Georgetown church helps African family pay for child’s heart surgery

  • Monday, April 21, 2014

Ian Opunga

The congregation of the First Baptist Church of Georgetown has raised about $10,000 to help a family in Kenya pay for a heart operation for their 9-year-old son, Ian Opunga.

Additional donations for the family are now being accepted by the church.

“Any donations for this family would be greatly appreciated,” said Jeff Wildes, a member of the church who has been leading the fundraising effort.

“There are always more issues to deal with and more expenses for the family. Donations will not go to waste.”

Wildes said young Ian recently had an exploratory procedure which tells doctors what is going on inside his body.

“We hope his surgery will happen on Monday or Tuesday of next week,” Wildes said.

He said that Ian has a large hole between the left and right ventricle in his heart. “Doctors told his parents that, if not repaired, it will lead to heart failure and death,”

Surgery is the only hope for saving Ian’s life, Wildes said.

“Please pray for this little boy. His body is starting to show the effects of his defective heart. He regularly has chest pains and shortness of breath and can only walk a short distance without resting. He doesn’t have any appetite and has lost about 15 pounds in the last month.”

The national hospital in Kenya told the family the earliest they could do the operation is sometime in 2015.

Luckily, a private mission hospital can do the surgery early next week.

“Kenya, which is on the east coast of Africa, is very different from America,” Wildes explained.

“Very few opportunities exist for employment. Ian’s parents are honest, hard-working people but could never earn enough to pay for this surgery on their own. There is no equivalent to Social Security or Medicaid.

“For the two years since Ian’s condition was diagnosed, they have been praying for a miracle that would save Ian’s life.”

First Baptist Church Georgetown opened a special fund that will be used specifically to help Ian get his surgery.

“Ian’s parents know that none of this would be possible without the generosity of many people in America,” Wildes said.

“They are extremely grateful and regularly ask me to communicate their thanks to everyone. They also regularly ask God in their prayers to bless the Americans who are praying for their son.”

Wildes met the family during one of his mission trips to Kenya as part of a nonprofit organization called Daylight Ministries.

He and others go to this third-world country to share the gospel once or twice a year.

“Our main purpose is to teach and train pastors,”

Wildes said.

“That way they are better equipped to share the gospel and tell about Jesus.”

He said they also do humanitarian kinds of things like helping with building construction and helping people with some things to generate income for the family.”

Anyone who would like to help can make a check payable to First Baptist Church and mark it “Medical Missions Kenya.” Send it to First Baptist Church Georgetown, 219 Cleland Street, Georgetown, SC 29440. For more information, call the church at 546-5187.

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