be very different working at most other events in which 30 000 men gather together.
“It is amazing to see how well behaved men at KMMC are, because they come to the event with the purpose of seeking God.
“Very few people bring alcohol, so there is none of the violence and trauma associated with drunkenness and the attitude of the men who come to pray and worship makes our work as medical practitioners much easier.”
Released from addictions
However, Nell says some men attend the conference in the hope of being healed from an ailment or set free from their dependency on drugs or alcohol, which could conceivably result in complications, yet the cases they have seen have been of men who have been immediately healed or released from their addictions with little or no side effects or withdrawal symptoms, which is remarkable.
“While we plan for worst-case scenarios with the closest intensive care unit about 350 kilometres away, and while we have had some serious cases over the years, miraculously, by God’s grace, everything has worked out fine,” says Nell.
“A fairly common problem is that people live far away and forget their medications at home. For instance, we had a case of a child having an epileptic fit and he was basically suffocating, but what happened next was quite incredible.
“I saw that the child was at respiratory failure stage, but the problem is that there are many different things to take care of at the same time in such a situation.
“I needed to get someone to hold him and help, when from over my shoulder came a voice; this guy said he was on his way to the bathroom and was an anaesthetist and asked if he could assist me.
Like an angel
“He was like an angel, because this child was in danger of dying and someone had to look after his airways, while someone else had to apply medication. This guy assisted me, the child was stabilised and when I looked again the guy was gone, never to be seen again.
“It was an absolute miracle that the child survived. I will never forget it, not ever. I realised that morning how frail we are and how many things could go wrong, but how gracious God had been,” adds Nell.
The two doctors have not only developed a close medical relationship, but have become good friends; both appreciate each other’s faith in the Lord, which contributes to the specialness of attending and serving at the event.
Nell and Van der Walt are looking forward to KMMC 2016.
“Every year the Lord prepares me for the event and afterwards I come back from KMMC spiritually enriched and touched by things that I have seen,” says Nell.
“I have gained spiritual brothers, close friends and been positively influenced by wonderful examples of leaders with immense integrity, especially Uncle Angus — I am very grateful to be associated with the MMC movement.
“Each year I go to KMMC with issues — like anger or frustration at conditions in our country — but God just humbles me at the event and I return home motivated having had people speak prophetic messages over me not knowing that God had been speaking to me about the exact same issues. And all this just because I have taken myself out of my comfort zone and attended KMMC.”
Van der Walt agrees: “Every year it just gets better and each year is unique”.
“Our relationships with the rest of the headquarters staff have developed and the support we receive from the ambulance personnel, who take care of minor medical complaints, is excellent allowing us to also benefit spiritually from some of the presentations.”
Nell confirms the importance and value of the ambulance personnel. They are very helpful, they volunteer and there is no way we could do it on our own without their help and cooperation.