Category Archives: Africa Medical Missions

‘Machine Gun Preacher,’ from biker gang to fighting Joseph Kony

machinegunpreacherBy age 11, he was doing dope. At 13, dropping acid. After he turned 15, he was sticking a needle in his arm, shooting cocaine and heroin.

“I went in deeper into selling drugs. I’m not talking about small amounts. I’m talking about large amounts of drugs. I kept going deeper until I became the shotgunner, the hired gun for drug deals,” Sam Childers says in a Next Step film.

Childer’s wife, Lynn, can take the credit for wrangling this rebel into the Kingdom of God. She was an ex-church-kid-turned-stripper who fell in love with the bad boy. They did drugs together. But eventually, Lynn, despairing of pigs’ portions in her prodigal path, returned to Jesus.

orphanageafricaThis did not sit well with the renegade outlaw. For two years, he fought her to give up her “religion.”

Then Childers got into a shootout in a barroom over a drug deal gone bad.

“I almost lost my life that night,” he recalls in the film. “I don’t have a problem with dying. I got a problem with what I’m going to die for. I knew that if I kept on living the life I was, I was going to die for some stupid reason. On my way home that night, I said, ‘God, I’m done living this life.’”

He showed up for revival services in an Assembly of God church in mid-1992, surrendered his heart and life to Jesus, and was born again.

The pastor prophesied that night that Childers would minister in Africa.

angelsofeastafricaRemarkably, Childers went from biker gang member and barroom brawler to eventually becoming a preacher. When he became a Christian, he didn’t give up the guns. He kept them handy for what would become very dangerous work overseas.

His first mission trip to Uganda was a 5-week stint building roofs in a village where there were landmines. While there, he happened across the legless body of a boy decimated by a landmine placed by Joseph Kony’s insurgency. Kony, a brutal warlord, had been conscripting child soldiers, perpetrating mayhem throughout the region.

When he saw the condition of the boy, Childers smoldered with rage.

“I knew I had to do something,” he declared. “I’m devastated inside. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I had to do something. I stood over that body, and I said, ‘God, I’ll do whatever it takes.’”

“I returned home. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t hardly eat,” he recalls. “All I could see in my memory was children that were starving.”

In response, he sold his fishing boat, camper and other possessions to raise funds for Africa. He tried to enlist others in the fund-raising.

On a subsequent trip, he felt God tell him to open an orphanage, situated in the hottest thicket of danger. In that Valley of the Shadow of Death, he linked up with Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which granted him his own militia to protect the orphanage — and to battle Kony’s forces, according to the Washington Post.

He became known as the “Machine Gun Preacher” after a documentary on his life revealed him walking the bush of Sudan with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder, deep in the warzone of Kony’s insurgency. Read the rest about the Machine Gun Preacher Sam Childers.

After Africa, they chose a medical career

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Cathy Kayne at her graduation, with her family.

After helping on two medical missions in Africa, Cathy Kayne decided to become a registered nurse – and that she did at 56 years of age.

The Culver City resident is part of a lesser touted statistic for Lighthouse Medical Missions: the number of volunteers who make medicine a profession.

To date, there are at least three doctors and half a dozen nurses who got their first taste of dispensing medicines in the hinterlands of West Africa where the word “acute” defines medical needs almost as much as “chronic.”

Kayne went to Sierra Leone in the spring of 2005 and to Burundi in the summer of 2008 to help in a logistics capacity

“It brought me a lot of joy to be out in the field and involved in helping people in a medical capacity,” Kayne said. “It caused an old childhood dream to resurface. I had wanted to be a nurse but didn’t get the chance to pursue it. When I went to Africa, I realized this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” Read the rest of the article.

Dr. Bob shows the baby-calming hold in Tanzania on medical mission


Dr. Robert Hamilton, a member of the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica (my church), went viral in December with a video of a simple hold to calm crying babies. It seems not many people knew about this hold before, and it racked up 18 million views. He was interviewed on Good Morning America and by a host of over media.

He became famous. But that’s not why I admire him. I admire him because he does medical missions for free. He’s even done two in my church in Guatemala (which I am no longer pastoring). Here he does the hold in Tanzania, where they just gave meds to hundreds of people in Mwanza. It’s a cute video.

Lighthouse Medical Missions is off to Tanzania at a time of terror strikes

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Dal Basile and the meds she packs for shipment in the plane. She is joined by actress Katelyn Myer, who is going on the trip.

Once they almost drowned from tipping canoes trying to reach the medical clinic in the deep inland. Another time, Ebola broke out a scant couple hundred miles away from operations. Then, rockets were launched on the capital just a day before the team left on another trip.

Now, Lighthouse Medical Missions is traveling to Tanzania at a time of terrorist activities in airports – their medicines were being shipped out of Brussels and will now arrive two days late.

“We’re all ready to do our clinic and then bam! terrorism hits Brussels, and right away we know we’re in trouble because our medicines ship out of Brussels,” said Dal Basile, medicine coordinator for the team. “That’s two days without medications. So I’m scrambling around trying to see what I can send with the doctors.”

Dr. Bob Hamilton’s Santa Monica-based charity outreach to Africa has for 20 years braved some hair-raising misadventures to provide free attention and medicines to people who otherwise rarely – if ever – get a chance to see a doctor.

Twenty-six fly out today and are scheduled to arrive Sunday in Mwanza, the capital. Dr. Hamilton is a beloved pediatrician in Santa Monica. His video on how to calm a crying infant went viral four months ago because of the apparent ease of the little-known technique of folding the baby’s arms and rocking his bottom. The internet dubbed him “the Baby Whisperer.”

It seems their standard operating procedure is navigating chaos and brainstorming plan B’s based on developing risks. They’re real Indiana Jones, not in search of archaeological treasure, but the treasures of the human heart inside suffering human bodies.

“You can’t compare God-loving people to Indiana Jones. These are people who care about people they don’t even know,” Basile said. “These Americans are taking time off from work, their vacation time, to go and work. They work to pay for their time. They’re making a big sacrifice. They work their butts off. It’s hardcore.” Read the rest of the article.

Dr. Viral

Dr Bob skateboardSupposedly, doctors halt viruses, but local pediatrician Robert Hamilton just went viral.

His charming video on how to get a 1-month-old to stop crying hit 14.5 million views in little more than a week. It got picked up by Inside Edition, Mashable and True Feed. From there, the Huffington Post featured it. It moved to Buzzfeed and USA Today and was topping Reddit. Now, Dr. Bob — as locals affectionately call him — will talk on the Dr. Oz Show.

Dr. Bob, originally from Eureka, has struck gold.

Widely known and loved in Santa Monica, Dr. Bob has attended for 30 years to children of celebrities and soccer stars. He’s administered injections, checked newborns and calmed jittery parents.

“This is where God has put my wife and me and where we were meant to labor,” Dr. Bob said. “We have seen good times and challenging times. We have seen triumphs and heartbreaks.”

Dr. Bob has also led medical missions for over 20 years to Africa, Kyrgyzstan and Central America. Lighthouse Medical Missions have brought doctors and free medicine to some of the remotest parts of the planet on about 25 separate occasions through the decades.

Early on, Dr. Bob was especially impacted by what he saw in Sierra Leone, once the world’s second poorest country according to United Nations rankings. In post civil war time, there was appalling need unmatched by the nation’s scarcity of doctors and medical infrastructure.

“I am haunted by the image of a woman beating on our car’s window as we departed our compound en route to the airport,” said the owner of Pacific Ocean Pediatrics. “The mother was pointing to her son with a huge abscess on his leg. I thought, We need to get this kid antibiotics. But we were late and we couldn’t stop.”

He broke down in tears. Did the child live? He felt compelled to return to Africa.

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Dr. Robert Hamilton in Africa on medical mission for Lighthouse Medical Missions.

To help where need is great bestows its own rewards. It has added to an already enriched life. He is happily married to Leslie Hamilton. They both have six kids and six grandchildren.

His daughter Noel also studied to be a pediatrician and now works alongside her dad in his business on Santa Monica Blvd across from St. John’s Health Center.

Lighthouse Medical Missions (LMM) has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for its medical missions. They take all their own medicine and equipment. They have built four schools/ churches in Sierra Leone – in Lungi, in Lunsar, in Jui, and in Kenema. Two full-scale water projects have been funded.

Dr. Bob, a born-again Christian since age 13, attends the vibrant and historic Lighthouse Church, from which he borrowed the name for his medical mission. LMM is open to just about anyone going and donating, even if they don’t share the Christian values of Dr. Bob.

Dr. Bob studied his undergraduate at U.C. Davis, where at age 20 he also married his childhood sweetheart. Then it was off to UCLA Medical School.

Regarding his fund-raising, Dr. Bob clarifies that money has flowed. “I’m pretty ambitious. But I’m NOT that ambitious about Africa. God has brought the money in. I’m not breaking people’s knuckles to give to Africa. It’s amazing what God has done.”

His latest venture – into the online world – started as a rather unambitious attempt to help parents calm fussy babies. He recruited talented film-makers from the Lighthouse Church and posted it on Sunday. Several church members shared it on their social media.

Dr. Bob – whose wildest dream was for 10,000 views – was disappointed with only 80 the day after posting.

But somebody of influence spotted it and re-posted it. It exploded like a nuclear bomb: by Tuesday it had 570,000 views. The next morning, 1.5 million. At last check last night, it hit 8.7 million.

“This is just phenomenal,” said a surprised Dr. Bob.

Meanwhile in his clinic, he’s prescribing to stop viruses.

*Picture: Rarely does Dr. Bob skateboard outside his office. Note: Since I wrote this article for the Santa Monica Patch, I am including it here on my blog. I hope you enjoy.

Holdout helper | Why she didn’t go on medical missions for so long, and why she’ll be on more

medical missions | Africa and elsewhere

Andrea at far left, took to the clinic like a duck to water

For 22 times, her boss and mom pressed Andrea Campos to go on a Lighthouse Medical Mission – and she always declined.

“I just didn’t have a passion for Africa,” the Santa Monica native said.

After almost two decades of them wheedling her, Andrea, 37, finally relented. She is now in Guatemala, translating and writing prescriptions on 10-hour shifts with no breaks and only a half hour lunch.

But, if she was the holdout in a family of big LMM volunteers, this week she has plunged into the labor-intensive clinic with a vengeance.

Some volunteers are awkward, squeamish around blood, befuddled by Latin jargon, duty-dodgers who wanted the applause, not real work. Not Andrea. She’s totally in her element, holding her own like a pro.

“This is definitely NOT my last mission,” Andrea said. “You just see the hope in their eyes of getting better. I’m seeing people with their eyes fill up with tears.”

On its third day of clinic in Guatemala, Lighthouse Medical Missions attended to 125 patients in Villa Nueva, a small municipality on the outskirts of Guatemala City. Today is expected to be the busiest day.

Andrea has worked as a receptionist on and off since 1998 for Dr. Bob Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician who will pleasantly pester patients and friends to help the medical missions he founded and leads.

Not only has Andrea put her medical familiarity to good use in Guatemala, she’s also taken over much of the administration. She’s re-organizing hotel and food for the volunteers with her keen business acumen. From age six, she’s been money-shrewd when she lived in Puerto Vallarta and charged school mates to use her eraser because it was “from America.” Read more about participating in Christian medical missions.

If everybody pitches in, we can do something BIG

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Dr. Bob with the reason we all work so hard.

Dr. Bob Hamilton started medical missions in 1998. To fund these expensive ventures, he went from upscale to large-scale. When the high-end dinners didn’t work, he launched a walkathon around Santa Monica.

We just completed the seventh annual Walk to Africa. I and my family were a few of the 100 volunteers.

Walk to Africa walkathon | Santa Monica“It was not a home run; it was a grand slam,” pronounced Dr. Bob the next morning in church. “Lighthouse is a family. Scores of people came together in a phenomenal way. We go on display in the community. The event really does touch the community.”

My job was a cheer people on at the 6-mile mark, offer food, point out the bathroom, point out the right direction after they rested. I can take satisfaction in doing my all — just a small but integral part — in raising $115,590, over half the goal.

Walk to Africa

I’m the tall guy, with my wife, my son and a Chinese student holding the sign

My cousin called me the Energizer Bunny. I just want to see big things done for God. I don’t want to die not having spent my energies for Jesus.

Overjoyed on her second Africa medical mission trip

Africa medical mission trips

Joni with one of the children

By Joni Vosburg

As I return from a far-too-short trip to Mwanza, Tanzania, I find my thoughts continually returning to the wonderful people we met and treated in our medical clinic.  Last spring I first joined Lighthouse Medical Missions as a volunteer on the Guinea-Bissau Team.  I was in nursing school at the time and met Christa Czer there who introduced me to Dr. Hamilton.  That first trip taught me a lot about myself, and rekindled my love for helping people who are in dire need.
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With my great friend, Christa Czer

While it was a great experience to work as a scribe and pharmacy crew member, it was nothing like the thrill of being an actual medical team member this year.  As a nurse I felt more personally responsible for the patients I cared for, and left with the feeling that I was able to make a sincere difference in people’s lives.

Joni Vosburg

With the team on our half-day off.

Working with two other brand new nurses and friends, Christa and Claudio, was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.  We took nothing for granted, worked together on unfamiliar maladies, and made it a point to try to educate our patients in ways to prevent further illness.  One of our most serious cases was a woman that had undergone a surgery over a year ago in her auxiliary area (armpit). The wound became infected, never healed, and had begun tunneling further into her tissue.  We were able to see this woman all five days of our clinic to clean and dress the wound and administer antibiotics. Christa was even able to work with one of our interpreters to find a nearby clinic where she could continue to get treatment at no cost. 

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This is joy.

The people of Mwanza were amazing to work with, both as patients, and as assistants working with us.  They are such a strong community and I have no doubt they will continue to thrive as God works his wonders through them.  I am already excited for the next chapter in the Lighthouse Medical Missions book, and hope to join the team again in another life-changing journey.   Please make a donation or register for Walk to Africa.  It is your support that makes these teams possible!  www.WalkToAfrica.com

The deaf heard: Africa Medical Missions

Africa Medical Missions

Felipe Rodriguez (at right). Whether he’s in Santa Monica or Tanzania, he says where he goes: “The party is here.”

When the doctor peered into the patients right, “deaf” ear, he saw larvae, living and dead. With a few scrapes with Q-tip, he extracted the critters, and the deaf man could hear again!

This is what happens in the rest of world, where medical access is limited either by availability or cost. This is what happens when Lighthouse Medical Missions comes to town. Their recent clinic in Mwanza, Tanzania, attended to 1,200 — HIV patients, malaria sufferers and insect-invaded ears.

Lighthouse Medical Missions

Felipe, in the middle, with fellow volunteers.

“It’s crazy stuff,” said Felipe Rodriguez, who pitched in on the trip.

Not only are the locals dramatically impacted, the American volunteers are too. Fun-loving Felipe hit it off the kids. “Every where you go, the kids grab your hands and want to go with you,” he said.

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Now that they have seen conditions in Tanzania, they no longer live in a bubble.

When the group visited wildlife on a nearby island on Lake Victoria, Felipe joined some students on a field trip to take selfies with them. They acted like rock star fans.

“Your smile will heal all their sicknesses and wounds,” Felipe said.

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In Tanzania.

‘Really hard’ saying ‘Goodbye’ on Africa Medical Mission

Africa Medical Missions

Carla, with one of the children she fell in love with.

Carla Cedillo got spooked as soon as she set foot in Africa.

“Africa is a different world,” she said. “I felt like we were in  a movie. I felt like we were an infomercial that says, ‘For  $1.00 a day, you can help save a life.’ I remember my mom saying there are poor people in Africa, but it never hit home until we we went to Africa.”

Lighthouse Medical Missions

In the pharmacy

On the Lighthouse Medical Missions trip to Tanzania in 2015, Carla, who works at the Lighthouse Christian Preschool, fell in love with all the children. “I wanted to hold them all,” she said. “They were all so adorable.”

When a little child came through the clinic with her tongue attached to the bottom of her mouth, Dr. Bob Hamilton offered to cut it loose immediately. “I thought blood was going to gush everywhere,” she said.

African Medical Missions

With her brother, Arti, and some Tanzanians

During most of the 5-day clinic, Carla manned the pharmacy and gained a great appreciation for pharmacists. “It wasn’t easy,” she said. “Now I know why pharmacists are always in a bad mood.”

When the clinic was over and it was time to head to the airport, it hard to say “Goodbye.”

Dr. Bob Hamilton | Medical Missions“They kept telling us, ‘We’ll see you in Heaven.’ That true but it was really hard,” Carla said. “I think about them everyday. I’m sure they’ll think about us everyday for the rest of the lives.”

Africa Medical Missions: ‘An Intense and beautiful experience’

Africa Medical Missions

Myer with her boyfriend.

Tears streamed as Salome recounted how the C-section didn’t save the baby. Katelyn Myer became painfully aware of the gaggle of kids screaming and laughing and tumbling around the clinic as she listened to the Tanzania women share her sorrows.

Lighthouse Medical Missions Lighthouse Medical Mission’s 2015 clinic to Mwanza “made me think and know and feel that we are all God’s children,” she said. “The medicine and the science had overtaken my point of view. They’re not just bodies that are sick but people who have hurts and feelings.”

An actress in Hollywood, Myer only recently became a Christian. She joined the Santa Monica-based charity LMM this month to give of herself. “It was a really intense and beautiful and incredible experience,” she said.

medicine AfricaIn all, LMM attended to 1,800 patients for five days and held evening church services. “It really pushed home that the theme of the Bible is love,” Myer said.

Medically, the doctors couldn’t do much to help Salome. Her pain was in her heart from the stillborn child. So Myer gave her emotional support.

Africa Medical Missions

As they left the clinic Friday to tour a bit, the patients were cheering and singing songs of praise.

Then she remembered a prophetic word her boyfriend had received before coming to Africa. Someone had told him, “You need to say the word ‘Life’ to somebody over there.” It was time to say the word.

We don’t know yet if Salome is pregnant again.

Africa Medical Mission: ‘I really wanted to be like Jesus’

Arti Cedillo | Africa Medical Missions

Arti made friends with his guitar.

Yes, he called himself “a Satanist” when he was a punk kid rebellious towards his parents’ Christianity. Yes, he beat up kids and got kicked out of schools. Yes, he played hard rock with — um — not the best lyrics.

But when he faced a truly demon-possessed person, it was different. Arti, who turned his life over the Lord years ago and was now serving in Tanzania on the Lighthouse Medical Missions, freaked out when the lady he prayed for started behaving erratically.

Africa Medical Missions

The crowd waiting a turn to see a doctor.

After the first day of assisting doctors at the clinic in Mwanza, Arti requested permission to set up a prayer station and pray for all the patients after doctor visits. “I really wanted to be like Jesus and lay hands on the sick and see them recover,” he said.

That done, he was engaged in praying for a lady with back and leg pain. When he asked her to forgive all who had harmed her, she grew eerily silent. Then she started getting aggressive.

Tanzania Medical Missions | AfricaArti knew what he had to do (expel the demon in Jesus’ name), but he got scared. “I’ve never performed an exorcism before,” he said.

When it was done, he led her to get her pills. But he watched his back, lest she become aggressive again. His buddy, Johnny Huerta, didn’t seem to have the same fears. He went over to her and gave her a hug.

“I was more afraid she would jump on me, and he was more concerned to let her know that she was loved,” Arti reflected.

Lighthouse Medical Missions

Santa Monica pediatrician, Dr. Bob Hamilton, who founded and leads Lighthouse Medical Missions, in Tanzania in Spring 2015.

Arti turned his life over to the Lord in the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, which is part of the same church that indirectly oversees Lighthouse Medical Missions.

The lady showed up at church that night. She raised her hand at the altar call to receive Jesus. She testified that the pain in her back and legs was gone.

“She came possessed and oppressed with pain,” Arti marveled. “She got delivered and saved. Then she had no pain. God is so good.”

Arti saw the supernatural on the “natural mission” of dispensing medicine. He also saw how to become more like Jesus and minister compassion.

Endless energy for marathons and medical missions

Dr. Bob Hamilton | Lighthouse Medical Missions

Dr. Bob pauses from the L.A. Marathon at mile 23 to take a picture in front of his banner. It is rare to get him to take a pause.

If the U.S. needs an alternative source of energy, it might try connecting a power line to Dr. Bob Hamilton’s house. They could tap into his brain – or his heart – and siphon off his excess personal energy during the night to supplement the local power grid.

On Saturday night, Hamilton, a board member for Santa Monica Symphony, was relishing Vijay Gupta’s masterful violin interpretation of Beethoven’s toughest concerto in the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Korea Town.

On Sunday morning, he was running the L.A. Marathon to raise funds for another pet project, African medical missions.

I was stationed at mile 23 to snap his picture and interview him. He wasn’t talking about pain. He wasn’t groaning about crawling to the bitter end. He was jogging at a good pace, and he was planning his work immediately after the race.

“I’m going to Africa in a week and a half, and I’m thinking that I have a lot to do before I go,” he said as I jogged alongside him.

What, no rest – even after a marathon?

At all times, Dr. Bob is a tornado of activity. And thanks to a mythical work rate, he’s established Pacific Ocean Pediatrics in Santa Monica, served on half a dozen community boards and headed 22 medical missions to Africa and elsewhere. Read the rest of the story.