Zambia Mission: Letting Go of the Familiar

I have been reflecting on how life as usual can foster a healthy rhythm for us. It can also create a dullness of spirit when my spiritual life becomes too routine. Unknowingly, I may re-create God to fit my limited experience of life. I can create an image of God that does not challenge my assumptions of life. Sometimes I even cling to some reality I know in order to have a sense of control.

C.S. Lewis spoke powerfully to me here. He wrote a book called The Screwtape Letters. In the book, Screwtape is the uncle devil of Wormwood. Wormwood is his apprentice. Screwtape advises Wormwood to “impress upon the clients (human beings) the necessity of the familiar.” There are many ways we are asked to let go of the familiar. Coming to Zambia was one way for me. In a very real way, I have experienced becoming unmoored from what is familiar to me.

My structured life can insulate me from God and others too much. Without the familiar structure, there is a directness with God that I sense now, which can also be daunting. God is close, yet not warm and fuzzy. When I let go of the image, I simply abide with God.  It would be like telling a fish in the water to go find the sea. The fish is in the sea. So it is when I let go of my notion of God that I let God be God.

A Local Hospital Visit

Sister Deb took us to see the local hospital. Patients do not have to pay to be hospitalized; however, they pay dearly in other ways. This is a ward hospital, so patients are in a common room. There are no sheets provided, nor is there food service. Patients come with a blanket and a family member to stay with them. The Sisters often get a call saying that someone is in the hospital and asking if they could bring food.

I must admit that when I saw the conditions of the hospital I became white with shock. I struggled to imagine how anyone facing an illness severe enough to risk coming to this hospital could find hope there. So while the stay may be free, the risk of additional infections is very high.

One nurse that the Sisters helped educate spoke with me about the challenges they face. He also chafes at the conditions and tried to imagine what a hospital in America looked like. For instance he asked about our wards and I had to tell him every patient has a private room with a bathroom. Even this was stunning to him. Trying to care for the patients without basic materials is distressing to him.

They also have ingenious ways – like hanging an IV bag on a wire strung across the room or a baby sling attached to a scale like we would see at a grocery store. I understand there is a mission hospital in the area, which I did not see and I am told has more resources.

I will continue to share my journey and experiences when I have time and resources to do so!

By Sr. Mary Thomas

Missions Services at Avera McKennan Hospital

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