After ten years of medical school, residency, and training, surgeon Heidi Haun spent one May morning in a West African courtyard pounding gravel into dirt with dozens of ladies. As the women worked, a drummer beat time and the women chanted traditional songs. It was a joyous scene with laughter and jokes as the women—bent over double—rhythmically beat in unison as they pounded the courtyard dirt smooth. Heidi, thirty-four weeks pregnant, bent and pounded alongside them with a sampanni, a wooden, bat-like tool.
“The courtyard is the thing in which all women take pride,” said Talata James, a Mamprusi woman. “A house without a courtyard gives a woman no joy. Her children won’t have a place to play.” Family members eat, work, visit with friends, and spread grains to dry in their courtyard.
Pounding a courtyard is not in Heidi’s job description as a general surgeon at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana. She and her husband, William, are IMB missionaries there. But making connections and living in community is important in having opportunities to share the gospel. That’s the same reason William, a media specialist, might spend a day digging weeds out of a friend’s field. Working alongside a friend last year allowed William to share God’s story one-on-one for the first time entirely in Mampruli, the language he and Heidi are learning as they live among the Mamprusi people in Northern Ghana. As he planted seeds of gospel truth, he helped sow three acres of corn.
It’s not that William and Heidi don’t have enough to do. In fact, every single day is tough with the never-ending demands of patients’ critical needs and living in a remote area. They have two children, Trey, ten, whom they homeschool, and Karen Jane, or KJ, now seventeen months old, who was born in Nalerigu. In fact, Heidi performed surgeries up to two weeks before she gave birth, to the point that, belly against the operating table, Heidi could often feel KJ’s in utero kicks against her surgery patients.
Life in Ghana takes time and requires planning, extreme effort, and teamwork. William homeschools Trey to allow Heidi more time for language study and surgery. When William travels for media assignments, Heidi manages the home front in addition to her medical responsibilities. Yet they have planted their lives there and work hard to become a part of the community with the foremost goal of sharing the gospel.
Hot Days and Long Nights
On a really hot Sunday—109 degrees outside and no fans inside—William preached in their little village church. The dry season is known in the local language as the “days of sweat,” and sweat he did as he preached from the Old Testament.
“I love going through the Old Testament,” William said. “We live in an oral culture [here] and people really connect with stories. I love how I can share these Old Testament stories and show how these stories point forward to Christ.” Afterward, he reflected on the value of living in a place long-term.
“It’s just nice to be a part of the culture and the community. It allows me to take Scripture and apply it to their lives in a way that I wouldn’t be able to do if I hadn’t made the effort to learn the language and the culture.”
On another night, near midnight, Heidi had just finished up surgery and returned home. The patient was a woman who sells cabbages under a mango tree on market days in town. Heidi planned to perform surgery earlier in the day, but the operation was delayed by an emergency c-section. Still, after surgery that night, Heidi said the woman reached out to grasp her hand and thank her.
“I think that’s the neatest thing about having patients that live here in town . . . it leads to opportunities for relationship and gospel sharing,” Heidi said. “I look forward to the opportunity to share Christ with her—more than just a patient-doctor relationship.”
- The Hauns as they balance life, family, homeschooling, language, and cultural acquisition and ministry work.
- Heidi and William’s respective jobs in surgery and media can be very time-consuming. Pray that they will manage time wisely to avoid exhaustion and burnout.
- Wisdom and strength for the national medical staff and administration of the Baptist Medical Centre as they serve an overwhelming number of patients every day.
- Doctors to have special insight in diagnosing and treating patients. BMC has very limited labs and diagnostic tools.
- BMC’s chaplains who have wonderful opportunities to witness and to counsel patients who sometimes travel great distances for medical attention and prayer.
This story originally ran in the December 2016 edition of Missions Mosaic from Woman’s Missionary Union.