Last week, we talked about finding our mission fields by applying the unique experiences, gifts, and skills God has given us.
In that context, I promised to talk a little about my experiences as a relief missionary in Zimbabwe when I was just a young pup of a nurse, having graduated from my nursing program at Kent State just two years before. Yikes!
But first, I’d like to highlight a fabulous mission organization that’s based near us called ITEC.
According to ITEC’s homepage, the organization aims to “Inspire Great Commission Participation” by developing innovative tools, training indigenous believers, and equipping others to do the same.
I first learned how important this model of development, training, and equipping is when I read When Helping Hurts as part of a global health class I took at a Christian college in 2015.
Although I’d always viewed short-term mission trips in nothing but a positive light, that book opened my eyes to how much harm can be done if a “rescue” mentality is involved—rather than one that offers the training-instead-of-doing model that ITEC embraces.
As the organization notes in its Objectives Statement:
“ITEC develops tools and training programs, trains indigenous Christ-followers, and equips others to do the same both domestically and abroad. Our goal is to eliminate the potential for dependency by partnering with, training alongside, and learning from the indigenous churches. We call this interdependency, a concept found in passages throughout the Bible, and clearly in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.”
I encourage you to visit the website and learn more about the organization, including the powerful story of its founder, Steve Saint.
Steve’s father was Nate Saint, one of five missionaries who were killed by the Waodani tribe (formerly known as the Aucas) in the jungles of Ecuador in 1956.
I read about these brave men many years ago in Through Gates of Splendor, which was written by Elizabeth Elliot, the wife of one of the missionaries.
Since I was familiar with this story, imagine my surprise to learn that the home base of this incredible man’s incredible organization is located just a few miles from us in Dunnellon, Florida!
ITEC offers a wonderful array of resources and further information on their website, here: ITEC Resource Center.
A mission trip to remember
Another mission organization that operates with a model of empowerment is The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM)—and it was with this organization that I headed to Zimbabwe in 1986.
After orientation was over, two other nurses and I headed to Karanda, TEAM’s remote mission hospital located 124 miles from the capital city of Harare.
It was a wonderful experience with incredible people, and over the course of four months, I got to do many fabulous things. I taught at the nursing school (nursing caps and skirts were required).
Monitored patients during C-sections (we had one doctor and he used spinal anesthesia).
And worked in the wards of the hospital; assisted the midwives with deliveries; and went out to the villages to teach nutrition classes with a nurse who was on staff and the nursing students.
Of course, there were other fabulous experiences, too—like sunrise runs on the airstrip with several others; worship each morning in the chapel with rich a cappella harmonies; tea breaks each day with the hospital staff; meals with the missionaries; and a pajama party with the nursing students and my other new friends.
What blows my mind
The whole experience was a privilege I’ll never forget. I spent a wonderful summer with the incredible team, students, and patients/families there.
But what blows my mind now is that the seemingly humble mission hospital of Karanda is thriving today—treating 100,000+ patients and performing 3500+ surgeries annually!
How do I know that?
Because, on a whim as I was writing this piece, I did a quick search and found that Karanda has its own website!
Here’s a bit about the origins of the hospital as described there:
“Karanda Mission Hospital was established in 1961 to meet the needs of mission stations in the Zambezi River valley which were established as churches and then, as the abundant health care challenges were seen, small dispensaries/clinics were developed along with churches and finally schools. To help the clinics, the hospital was built. Karanda is in a remote area of Northern Zimbabwe nearest to Mount Darwin. Its location is approximately 124 miles from Harare, the Capital of Zimbabwe. …”
The fact that there’s a website might not seem like a big deal to you, but I find it pretty wild to compare my yellowed pics—in an album lovingly compiled and labeled by my mom—with current images of the hospital wards and areas I still recognize.
After all, I was there about 35 years ago (whew, I’m feeling old)—when the launch of the world wide web was still five years away.
And we had nothing like the xray machine, laboratory equipment, and industrial washing machines I see in photos of Karanda on the website today.
And that surgical “theatre” I was blessed to get to work in?
Various news stories from regional publications tell of all the incredible work that continues at Karanda; the stellar reputation that the hospital and its staff enjoy; and how it fills a critical gap for healthcare in both rural Zimbabwe and the country as a whole:
- 2014: Karanda: The ‘miracle’ hospital
- 2019: Mission Hospitals Overwhelmed
- 2019: Karanda provides solace to desperate patients
- 2020: Toughing it out at Zim’s ‘miracle’ hospital
- 2021: Patients Flock to Mission Hospitals as Public Health Facilities Fail
And I’m excited to see support for Karanda from another mission-minded organization we love that’s having a big impact around the world: Samaritan’s Purse.
Where’s your mission field?
That’s the question I asked last week—and as I noted then, you certainly don’t need to head overseas to step into the mission field for which God has uniquely equipped you.
There are many ways you can apply your experience, knowledge, and skills to help others and spread the Gospel.
I encourage you to ask God to reveal the mission field He has for you—and then take His hand and step into it to help fulfill the Great Commission by using your experiences, skills, and gifts in the way that only you can do.
This post is adapted from Sue’s Perspectives column in the latest edition of The Empowered Traveler™ Newsletter. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can do that here: Subscribe to Sue’s newsletter.