In November 2008, Don Campion, president of Banyan Air, returned to Egbe, Nigeria, to show his wife, Sueanne, the little village in Africa where he grew up and his parents were missionaries for forty years. What he discovered grieved him.
The hospital that his parents, Dr. George and Esther Campion, a young doctor and nurse, had pioneered in a remote village in 1952 was completely run down and there had been no missionaries there for more than five years before their visit.
“It was obvious that the hospital would be reduced to a clinic or go out of existence entirely, and I felt that a pity,” said Don Campion. This thought troubled him. “There had been so much investment poured in, and if we knew it would fail, it must be someone’s responsibility to make the situation public,” he thought.
After much prayer, Campion approached Serving in Mission (SIM), the non-denominational Protestant mission that partnered with his parents to open the hospital more than 60 years ago. They had turned the hospital over to a Nigerian mission organization, Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in 1976, but SIM’s international director agreed to send a discovery team of experienced doctors, accountants and other experts to visit the 33-acre compound.
Their answer : “We’ll support the revitalization project if you will be the project director.” It was an answer to prayer and Don rolled up his sleeves. He and his wife Sueanne now travel to Nigeria three times a year. They have also made use of Banyan Air Hanger Space and forklifts as company employees and volunteers have filled more than 15 containers bound for Nigeria with tools, vehicles, equipment and supplies.
Joining the work
On July 31, they will be taking a group of 11 volunteers from South Florida and other states on a one- or two-week mission trip to Egbe where they will work alongside local missionaries and townspeople on the project. The group will be helping with construction, medical care and training as well as spiritual ministry.
Campion’s team established a 5-year strategic plan beginning in 2001 to revitalize the hospital, which focuses on building partnerships with SIM, Samaritan’s Purse International Relief Organization and World Medical Mission to recruit doctors, build infrastructure and fund additional medical equipment. By bringing in medical professionals and establishing best practices and standards in a remote area, the hospital will continue to serve as a beacon of hope and healing.
“Like a great warrior, Don came with a battalion of people. Now, where there were huts and dirt floors, he is bringing the 21st Century,” said Leslie Feldman, a South Florida businessman who has travelled to Egbe with Campion on short-term mission trips in the past.
“In most of Africa, when a child has malaria, dysentery or appendicitis, it is almost a certain death sentence because there is no medical care for over 100 miles of treacherous roads,” said Campion. “Now critical medical needs will be met, doctors and staff trained, and patients and their families will hear the Gospel. It is a medical oasis in the middle of the bush.”
A welcome party
Whenever missionaries arrive in Egbe, they are met by a big welcome party. The villagers are very appreciative. So much so, that in October 2012 when Campion went to the local chiefs for volunteers to help them tear down the crumbling old structure built of mud in 1952, eight local village chiefs arrived with more than 500 volunteers from the surrounding villages carrying picks and shovels. It was a Nigerian-style project with drumming, singing and dancing while hundreds of men, women and children worked to the beat, removing debris from the demolition area, balancing great slabs of concrete on their heads and carrying buckets of bricks. As they made room for the new 10,000-square-foot building, local chiefs and pastors led the group in giving honor to God.
Campion lights up as he shares the many miracles that have happened related to the project.
His favorite story is how they came to have internet in the middle of the jungle. “With spotty electricity and no cell or internet service, we were trying to figure out how to amplify a signal from a tower many miles away,” said Campion. “Then we were contacted by the national telephone company GLO who sent a representative to ask us if they could put a 3G network tower at Egbe and they’d pay us $1000 a year for the land on which it was built.”
In a similar story, Campion told how the owner of a cement factory near Ebge, who is a Muslim, originally said “no” to their requests for help, then suddenly donated four tractor trailers filled with 3,600 100-pound bags of cement.
“The villagers now have a lot of respect and appreciation for what’s going on in Egbe and offer their assistance any time there is an obstacle,” Campion explained. “They know Nigeria has been in the news in a negative way and the idea that Christian people came to build a hospital solely to serve those villages for no monetary benefit is a huge testimony. “
After renovation the 11,000-square-foot facility houses doctor’s offices, an out-patient department, intensive care unit, newly-outfitted laboratory, X-ray department, pharmacy, billing center, and under 5/family planning center. The 100-bed Christian hospital is a teaching hospital with a nursing and midwifery school along with a family medicine residency program for Nigerian doctors.
While much has been accomplished already, here are a few of the great needs that remain: funding to ship containers of supplies, construction tools such as cement mixers and wheel barrows, construction materials, and medical equipment such as patient examining tables, trolleys, operating tables, exam lights, delivery tables to reequip the hospital, and solar street lighting for security.
The revitalization team will be making its next trip to Egbe on November 18. If you would like to join the short-term missions trip or help in any way, contact Betsy Campion Smith at 905-718-2380 or Leslie at Banyan Air at 954-492-3551.