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Missionary of the Month February 2018

By Anna Kerr on
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Feb 14 in Uncategorized
Medical Benevolence Foundation
MBF has been an adjunct for the Presbyterian Church’s Missionary “arsenal” for many years. Early on, the denominational leaders realized they needed medical assistance for the many doctors serving in its arsenal of medial missionaries worldwide. At the latest count, this ministry is serving 118 hospitals and clinics in 36 countries. It builds buildings, clinics, and related structures, supplies medicines, nurses’ scholarships, and helps with patient care especially in Third World countries.
This congregation has helped to support many doctors and nurses over the years. Dr. Ed McDaniel worked at McCormick Hospital in Chaing Mai, Thailand for many decades. He came back every seven years and was greeted warmly. Dr. Archie Fletcher (John’s father) and Dr. Paul Jewett both served at the Miraj Hospital in India. Later, Dr. Jewett moved to Malawi, and that was the first time our Missions Committee heard of Embangweni.
Dr. Beverly Booth was stationed in India many years before she was transferred to Nepal, from which she retired. FPCH welcomed her several times over the years. Her last time was at her retirement, and one member of the Missions committee gave her a dozen red roses, at which point she wept as she had never received flowers in her lifetime!

Thanks to a fellow who was on the MBF staff, we started to hear more and more about Malawi. He had been there many times and started telling us that although Embangweni Hospital had been in operation for 100 years, it had no electricity and surgery had to be don my kerosene lanterns! He asked us to pray about doing something about this problem. From 1994 to 1996, the committee prayed and recruited. We had to raise $50,000 for the project and posted a “thermometer” to keep the congregation posted on the progress. Miracles happened, and we got the funds, four electricians, two nurses, & some equipment the hospital needed. Connie Kang wrote a big feature in the LA Times and a medical pharmaceutical company donated $17,000 of needed medicines. By the summer of 1996, we were packing boxes in Diane Leggewie’s garage, and she and her daughter joined the team. There were sixteen team members and we were told we had to go in two teams because there was not a place for more than eight at a time. All the electricians and both nurses went with the first team, accompanied by our faithful MBF escort. The painters, fish farmers, and others went as the second team. On arrival at the Lilongwi airport, we were met by Jim McGill, whose wife Jodi was a nurse at Embangweni. We went by ambulance the 150 miles by red dirt roads. All the ladies wore jeans to travel in, and we were told we needed to cover them with shitenges (flat pieces of cloth) as no women were permitted to wear pants in the country! Upon arrival, we were met by Malawian nationals who were staff.. Dr. Jewett had retired, and the lone doctor was Becky Loomis, an avid tree planter as well. She had to be on call 24/7. Remember that was pre- electricity. After dark, the stars were very bright but one still needed a flashlight.  Nationals were hired to do the cooking on wood stoves. No washing machines, no refrigerators, and the chickens roamed freely. No cows as they could not exist with all the teetzi flies. Goats furnished what little milk was available. The diet of all Malawians was sima (ground corn that was like cream of wheat cereal) and rape (green vegetable like spinach).

We had to drink only boiled water (sometimes the water was boiled in a pot that had previously cooked cabbage) and breakfast was a slice of bread with peanut butter (which we had to bring with us) and a cup of hot tea.

The schedule was always Chapel at 7am (Jim had built the chapel in honor of his father, a Presbyterian Mission doctor who had finished his career there at Embangweni.) Then the work day began- electricians wiring, nurses organizing the dispensary, and everyone else doing an assigned task. One day a week was a rural clinic, when all able-bodied folks piled in an ambulance and drove to a clearing in the woods where a dispensary was set up and a nurse checked each child under five and signed a card the mother carried with the child’s weight and other health essentials. Medicines were dispensed by nurses. Those of us non -professionals had jobs like putting a scale on a tree branch a weighing screaming babies, or keeping people in line.

Sunday worship was not usually held in a church building, although there was one large structure, but in an open field which meant people knew where it was to be and walked the distant from their wee thatched roof village to the location. The rule was women and children on one side and men on the other. No choir, but little groups stood and sang a song about the Lord, and when they sat down, another group stood and sang and so on. The language was Chichewa.

When sermon time came, all were attentive. Communion was always served by the elders, and people expected long worship services. (Three hours was not uncommon).
Becky Loomis was followed by physicians Kennedy and Storniolo, and later by Martha Sommers who was recruited by Becky Loomis.

Another part of the visiting crew went further north up a daunting road to Livingstonia, where they wired the hospital there. There was a power grid so they got lights right away. It took three years for the power to come the 150 miles up the road from Lilongwe, for Embangweni to have electricity.

In 2003, when Martha Sommers was at the hospital, she said, “It is so wonderful to have lights in surgery!” The McGills served in medicine, and Jim became the water well expert for all of Northern Malawi. He also masterminded the building of a Guardian Shelter to house family members of patients who came to prepare meals, do laundry, and run errands for relatives who were hospitalized for treatment. Before the Shelter, family members would get in bed with the patients or sleep on the floor between beds so nurses on night duty could not do their rounds!

Fast forward to the current day. Andy Mayo is now in charge of this ministry, and Mark Harris is the West Coast representative. He came to FPCH for Missions Sunday, 2017 and shared the ministry with the Partners class. Sadly, we hear that several on the Houston staff lost their homes in Hurricane Harvey that hit Texas so hard. Nevertheless, they have rallied to offer much help to Haiti in recent days. MBF recently took Ultra Sound machines to several hospitals in Northern Malawi, including Embangweni, Ekwendeni, and Livingstonia.  They took staff members along to provide instructions to the resident staff on how to use them.

Most recently, Martha Sommers was here at FPCH in December, and reported that she is being sent back to Malawi, this time to Nkomo Hospital where she will train interns as she did at Embangweni and Ekwendeni, and those interns are now nationals in charge of those hospitals.

We commend Elizabeth Turk, nurse in Madagascar, and Jodi McGill, now nursing in Niger, for their services rendered, as well as Dr. John Fletcher, third generation Presbyterian medical missionary, who has invested his services at Good Samaritan Hospital in Congo.
Ekwendeni Hospital-patients-malria-nets reduced
Mulanje-Hospital Malawi-600 reduced
         Mulanje Hospital, Malawi                                             Ekwendeni Hospital,                                                                                                            patients with malria nets
nursingstudentsinclassNkhoma-cropped reducedNursing students in class, Nkhoma

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