Local doctor, posted in Zimbabwe, seeks help to keep medical staff fed in crisis



The economic crisis in Zimbabwe is so severe that a Lee’s Summit doctor at a charitable hospital there is battling to keep his staff fed.

Dr. Mark Byler has asked his sponsoring congregation, Lee’s Summit Community Church, to donate funds to buy grain for hospital employees.

The church recently responded by contributing more than $7,000, which Byler hopes will provide basic nourishment for his staff for six months so that they can continue in their work at the hospital.

Many employees have stayed home from work recently because hyper-inflation has destroyed their buying power to the point that they cannot afford food. The BBC recently reported that Zimbabwe’s inflation rate is 11,000,000 percent. Economic and political conditions have deteriorated rapidly in the past year.

Absent employees put a further strain on the hospital, which must also work through water shortages and continual power outages.

Mark Byler, his wife Angie and son Luke, are Lee’s Summit residents who moved to Zimbabwe in 2004. Mark, who previously served at Truman Medical Center Lakewood, is a physician at Sanyati Baptist Hospital in Zimbabwe. 

After a one-year furlough, the Bylers returned to Zimbabwe this summer, following a controversial and violent election campaign.

“The Bylers were not sure what they would find when they returned, but they were committed to alleviating the suffering of the people,” said Patty McWilliams, a member of the church and the Bylers’ board who has visited the family in Africa. “Our hope is that the funds we are raising can strengthen the ministry of the Bylers, who are on the front lines of compassionate work in this struggling country.”

Contributions to the relief effort can be given through Lee’s Summit Community Church, 1440 S.W. Jefferson, Lee’s Summit, MO 64081. Funds should be earmarked for “Zimbabwe food effort.”

“Often we look at the news and think, ‘What can I do?’” said Mike Bergen, the church’s director of Outreach Ministry. “We are excited to be able to be a small part of the solution and to put resources directly into the hands of people who can use them to help others.”

Background: Dr. Mark Byler
•    Mark is a Lee’s Summit resident.
•    He previously served as a physician at Truman Medical Center Lakewood.
•    He serves the people of Zimbabwe through the ministry of Lee’s Summit Community Church (www.lscckc.org), 1440 S.W. Jefferson, Lee’s Summit, MO 64081.
•    Mark lives in Zimbabwe with his wife Angie and son Luke.
•    Mark first served at Sanyati Baptist Hospital in 1989. He and his wife Angie have worked there intermittently since 1995. In 2004, the family made a full-time commitment and moved to the country.

Background: Zimbabwe
The BBC reports that:
•    2 million people in Zimbabwe need food aid.
•    Annual inflation is running at an official rate of 11,000,000 percent.
•    Only one-in-five adults has a regular job. 
•    Up to half the population will need food aid by the end of the year.
•    Controversial Prime Minister Robert Mugabe has recently agreed to sharing power with opposition groups. 

Roy Harryman, director of communications, 816.524.6786 x104, roy@lscckc.org
•    The Bylers do not have international telephone access, but can respond to questions via e-mail. 
•    Board member Patty McWilliams, in Lee’s Summit, is available for interviews.
•    High resolution photos of the Bylers’ work are available upon request.