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Our Work in Zambia is Growing by Leaps and Bounds

Authored by: The Rev. Clelia P. Garrity, LCSW

As I write this update on our work in Zambia, my heart is heavy. I so long to visit my friends and to be present at the Mariska Health Project as community members come for help with their myriad medical problems and their desire to learn more about ways to prevent illnesses such as malaria, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, etc. I miss the vibrancy of this beloved community, and despite the fact that I am thousands of miles away from them, the memory of the love that they showed me during my visit 18 months ago still fills my heart with joy and puts a smile on my face.

Victor Chimfwembe, the health project's community leader/pastor, has once again astounded me with his creative ideas and extremely hard work. The 5000 bricks that he and others made last fall have now been used in the building of a toilet stall and a medical clinic. A Medical Clinic!!! Can you believe it? A functional building that includes a small, locked area that houses a refrigerator and freezer, run by solar power, for medications. All this built in one short year - from the making of bricks to the raising of the roof. (Funds for the roof were supported by our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Russell Kendrick – I call it the Bishop's roof).

Slowly, the Mariska Health Project is becoming an extension of the Zambia Ministry of Health (MOH). Via "What's App" Victor and I have been in continual conversation regarding the importance of bringing the MOH on-board and working with them to identify areas of care that they can support with both medications and clinical staff. As of November 1, 2020, the MOH has committed, on an ongoing basis, to pay for a number of expensive medications such as antibiotics and malaria drugs; and they have assigned a community health nurse to the project. Her role will be to both teach and offer care, especially to expectant mothers. Together, Victor and I are in conversation with the MOH regarding a plan for 2021 that will include additional clinics and perhaps the construction of a separate building designed specifically as a birthing suite.

All of this is remarkable and exciting – at least it is remarkable and exciting to me. Perhaps what is most exciting is the fact that throughout, God has been so very present. Present in Victor's life, present in my life, and present in the life of the community. We all speak continually of how blessed we are by God's gifts of faith, strength, and perseverance; and, we are careful to reflect on, through prayer and prayerful conversation, the call that God has given us in this work that we are doing together. We are ever so careful to discern God's will and not ours in each step that we take.

Victor and his community believe that God loves them – loves them deeply. The knowledge of that love gives them hope – hope with a capital "H" - and supports their communal values of love – mutual love – and peace. They possess a hope that is grounded in God's benevolence, and that hope allows them to dream, to imagine, and to make real a future in which their community is not overrun with preventable diseases and preventable childbirth complications and deaths.

Their hope in God's benevolence, and the energy and creativity that it inspires in every aspect of their lives, leaves me breathless and humbled. It causes me to reflect on my own personal and diaconal views of hope. Do I live with a hope that God will inspire and guide me – hope that God will hear my petitions for guidance, courage, endurance, and the ability to love my neighbor in a way that will bring us all a step closer to God's kingdom here on earth? Do I act on that hope? Or do I push it aside as too challenging; too difficult; too uncomfortable; too jarring to a way of being that seeks "political politeness?"

In reading about the Mariska Health Project and the people who enter its clinic doors - some of whom have walked for miles through the desert – walked for miles filled with hope that they will find compassion and healing at the end of their long journey, what are your self-reflective thoughts? How do you define hope in your life as it relates to your participation in bringing about, in some small way, God's kingdom here on earth? How do you transform your hope into action? How do you sustain it? What do you learn from it?


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