After 10 years of medical school, residency and training, surgeon Heidi Haun spent a May morning in a West African courtyard pounding gravel into dirt with dozens of ladies who chanted traditional songs as a drummer beat time.
Trey Haun, 10, dances to the beat among the Mamprusi people in Nalerigu, Ghana where his parents Heidi and William Haun serve as missionaries through the International Mission Board.
It was a joyous scene with laughter and jokes as the women pounded smooth the courtyard dirt. Heidi, 34 weeks pregnant, pounded alongside them with a sampanni, a wooden tool resembling a baseball bat.
“The courtyard is the thing in which all women take pride,” said Talata James, a woman from the Mamprusi ethnic group in Northern Ghana. “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 general surgeon at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu. She and her husband William are International Mission Board missionaries there, but making connections and living in community are important in gaining 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. As William planted seeds of gospel truth, he helped sow three acres of corn.
It’s not that the Hauns don’t have enough to do. 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, 10, whom they homeschool, and Karen Jane, or KJ, now 17 months, who was born in Nalerigu. 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.
International Mission Board medical missionary Heidi Haun ministers to a patient among the Mamprusi people in Nalerigu, Ghana as a local woman and Haun's son look on.
Life in Ghana takes time and requires planning, extreme effort, and teamwork. William home-schools 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.
Days of sweat
On a really hot Sunday – 109 degrees and no fans – 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.”
William sees value in 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 occasion near midnight, Heidi had just finished a 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 cesarean section. Still, with the surgery delayed until that night, the woman grasped Heidi’s hand afterward and thanked her.
William and Heidi Haun, International Mission Board missionaries in Nalerigu, Ghana, are parents to 10-year-old Trey and 17-month-old Karen Jane.
“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.”
Pray for the Hauns as they balance life, family, homeschooling, language and cultural acquisition and ministry. Their respective jobs in surgery and media can be very time-consuming. Pray that they will manage time wisely to avoid exhaustion and burnout.
Pray for the wisdom and strength of the national medical staff and administration of the Baptist Medical Centre (BMC) as they serve an overwhelming number of patients every day.
Pray that doctors would have special insight in diagnosing and treating patients. The BMC has very limited labs and diagnostic tools.
Pray BMC chaplains would have wonderful opportunities to witness and to counsel patients who sometimes travel great distances for medical attention and prayer.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Writer Elaine Gaston has served overseas with her family in restricted-access countries. She is now based in the U.S. This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 4-11 with the theme of “The Gospel Resounds.” The theme undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at IMB.org, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $155 million.)