The late Doug Sparks, a former missionary and Navigator leader, once defined a Christian leader as, “A servant of God given a mission and people to help him accomplish it.”
My mission was to accept an invitation by the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe to visit their hospitals at Morgenster and Gutu in Masvingo Province and evaluate their services for possible collaboration with EMAS Canada.
Local church and hospital leaders at Gutu and The Gutu Development Association waited patiently for four years, because I didn’t have volunteers who would take up the task.
I was looking for bold people, willing to follow me to a place I had heard of but had not visited. People able to provide healthcare services in a place we knew very little about; and they needed to pay their own way.
The People God Gave Me:
Dr. Enias Mabhegedhe and Karabo (Kay) Peega:
Enias is a hospitalist in family medicine/emergency room physician from Edmonton, and Kay is a medical lab technician.
This couple came highly recommended by a friend. During my first telephone conversation Enias said he was looking for a place to serve, anywhere in southern Africa, his wife Kay was fully on board. They were willing to come to Zimbabwe. In fact, Enias is a native of Masvingo.
With no experience of working in Africa, but fluent in Shona, Enias would end up carrying a large part of the outpatient clinical load. Meticulous and methodical, he saw patients alongside the nursing staff who do most of the daily ambulant patient care at Gutu. The people I met who had worked with Enias asked me when I would bring him back to Gutu.
Kay had made personal plans that after the mission she would take feminine hygiene supplies to work with and serve girls in the village where Enias had grown up, but on seeing the needs at the women’s wards in Gutu she changed her plans and donated everything she had to the maternity unit. Enias followed by giving up, for the team’s use, all the drugs he had bought for his village.
Kay initiated conversations with the head of laboratory, ferreting out information about the role the hospital was playing in the control of HIV and Tuberculosis in the community. Armed with this important information, she asked me to meet the head of the lab so I could learn about the opportunities for EMAS to assist in improving diagnostic services that would impact beyond the patients who come to the hospital.
Chishuvo (Chi) Mandivenga:
Youthful, soft spoken, and often in the background, Chi was responsible for coordinating the in-country logistics: including accommodation, meal planning and catering; and multiple airport pick ups. She helped arrange meetings with the Minister for Health, and with senior church officials. We relied fully on her relational networks and resourcefulness for all our local purchases. She traveled to Harare ahead of the team, inspected all accommodation and made last minute changes to ensure our comfort and safety.
Trained and experienced in project management and international development, Chi’s perspective on the opportunities and priorities at Gutu came through with realism and a desire for long-term impact.
Always optimistic, Chi assured me many times that a way would be found whenever we faced a threat to our plans. She always found a workable solution. We could not access local currency nor could we use U.S. dollars due to a recent government edict; Chi found a way around that, as she did with several other issues that could have derailed us.
Cheryl Raycraft RN:
When Cheryl was invited to consider joining the exploratory mission to Zimbabwe, she was already booked for an overseas family holiday and the dates for the mission clashed with their return flight to Toronto.
A few days after the invitation she called to say she had prayed about the mission, was ready to serve, and had asked her travel agent to re-route her return to Canada via Harare arriving one day earlier than we had proposed for the mission. Everyone agreed to change the dates of the mission.
Cheryl has served in leadership and administration among nurses in Canada, she has also served on EMAS missions to Guatemala.
Compassionate and keenly sensitive to the need for nursing the whole person, Cheryl came alongside mothers in maternity, sitting beside and consoling those who were grieving the loss of their children. She broke the language barrier through love on her first visit to sub-Saharan Africa. She gave out prayer shawls symbols of God’s ever-present grace and listening ears.
During one of our scheduled debriefing sessions she drew our attention to the importance of training staff in holistic patient care. Cheryl was always cheerful, eager to serve and hardworking.
Dr. Costa Maonei:
Costa Maonei trained at University of Zimbabwe but lives and works in Johannesburg. He is a native of Masvingo and had previously worked as the medical officer-in-charge at Gutu Mission Hospital. His experience in medical leadership and healthcare services management in rural Zimbabwe was an invaluable asset for our learning process since none of the group had ever practiced medicine in Zimbabwe. Costa’s current work includes teaching physicians in southern Africa: his extensive knowledge of the region and local experience were of incalculable value in evaluating the potential role of EMAS in this part of the world. Costa and Enias have been friends since high school. He was invited to the mission by Enias. Costa was literally the life of the party; he kept us laughing with stories of his escapades and life in Zimbabwe. His fluency in Shona the local dialect was a big advantage during clinics.
Dr. Robert (Bob) Hilliard:
Bob is a recently retired professor of pediatrics at University of Toronto and former medical missionary to Congo and Kenya.
Bob has many years of experience as a clinical teacher in Canada, Uganda, and Kenya. His disarming bedside manners and compassion for sick children is evident in the spontaneity with which he kneels on the floor to engage patients.
He is also a wise man. Bob’s prudence was a safeguard against unrealistic expectations that helped the group make timely adjustments to the schedule. At the final debrief with the hospital leadership when everyone was focussing on the urgent material and equipment needs of the hospital, he tactfully reminded us of the greater value of investing in the training of healthcare professionals. He did this by emphasizing the EMAS Canada core value: Empowering Local Leaders.
King David’s Army
I have often marveled at how God moved people in to accomplish His purposes, and privately wondered if I would ever be part of such an adventure. The details about David’s army are fascinating and reminiscent of my experience with the team that went to Zimbabwe in the early summer of 2019. The people God gave me were skilled, prudent, eager to serve, determined, generous, resourceful, brave, patient, and eager to learn.
Of David’s army one reads about competence, dexterity (even ambidexterity) with the weapons of the day, physical fitness to fight; wisdom, courage, determination and clarity of purpose. Find out about David’s army.
Keep up with the latest news about EMAS Teams in Zimbabwe, Indonesia, and China here.
All Scripture references are taken from the New International Version (NIV)