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#AT4ALL

Charleston Southern Athletic Trainer Healing Hearts and minds with hope

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Article reposted from The Post and Courier
Author: Warren Peper

What did you do this summer? Just chill? Lounge at the beach? Listen to a cool mountain stream?

My guess is that few of us experienced anything close to what Hanan Sokol saw.

Sokol, while attending a service at Seacoast Church, learned of an opportunity called Bread of Life Africa. After a little soul searching, he felt compelled to join 10 others on a missionary trip to Turkana, Kenya.

From June 9 to 23, he lived in the desert.

Sokol works as an athletic trainer at Charleston Southern University. Educated to provide hands-on therapy for injured athletes, this trainer’s two weeks ministering and interacting with people living in grass huts opened his eyes and heart in ways he never expected.

The women draw water from a well and often walk 2 or 3 miles to retrieve it. The children wear no shoes, yet constantly display blinding smiles.

They speak a language that has no word for “sad.” Their primary emotional expression is laughter.

The harsh environment is unrelenting. There were flies everywhere during the day but thankfully no bugs at night. Sokol often slept outside on an inflatable mattress under the stars.

One day, the team made bricks out of clay and water. They shaped ’em, slapped ’em, packed ’em and stacked ’em to dry under the African sun. The bricks would be used to construct a center for widows.

A little first-aid kit

In Sokol’s backpack he brought some simple tools of his trade just in case. Gauze, ointments, hydrogen peroxide and bandages were included. It wasn’t that he thought he might have to wrap someone’s sprained ankle, he just wanted to be prepared.

Sokol doesn’t believe in coincidences. He firmly believes what The Bible states, “that all things work together.”

A few days after the team arrived, he met 7-year-old Anna. Weeks earlier, a snake bit one of her fingers. There are only two types of snakes in the region, a rattlesnake and the black mamba.

The little girl’s finger had been given minor attention by a field medic at the time of the bite, but there had been no treatment since. The bandage was dirty and soaked with blood. The finger was black and infected.

Sokol opened his makeshift first-aid kit and went to work. He cleaned the wound, changed the dressing and even gave her some generic antibiotics that he’d brought in his bag.

For the next seven days, Anna returned to the base compound to see Sokol. Her village was 3 miles away, but she walked to see him every day. When she arrived, Sokol would clean the infected area and apply a new dressing.

By the time Sokol said goodbye to Anna, new skin was growing, the bite marks had disappeared and only some dead skin was apparent on the tip of the finger.

Mission and memories

Without cell service or internet access, it’s easy to feel isolated and out-of-touch in such areas of the world. In a strange way, though, Sokol and his group became even more connected to the villagers they met during that two-week stay.

The compound did have a generator that allowed Sokol to charge his phone each night.

Why did having a cell phone become important without any service? Many of those children had never seen their own faces. They didn’t know how they looked.

Seeing themselves in a photo created a new reality. Hearing that each one of them mattered opened new understandings of love that stretched far beyond their homeland.

As Sokol treats the college athletes in his care with heating pads, knee braces and Kinesio tape, his mind wanders to those children in Kenya. When he gets a quiet moment, he’ll pull out his phone and start scrolling through the photos.

Little Anna’s smile and healing finger always lifts his spirit and immediately makes him smile. It also serves to remind him how big a difference a little first-aid kit can make.

Reach Warren Peper at peperwarren@gmail.com.