Tag Archive for: Central Africa Medical Mission

CAMM January 2024 Newsletter

Originally appears on the Central Africa Medical Mission website. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

As I write this letter, it is late December and it’s amazing how it feels just like yesterday that we were celebrating the beginning of 2023. Now that we are just a few days away from ending 2023, there is so much to be grateful for—especially the gift of life that the Lord has granted us throughout the year.

Here in Malawi, December always comes with heavy rains. It’s the time when all the farmers plant their fields knowing that the rainy season has arrived. However, this December was different because a lot of districts had not received any rain until mid-month. This brought so many worries to farmers as they had no hope on when the rains would start. But because our Lord is good, by December 20, Lilongwe and other districts received heavy rains. People were happy and ready to work in their fields.

Despite being happy about the rains, during this rainy season the clinic faced challenges in so many ways. December 20 was a clinic day at Suzi, and because it had rained heavily we had difficulty traveling to the clinic site. The road was bumpy and very muddy making it hard for driving. Despite all these difficulties, we still made it to the clinic as our land cruisers are good, even on bad roads.

Upon reaching the clinic, we found a large crowd of people—men, women, and children—sheltering under the roof of the clinic and some under the trees as it was still raining. The people were happy seeing us as they thought we wouldn’t make it due to the bad road. When our staff were setting up the clinic, our clinicians had already started seeing the patients that were triaged by the village staff before we arrived. These people were very sick and the complaint that presented the most was malaria.

Malaria is a condition that worsens during the rainy season and is one of the leading causes of death in Malawi. From the month of October on, our clinic started registering an increase in malaria cases that worsened in November and December. Not only has this malaria affected children under five, but it is also affecting adults. As a clinic, we are always prepared for this as we carry enough malaria testing kits and medication for uncomplicated malaria. Not only that, but we also carry with us medication for complicated malaria, which we give to patients before we refer them to hospitals for continued management. As always, our staff, who are hardworking and team players, did an outstanding job in dealing with the large number of patients we saw that day. When a staff member sees that a colleague needs help, they can be relied on to jump in and assist without being told to do so. We thank God for this and may he continue blessing all of the staff.

Written by Violet Chikwatu, nurse in charge at the Central Africa Medical Mission Lutheran Mobile clinic in Malawi. 

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CAMM December 2023 Newsletter

Originally appears on the Central Africa Medical Mission website. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

“Praise the Lord, all you nations! Worship him, all you peoples! Because God’s faithful love toward us is strong. The Lord’s faithfulness lasts forever!” – Psalm 117:1-2

This Bible verse certainly describes the work of the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) in 2023. God’s faithful love has been strong toward both of our clinics in Zambia and Malawi. God’s blessings have reached the staff and patients in countless ways; they have been abounding! And we thank and praise him for his love and faithfulness.

CARE OF PATIENTS:
In 2023, we saw over 70,000 patients. The patients came for physical healing or preventative care, and we were able to provide treatment, medications, testing, and health education. At the beginning of 2023 we were challenged with the thought that cholera would continue to spread and possibly create a pandemic. Thankfully, this was not the case and it quickly receded. HIV rates have chronically been high in the past several years. By God’s grace, while testing at our clinic sites has been increasing, the number of positive HIV tests has been decreasing. Staff continues to educate and test visitors at the clinics. At the Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Zambia, the clinic continues to be recognized by the Zambian government for exemplary care.

CLINIC LOCATIONS:
By the blessing of God, all our clinic sites were remodeled and have been in full use in 2023. The improvements in lighting, privacy, and safety not only help patient care but also give staff a safer and more enjoyable place to work. During the COVID epidemic, CAMM placed hand sanitizing stations at each of the clinics and grass fencing at the Malawi clinic sites. These remain in place for the patients and staff to use because they are good practices to promote hygiene at the clinics. In Zambia, we were blessed with generous donations this year so that we could install permanent metal fencing around our clinic. The fencing was needed to keep livestock and goats out of the clinic buildings. It has now been successfully installed, is effective in banning the livestock from the clinic buildings, and the grass around the clinic has started to grow back.

STAFF:
We are grateful for the staff that CAMM has been able to employ. From the guards and drivers to the nurses, clinicians, laboratory technicians, and midwives, everyone is critical to the work that CAMM is doing. We have 14 employees in Zambia and 17 employees in Malawi. We also have church and government volunteers who help us every day. We are thankful for the care they give to patients, and for treating patients in a Christian manner—with respect and dignity in support of the mission of CAMM to provide “Christ-Centered Healthcare Supporting Gospel Ministry.”

EXPANSION:
In 2023, we were given the green light to explore expansion opportunities for clinic care. The expansion could include new sites within the countries of Malawi and Zambia or in an entirely new country. There are many factors to consider when looking at a site for expansion. One of the most critical is to have the support of a Lutheran church body in fellowship with the WELS at the site. With the aid of WELS Board of Missions, WELS Christian Aid and Relief, and the Lutheran Church of Kenya, we are making plans to hold a five-day short-term clinic in Kenya in February of 2024. What an amazing opportunity to be able to heal the physical needs of the Kenyan people, while also filling their souls with spiritual guidance!

GRATITUDE:
It would not be possible for the Central Africa Medical Mission to carry out our work for over 60 years without our faithful and generous supporters:

• Your interest in staying informed with presentations, requests for promotional materials, and e-mails keeps the mission of CAMM present in your congregations, schools, social circles, and church groups.
• The continued monetary support all of you promote by sharing information about the needs of CAMM.
• The boxes of medical supplies and clothes you carefully gather, package, and ship to Zambia and Malawi.
• God hears your many prayers for the continued success of CAMM, the continued care of our patients and staff, the safety of the countries we are located in, and prayers for the expansion into Kenya in 2024. May God continue to bless CAMM every day!

While reflecting on the past year, we are reminded that God’s faithfulness does last forever! Let us all worship and praise him for our many blessings!

Written by Angela Sievert, Central Africa Medical Mission Chair.

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CAMM November 2023 Newsletter

Originally appears on the Central Africa Medical Mission website. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

The Zambian government through the Ministry of Health and its partners is working hard to provide the necessary commodities to end HIV/AIDS by 2030. In Zambia, there are more than 1,190,000 people living with HIV who are on antiretroviral therapy (ART). As of October 2023, the Mwembezhi Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre services about 892 clients currently on ART, making it the second highest in Shibuyunji Health District.

The facility also offers other services to help eradicate HIV by intensifying identification of new positives, prevention of mother to child transmission, provision of pre-exposure/post-exposure prophylaxis, cervical cancer screening, voluntary male circumcision, viral load monitoring, condom distribution, adult/pediatric nutritional assessment for people living with HIV, and tracking of late clients.

Even though the facility receives support from the Ministry of Health and other implementing partners in the eradication of HIV and AIDS, adult nutrition programs is one area that has not received much funding or support. As the Mwembezhi area is rural and has a high poverty/illiteracy rate, it has been bit of a challenge to implement adult nutrition programs for people living with HIV.

Currently the facility has over 100 clients on HIV treatment with body mass index less than 18, which is below normal rate for an adult. This is mainly related to the non-availability of a nutritious balanced diet in their homes because of they do have the money to purchase adequate food. There is also a lack of understanding regarding the importance of having a balanced diet. Weight, height, and age play a very big role in certain ARV prescriptions and recording such high malnutrition cases hinders and slows boosting of immunity.

After the facility recorded such high numbers of adult malnutrition in many people living with HIV, a staff meeting was held to discuss on how best we can help our clients and some of the interventions than can be put in place before end of December 2023. These measures include:

  1. Continuously give informed information education and communication to not only people living with HIV, but also to the community at large.
  2. Lobby for more height boards and scales to be used during outreach programs so that all client’s height and weight will be assessed regularly to enable early detection of new cases.
  3. To order high energy proteins, an instant porridge fortified with vitamins and minerals for healthy growth
  4. Enforce responsibility in keeping appointments so that monitoring of our clients will be easy and all needs are met on time.
  5. Revamping of the support group for people living with HIV at the facility

As the Zambian government continues adopting tolerated regimens and other models of care with established benefits, our clinic in Zambia,as a health facility and as community health care workers, will continue to put in the effort to meet our patients’ expectations by providing cost effective solutions to help maintain our client’s good health and nutritional status.

Written by Mr. Jackson Kalekwa, Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) clinic officer in charge at the Mwembezhi Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Mwembezhi, Zambia

 




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Medical camp in Kenya planned for February 2024

Originally appears in the Central Africa Medical Mission October 2023 Newsletter. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

The work of the One Africa Team has been blessed as they continue to build relationships with various Lutheran synods throughout Africa. One of those is the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) in Kenya. The synod is led by Pastor Mark Onunda. Pastor Onunda and several other pastors left the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and began the task of building the LCMC from scratch. LCMC is now in fellowship with WELS and has congregations scattered throughout the country. Pastor Onunda spends much of his time on the road, (Kenya is about the size of Texas) encouraging and training leaders and bringing God’s Word to the congregations. We pray God gives him the strength to keep up this monumental effort.

In Zambia and Malawi, our clinics have demonstrated God’s love for all people by looking after their physical and spiritual needs. In fact, part of WELS’ early success in Zambia in the 1960s was due to the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) clinic in Mwembezhi. To help grow the church in Kenya, Pastor Onunda has proposed something similar: a medical camp. The members of thee CAMM stateside committee have prayerfully considered expanding their work to help in Kenya based on several investigative visits by Gary Evans and One Africa Team Missionary John Roebke.

Short term medical camps, which last about a week, are common in Kenya and are used by church organizations to bring people to church properties where they are given physical and spiritual care. A camp might expect to see 3,000 to 4,000 patients over a four- or five-day period. The local government health care agencies support these camps as they are a means of health screening to populations who might otherwise have no access to health care.

CAMM is partnering with the One Africa Team, Christian Aid and Relief, and the LCMC-Kenya to conduct a medical camp in late February 2024. The camp will be held on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church, Kwiangachi, Kirinyaga County, which is located about a 3-hour drive northeast of Nairobi. The church has land, but no buildings, making the camp quite a logistical exercise. Two large 100-seat tents will be provided for shelter and privacy; one will be used as a reception/triage/devotion area and one as a pharmacy. Smaller tents will be used as individual consulting rooms on nutrition, cancer screenings, outpatient services, dental work, eye treatments, and mental health. We will provide the medications and medical supplies. We will also rent port-a-potties and provide a tank for drinking water. Medical staff and some medical equipment will be provided by the government. Transport and accommodation will be provided for staff and volunteers.

The LCMC-Kenya is engaged in much of the ongoing planning and coordination. They will also provide volunteers for security, administration, and making lunch time meals. Pastors from the LCMC-Kenya will hold ongoing devotions and provide pastoral services during each day of the camp. Patients who need follow-up and referral will be directed to go to local health agencies. We have met with Kirinyago County Health Officials who have approved the camp and will provide 25 medical staff, medical equipment, and an ambulance in case of emergencies.

CAMM has agreed to manage the clinic on behalf of the One Africa Team. The camp provides an opportunity for U.S.-based medical and non-medical volunteers to provide assistance. As this is the first of what could be many medical camps, CAMM stateside committee members will be the first set of volunteers to attend the camp. If this camp is successful, we hope to offer similar camps in the future, which will open volunteer opportunities to more WELS members.

Please pray for the success of this camp as it provides an opportunity for healing; and, most importantly, sharing God’s Word with so many people.

Written by Mr. Gary Evans, Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) field director.

 




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Reflections on Zambia

I had the incredible privilege to travel to Malawi and Zambia in July with three other members of the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) Stateside Committee, Gary and Beth Evans and Stacy Stolzman, to see the clinics operated by CAMM, meet the staff, and observe clinic operations. Gary is currently the CAMM Field Director and oversees the clinics in Malawi and Zambia. This blog shares some of my reflections on our visit to Lusaka, Zambia and the Mwembezhi Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre.

Beth Evans and Stacy Stolzman packing up boxes from CAMM supporters

Our visit to Zambia began with meeting Alisad Banda, the clinic administrator, whose office is in Lusaka on the same property where the seminary which trains pastors for the Lutheran Church of Central Africa is located. He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Public Health Administration and is truly a blessing to the clinic operations in Zambia. Alisad has a gentle and faithful spirit that is on fire for Christ and he is dedicated to serving the people that come to Mwembezhi with Christ-centered health care.

Alisad drove our group out to Mwembezhi, which is in a rural area about a two-hour drive from Lusaka, part of it on dirt roads. Before we departed, we loaded up several boxes which were recently received from CAMM supporters across the country. These boxes contained pill bottles, baby blankets, and baby hats, and we were excited to personally help bring those boxes to the clinic staff. About 160 babies are delivered per year at Mwembezhi, and the new mothers really appreciate receiving the baby blankets and hats that have been donated.

We were met at the clinic by Jackson Kalekwa, the Clinical Officer in Charge, who introduced us to many of the staff and gave us a tour of the clinic buildings, including the pharmacy, lab, examination rooms, and the labor, delivery, and recovery rooms. The onsite staff, which is made up of all Zambian nationals, is led by Jackson, who is very knowledgeable and diligent in ensuring the clinic is run smoothly and that things are in good order. The clinic is part of the Zambian government health system, so the government provides many medications and test equipment to keep the pharmacy and lab well stocked. Mwembezhi has a very good reputation to provide their patients with the medications and health care they need.

Mothers and babies at Mwenbezhi receiving gifts of hats and blankets from staff

It was amazing to walk around the property at Mwembezhi and to learn that it is in the same location where the missionaries to Zambia established a church, Martin Luther Church, and began their outreach in the late 1950s, nearly 70 years ago.

The original church is still in use, but the original clinic building has been renovated and new buildings have been added, some very recently. The new mother’s shelter is bright and clean and is a much improved, comfortable setting for expectant mothers to come for a stay shortly before they are due to give birth. The new staff house, which is modern and well-equipped, looks like it could be a home here in the States. It is waiting for power to be connected before it will be occupied by Mrs. Banda, the midwife.

All of these enhancements to Mwembezhi were only possible due to many donations from churches, schools, and individual supporters, and are critical to continue providing a high standard of quality care at the clinic, which serves around 25,000 patients annually.

As we were leaving the Mwembezhi clinic, a local woman and member of Martin Luther Church named Gertrude stopped by our vehicle to introduce herself and to say “Thank you, thank you so much for all you are doing for us.” Her exuberance, joy in Christ, and her humble thankfulness stands out in my memory. I would like to pass on her words to those of you who have remembered CAMM with your donations and your prayers: Thank you, thank you so much for your support of the Central Africa Medical Mission and the work to address the physical and spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters in Zambia and Malawi!

Written by Vickie Walther, CAMM Development Committee Member. 

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Reflections on Malawi

“You need to be patient!” This is a common phrase used by parents or teachers but what is true patience? During my July visit to Malawi and Zambia with Vickie Walther and Gary and Beth Evans, I was blessed to observe the amazing patience of Central Africa Medical Missions’s (CAMM) clinic patients. Our trips focus was to learn about the Lutheran Mobile Clinic (LMC) in Malawi and Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Zambia to better serve our supporters. I am excited to share a few of our amazing experiences with you.

Clinic each day truly started the night prior when Violet Chikwatu, the nurse in charge, and Lusungu Mwambeye, Clinic Administrator, prepared bins of necessary medical supplies and medications. Each morning, the Lutheran Mobile Clinic staff in Lilongwe loaded the ambulance. On the way to the village of Suzi, we picked up additional staff and completed the 1.25-hour drive to clinic. The dirt roads were an adventure in the ambulance. I celebrated the wonderful driving skills of Vincent who navigated traffic in Lilongwe and the bumps and turns of the roads to the villages.

Upon arrival at Suzi, our staff efficiently set-up the clinic in the church buildings and courtyard while patients were listening to a devotion under the trees from a church elder. The mothers waited in line patiently to have their little ones weighed via a scale hanging from a tree outside of the clinic. Beth Evans and I wandered in the crowd to identify any patients who needed to be moved to the front of the line due to severe illness. The Clinic started and ran smoothly and efficiently. I kept thinking about myself headed to a doctor’s appointment in the US and how I would have been frustrated if taken a few minutes late from my scheduled appointment. These patients had traveled many hours by foot to get to our clinic, waited patiently for clinic to open and then proceeded calmly through each step of clinic (triage, immunizations, doctor visits, pharmacy, etc.). I witnessed a man with severe asthma being assessed and treated by our staff. He was able to leave clinic with the necessary asthma medications for the days ahead. Another former patient with a leg wound came to share with Beth his gratitude for her medical care as his wound was now fully healed. A baby with febrile seizures was seen by Violet and Beth who determined the baby required a transport to a local hospital for additional interventions. Our back-up ambulance transported her there while the other staff cleaned up clinic and took the main ambulance back to Lilongwe. What a blessing to have our two ambulances so this could all happen! the Lutheran Mobile Clinic served 250 patients in five hours at Suzi that day.

Patients waiting in line to be helped

There was no chaos and the staff and patients were calm throughout the whole day. It was a true blessing to observe!

The next day started in the same way at Lilongwe with loading of the ambulance and picking up staff on the 45-minute drive to the village of Mwalaulomwe. So many mothers and babies were waiting and listening to the devotion when we arrived. After devotion, clinic was again up and ready to see patients with ease. Within an hour of opening, three babies were identified as potentially having pneumonia. The ambulance was able to transport them safely to the local hospital. We rejoiced that the mothers were able to connect with our staff and receive the necessary triage at our clinic along with transport to the hospital. I again thought about patience. How long had these babies been ill?

What if clinic was not open that day in Mwalaulomwe. As a mother, I am grateful for urgent cares and medical clinics open 24/7 near my home for my daughters. I am thankful God supported these mothers during their infants’ illnesses and connected them to our medical staff for appropriate medical care and transport.

Words cannot express how thankful I am for the opportunity to travel to Malawi and Zambia to see our clinic staff in action and the patients served. I rejoice in their patience as they waited for care to nourish their body and soul. Please reflect with me this month the words of Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” The Central Africa Medical Mission’s focus of Christ-centered healthcare supporting gospel ministry occurs every day through the support you provide with prayer and donations. Thank you for your support!

Written by Stacy Stolzman, development director for the Central Africa Medical Mission

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Breaking down barriers

The Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) has treated over 70,000 patients a year and has been operating in Mwembezhi, Zambia, since 1961 and in Malawi since 1970. The goal of CAMM was to work side-by-side with the missionaries. CAMM would assist in the physical needs of the people and the missionaries would preach God’s love and nurture the spiritual needs. When the clinics opened, the idea of nationalizing the clinics seemed incomprehensible, but was still part of the charter when CAMM was originally created.

The missionaries, staff ,and the CAMM stateside board made nationalization a reality in 2007, when the Lutheran Mission Rural Health Center in Zambia was transitioned to being fully run by national staff under the direction of a chief clinical officer. Since that time, the clinic has run efficiently and even dedicated an additional clinic building in 2015. Patients continue to rely on the clinic in Zambia for wellness visits, immunization, and labor and delivery.

During the pandemic, our American clinic staff, living in Malawi, were sent home for their safety. It was during that time that the CAMM stateside board realized how reliable our Malawian staff were and that American staff were no longer needed in Malawi on a full-time basis. Careful planning and proper trainings were completed in the months that followed. In 2022, God blessed CAMM with a successful Malawian nationalization! The Malawian clinics are now fully run by national staff under the direction of a stateside field director. What an amazing blessing!

According to Violet Chikwatu, Lutheran Mobile nurse-in-charge, there have been many positives seen in the clinic since nationalization. First, communication is no longer a barrier between the people in the village and the nurse-in-charge. The patients are able to fully express their feelings and symptoms about their conditions since the language is the same between patient and provider. No longer does the patient have to explain the condition multiple times to different people. Another positive impact that continues to grow is the community is looking after and maintaining the clinic property. Through this, the community feels they have a sense of ownership to protect the clinic property and ensure the day-to-day clinic operations run smoothly.

Since the clinics operate fully on donations and grants, CAMM wants to ensure the nationalization of Malawi and Zambia clinics continues to maintain Christian values and operate at its fullest potential with good efficiency. To aid in operation, our stateside based field director, Gary Evans, provides ongoing leadership and financial management. He also travels to Malawi and Zambia regularly to meet with the staff and medical councils, address issues and confirm all medical and clinic equipment, and ensure that the overall properties are being taken care of and maintained.

It has been almost a year since the clinics have been run fully by Malawian staff and over 16 years since Zambia was nationalized. We continue to see God’s blessings through the clinic, staff, and the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) pastors at work. Many bodies and souls are being nourished through the work of CAMM. May God continue to bless CAMM and the possibility of future clinic sites in different areas of Africa.

Written by Angela Sievert, Public Relations for Central Africa Medical Mission.

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Mother’s shelter renovations in Zambia

It is not uncommon to hear babies crying in the village of Mwembezhi, Zambia. In Psalm 127:3 it reads, “Children are a heritage from the Lord; offspring a reward from him.” The Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) has been helping protect the Lord’s gifts and their mothers for over 60 years. The Lutheran Rural Health Centre in Mwembezhi is located about 60 miles west of Lusaka, in Central Province of Zambia. The clinic provides Christ-centered healthcare services to people within its region. One of the primary functions of the clinic is pre and postnatal care: monitoring pregnant women throughout their pregnancies and then through labor and delivery. In 2021, 197 babies were born at the clinic. In fact, the Zambian government mandates that babies be born at health centers such as Mwembezhi, rather than at home.

Unlike the United States, people do not have cars or have easy access to ambulances or taxis to transport a mother to the clinic quickly when she goes into labor. To address the problem, the clinic created a mother’s shelter where expectant mothers can come two or three days before their due date then safely deliver the baby at the clinic. This is followed by proper postnatal care in the critical 48 hours after giving birth and resting before returning home. Before leaving, mothers are given gifts of baby blankets, onesies and baby hats, which are donated by our supporters in the United States.

Before renovations

The mother’s shelter, which consisted of two rooms—an open space and a storeroom (which the local police occasionally used as a jail cell)—had fallen into a state of disrepair. The roof leaked, windows were broken, masonry was cracked, doors were made from rusty iron roof sheets, the paint was peeling, woodwork was rotting in places, and there was no electricity or running water. It was clear that the building needed significant improvement and so a renovation project was proposed.

Additionally, because of an inspection of the clinic conducted by the Health Professional Council of Zambia in June 2022, it was decided that the clinic did not have proper and separate male and female observation rooms as required by Zambian health standards. Men and women were sharing the same observation room. So as part of the renovation project, it was decided that the old storeroom would be extended to create a larger mother’s room that could accommodate up to four mothers at a time, and the two previous mother’s rooms would be converted to male and female observation rooms.

CAMM was blessed to receive grants to fund the project from WELS Christian Aid and Relief and students from Wisconsin Lutheran High School in Milwaukee, Wis. Construction began in September 2022 for the renovation and remodel of the building.

After renovations

The building received a new roof, windows were reglazed and repainted, rotting woodwork was replaced, cracked masonry was repaired, drainage around the building improved, walls and floors were replastered and repainted. A new concrete walkway was built between the mother’s shelter and the main clinic building. The shelter was connected to the clinic’s solar system and lights and electrical outlets were installed. Wash basins were also added. The building was re-opened in December 2022.

With the completion of the mother’s shelter, CAMM has now renovated all of the buildings associated with clinic operations. CAMM leadership wants to ensure that patients are treated with respect and quality in the facilities and staff who help them. The Lutheran Rural Health Centre is regarded as the best health center facility in the Shibuyunji health district. Most importantly, our patients hear the good news of the gospel and receive true Christian love from our staff during their care.

Written by Gary Evans, field director for the Central Africa Medical Mission

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You made a difference for the WELS Central Africa Medical Mission

“As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Galatians 6:10

The WELS Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) has been blessed over the past 60 years with the generous support of WELS members. We thank God for these gifts and pray for his continued blessings!

Below is a brief update on how your gifts are being used to support gospel ministry through CAMM’s Christ-centered healthcare:

  • We are transitioning our Malawi Mobile Clinic operations over to a fully Malawian staff so we can free up our resources to explore expansion into other African countries and potentially throughout the world.
  • We have repaired and renovated all of our clinic buildings, including adding private exam and consultation rooms so more patients are comfortable coming to our clinic.
  • We are supporting disabled children in Malawi by providing transportation to physical therapy services. These children were introduced to us through the local Lutheran Church of Central Africa-Malawi pastor who uses the service our clinic provides to connect with non-members.
  • We now have the capability to hire more staff as needed. Many of our staff are members of one of our sister churches in Malawi and Zambia, which strengthens our relationship with the local churches and the synods overall.

Thank you for helping us get to this point! There is more work to be done in Africa and throughout the world. The Lord calls us to help the “least of these.” (Matthew 25:40) Pray for his continued blessing of staff members who can share their faith with the patients by offering Christ-centered healthcare. Share the work that the Central Africa Medical Mission does throughout Zambia, Malawi, and potentially more of Africa. Ask God to allow CAMM to expand to other countries where we can offer basic healthcare in support of gospel ministry. Thank you for your continued support of the Central Africa Medical Mission!

Learn more at wels.net/camm.

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Faces of Faith – Tsamzo

Tsamzo Lubwe has served as a maintenance worker at Mwalaulomwe clinic in Malawi since 2011. He was born into a Christian family in 1980 in a village near Lilongwe, Malawi. He attended an African church until 1994 when he started attending the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) when it opened a church in Mwalaulomwe.

As an elder of his church, he often provides a Bible lesson, prayer, and blessing before clinic opens. What a joy it is to hear God’s praises before the clinic opens each day! His daily duties include organizing patients into clinic space and weighing patients. He ensures visitors are socially distanced and wearing masks, and he cleans our clinic building and church areas used for malaria testing each clinic day to ensure these spaces are organized, clean, and ready for next week’s clinic. He is the adventurous one who climbs on and off the ambulance to load and unload all the supplies each clinic day. When asked what gives him joy in his work, he stated that people can come for medical services at a low cost compared to other private clinics. He enjoys that he can let his Christian faith to show in his work, and that people see Christ’s love in action through the care received at clinic. His favorite Bible passage is Hebrews 13:6, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

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Faith and healing for 60 years

When you hear the word “Africa,” what comes to your mind? For WELS Lutherans, perhaps a lot of history comes to your mind. History that is often rooted in the work of the Central Africa Medical Mission.

1963: Barbara Welch and Kay Stuh work at the Zambia Clinic

The Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) started doing Christ-centered medical work in 1961 for just a handful of people in Mwembezhi, Zambia, which is near Lusaka, the capitol of Zambia. Today, thousands of Zambians come to that same clinic site seeking medical health (healing) for their body as well as spiritual health (faith) for their soul.

In 1970, medical services began in the country of Malawi as a mobile clinic. According to one of our first resident nurses, Edie Schneider Hintz, “For several weeks at three regular clinic stops we saw over 1,900 adults and 700 children in our under-five clinics. Amazing for their first try in the bush with medicine.”

The Lutheran Mobile Clinic in Malawi currently serves four rural villages. Annual attendance varies between 47,000 to 58,000 patients. The people in these villages trust our Lutheran Mobile Clinic to provide them with preventative healthcare and good quality medical care.

This year, CAMM will celebrate its 60th anniversary of showing Christ’s love through our care of very poor and needy people in central Africa who come to our clinics. Every day at our clinics, we get to nourish the faith of patients by sharing God’s Word with them through devotions and praying with them. At the same time, we get to bring healthcare to children in our under-five program, to adults who are suffering from malaria and HIV, and to young mothers in our maternity program.

Devotion at a clinic in Malawi

We also have some exciting news happening in Malawi this year. We have reached the point where we are now able to nationalize our clinic and give more responsibility to the Malawian staff, so that they can run the clinic and make it their own. That’s always been our goal, and God has blessed us at this time to be able to achieve that goal.

There are so many blessings that CAMM has experienced by God’s grace, and there are even more opportunities waiting for us.

Because of the Lord’s great love over the past 60 years, hundreds of thousands of patients have been helped and countless lives have been saved through the work of CAMM. In addition, many adults and children have heard the good news of Jesus and have been baptized as a result. It’s been one blessing after another as we have provided Christ-centered medical and spiritual care for the past 60 years in Africa. “To God be the glory, great things he has done!” (CW 399).

Written by Rev. Kevin Schultz, Central Africa Medical Mission Spiritual advisor

We are featuring the Central Africa Medical Mission during the month of April as they celebrate 60 years of God’s grace in 2021. Visit wels.net/camm to learn more.

 

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60 years of blessings and progress

The WELS Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) is marking 60 years of service to people in Malawi and Zambia. The first clinic began operating in Zambia in 1961; in 1970, CAMM started a clinic in Malawi as well. By meeting the physical needs of the people they serve, the door opens to share the good news of Jesus.

Over the past 60 years, God has given CAMM the opportunity to provide people with physical care in the name of Jesus approximately three million times. The CAMM clinics in Malawi and Zambia serve all the medical needs short of hospitalization for close to 50,000 people, including:

  • Routine child health and nutrition services
  • Delivery of babies in Zambia (mandated by the government)
  • Pre- and post-delivery care
  • Comprehensive HIV/AIDS health services
  • Outpatient medical services
  • Chronic disease monitoring
  • Making sure villages have safe water supplies and adequate sanitation
  • Teaching on topics such as general health and how to plant and care for nutrition gardens
  • Integrating COVID-19 management strategies to both provide care for and minimize possible infection transmission

Shelly Sievert, chair of the CAMM stateside committee, says, “As we approach our 60th anniversary in Zambia, we reflect on God’s continued grace to our clinic and our staff, which includes ten nationals in Zambia. Our Zambia clinic has been operating with little oversight from the stateside committee for close to 15 years and thrives!”

Now, the Malawi clinic will also shift to operate with a fully national staff. “Although 2020 was a tough year for the world, it gave us time and the opportunity to look at our clinic procedures in Malawi, which have been operational for over 50 years. We currently employ 11 nationals, 1 of whom is a registered nurse,” says Sievert. “After 50 years, our CAMM stateside committee, with guidance from the Administration Committee for Africa, and with prayerful consideration, has decided that the time is right. God has provided us the right staff, the right expatriates to train the staff, and the right support to do this.”

Sievert says, “We thank God for the opportunity he allows every day for our clinics to operate, for the staff to care for the patients, for the chances our staff is given to share their faith, and for his continued generosity.”

To learn more about the work of CAMM and find out how you can help, visit wels.net/camm.

 

 

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Christ’s love compels us

What do you see when you look at this picture? A brick building with no glass in the windows? Perhaps. A structure that needs some landscaping around it? Maybe. Or perhaps you see the few people in the picture and wonder about them.

To me, this picture is the representation of how God’s people work together. In 1970, members of the Lutheran Church of Central Africa who had moved from Zambia to Malawi wanted to bring in WELS missionaries from America. While the Malawian government welcomed our gospel outreach, they also wondered if we could help their people physically. These government members were familiar with the Mwembezhi, Zambia, medical mission operated by the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) since 1961. They approached CAMM and asked if we would be willing to come to Malawi and start a medical mission there. This way, our WELS missionaries could come into the country as well. CAMM subsequently brought nurses to Malawi to operate a mobile clinic that would go out to a village during the day to offer basic Christ-centered healthcare to the villagers. We still operate the mobile clinic today.

This is the basic history of how CAMM started in Malawi. If you have been a member of WELS for a long time, you probably have heard this story before. But even after 50 years, it’s not the end of the story. As the Bible passage above says, “Christ’s love compels us.” Christ’s love compelled us to work with the Lutheran Church of Central Africa-Malawi to build the churches that could also serve as our clinic building, such as the one in the picture. Christ’s love compels us to offer scholarships to members of the Lutheran Church of Central Africa-Malawi so they can work for the mobile clinic and have opportunities to pray with patients and offer the reason for the hope that they have. Christ’s love compels us to know we aren’t done in Africa. Christ’s love compels our hearts to pray for more grace, mercy and his generosity so we can continue our work there and potentially start this work in other places.

Through God’s people coming together over the last 50 years, we have enjoyed the opportunity to work with tens of thousands of people each year. They are exposed to the Word and God’s love when they come to clinic when we start each day with a devotion. They see where the Lutheran church is and are encouraged to come back for worship. Christ’s love compels us to offer physical help with the hope that it could open the door to someone’s heart and soul to hear the gospel. Can you imagine what heaven will sound like when we hear the voices of the African choirs raised up in harmony? I can’t wait to hear it!

May Christ’s love continue to compel us to do his work for another 50 years or more!

Written by Angela Sievert, Public Relations Coordinator for the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) 

 

 

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Faces of Faith – Jackson

CAMM has been operating a clinic in Mwembezhi, Zambia, for almost 60 years. God has allowed the Zambia clinic to be operated and staffed completely by Zambian nationals since 2008. This staff is led by Jackson Kalekwa who has been on the clinic staff for over 35 years! Jackson grew up in Luchele Village, very close to the Mwembezhi clinic. He was a recipient of the Althea Sauer Scholarship program through CAMM and received his diploma in Clinical Medicine. He started his employment as a Laboratory Technician and advanced to his current position of Clinical Officer in Charge. While he enjoys seeing and counseling the patients, a challenge has been ensuring that the clinic is up to date with government standards. In Jackson’s free time, he farms over 20 acres of land which produce maize and soybeans. He is still an active member of Martin Luther Church, where he was baptized, and enjoys socializing with the many people he is blessed to be around. He sees a strong correlation between the patients visiting us and being able to help bring God’s Word to them. The Lutheran church sits next to the clinic, and each day daily devotions are held prior to clinic opening. He is amazed by all the blessings God has given to him through working at the clinic.

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Gospel outreach opportunities in Africa

Opportunities for gospel connections are flourishing across Africa. Christian groups in Uganda, Liberia, Mozambique, and more are learning about WELS and Lutheran doctrine and reaching out for fellowship. One of these church bodies, Lutheran Congregations in Ministry for Christ in Kenya, reached out to WELS and was officially welcomed into fellowship at this summer’s synod convention. More small and scattered church bodies that hold true to confessional Lutheran doctrine are working toward that same possibility.  

The One Africa Team, working under WELS World Missions, assesses the teachings and validity of these groups and how WELS may help. They work closely with the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) in Zambia and Malawi, which started as WELS world missions decades ago and are now independent church bodieson this process. 

“The One Africa Team appreciates the cultural insights that our brothers in the LCCA have,” says Missionary John Hartmann, member of the One Africa TeamComing from the United States, we may not so easily pick up on some nuance, or understanding, or misunderstanding, which comes naturally to them. When we are visiting new places and new groups of people, we appreciate taking a pastor from one of our established church bodies in Africa along so that we can more adequately assess the situation. To be honest, not all groups come because they want Gods Wordsome are only interested in social programs and money. African Christians help see through what is being said to help assess true motives. And in teaching, they might be able to share an African story that helps illustrate a point. 

Representatives from the One Africa Team and the Pastoral Studies Institute met with leaders from the two church bodies in Liberia earlier this year to offer training and to discuss how to combine the two church bodies into one group for training in the future.

The genesis of theschurch bodies and their initial contact with WELS differsbut mostly they are seeking a larger organization with which to partner to share in the truth of God’s Word and to gain insight beyond the training they have access to locally. 

I am sure there are a combination of factors that God is using to build his church,” says HartmannOne thing is the Internet, which makes communication so much easier than ever before. More interested people know about WELS and its insistence on holding onto the Bible as Gods Word as the basis for our faith and lives. There are so many Christian churches out there that do not offer the comfort and certainty of God’s love and forgiveness as we have in the Lutheran churchThese groups [that are contacting WELS] are looking for the truth and appreciate finding and fellowshipping with a like-minded church body that holds onto something sure and stable.” 

He continues, Along with that, many of these groups are new to good biblical teaching and want training for their pastors in the firm Bible foundation that we have and have had for so many years. 

From Uganda, Pastor Makisimu Musa of the Obadiah Lutheran Church first contacted WELS via the Internet in December 2017. WELS and LCCA representatives have visited twice, following e-mail and phone correspondence. They are planning a third visit this year. Obadiah Lutheran Church comprises more than 700 baptized members, 7 pastors, and 11 churches.  

Mozambique has an entirely different story. Over the years, pastors of the LCCAMalawi and LCCAZambia started mission churches across the border into Mozambique. However, since the start of these missions, the Mozambique government has demanded official registration for churches, and the mission work has been suspended until registration is completed. The One Africa Team is working with the LCCAMalawi to register as a church body in Mozambique so work can continue. 

Liberia also has its own unique beginning. Two men from Liberia immigrated to the United States almost 15 years ago. Over the years they joined WELS churches and then studied under the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI), a program of the Wisconsin Lutheran SeminaryMequon, Wis., to become pastors serving fellow immigrants in their local areas. In time, they were summoned by their own people in Liberia to bring God’s message back home. Since then, two Lutheran church bodies have been registered in Liberia, and numerous trips have been made in the past few years for trainingAbout 5,000 Liberian Lutherans worship in these two church bodies. 

Hartmann says that the One Africa Team and LCCA leaders hope to have three face-to-face visits a year with these emerging Lutheran groups if funding is available for travel. During these visits, they present the basic teachings of the Bible found in Luthers Catechism, which serves as the basis for fellowship discussions. 


Learn more about outreach work in Africa in this month’s edition of WELS Connection and at wels.net/africa. 


Working with refugees 

WELS has declared fellowship with two new African church bodies in the last two years: the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia in 2017 and the Lutheran Congregations in Ministry for ChristKenya in 2019.  

Left to right: Grace and Mark Onunda and Martha and Peter Bur

These connections are offering new opportunities to work with members of the Nuer tribe from South Sudan who live in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. Five Nuer men from Gambella, Ethiopia, are studying with Dr. Kebede at Maor Theological Seminary in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, and Pastor Mark Onunda from LCMC–Kenya is assisting with visiting and training refugees living in Kakuma, KenyaThis ministry is being coordinated with the work being done by Pastor Peter Bur, a Pastoral Studies Institute graduate who serves as the South Sudanese ministry coordinator for the Joint Mission Council. 

Onunda and Bur were able to meet to talk about ministry plans at the 2019 synod convention in New Ulm this summer. 

Learn more about Sudanese ministry in North America and around the world at wels.net/sudanese.


Central Africa Medical Mission update 

The Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) has been operating a clinic in Mwembezhi, Zambia, for almost 60 years. Part of its mission is to turn much of the operations over to Zambians. CAMM recently hired Alisad Banda as clinic administrator, an important step in nationalizing the clinic.  

The Banda family

Banda first came to the clinic in 2005 in conjunction with work he did in health & development. He was impressed how the clinic worked so closely with the Lutheran church and enjoys knowing that Christians are showing compassion, care, charity, and integrity in a hospital and clinic setting. Both his mom and dad were Lutherans and instructed Alisad and his siblings in the teachings of the Lutheran church. Alisad lives in Lusaka with his wife, Cecilla, and their two children.  

Besides the clinic in Zambia, CAMM operates a mobile clinic in Malawi. Medical services include preventive health care for children and expectant women, as well as treatment of patients with illnesses such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, parasitic infections, and tuberculosis. The clinics in Zambia and Malawi serve over 80,000 patients a year.


Learn more about CAMM at wels.net/camm.


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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We need Africa

Africa needs us! How many times have you heard that on TV or in your church? Most often people think of Africa as grassy savannas filled with wildlife, poor villages, and sickness and disease running rampant through the continent. In some aspects that is very true, however there are many stereotypes about Africa that are equally false, just like stereotypes about Americans and the United States. Africa does need us; but, did you ever think that we as Christians may need Africa?

Sunset at Mvuu Camp inside Liwonde National Game Park

In July 2019, the Central African Medical Mission (CAMM) brought a group of ten people from the U.S. together to tour Malawi and see firsthand the work of our Lutheran Mobile Clinic which CAMM oversees. CAMM, established in 1961, serves the people living in the central region of Malawi in conjunction with local Lutheran churches. The Lutheran Mobile Clinic in Malawi brings medical care and supplies to the villages of Suzi, Msambo, Thunga and Mwalaulomwe every week. CAMM is entirely funded outside of the WELS budget by grants from charitable organizations and individual donors. Our hope in bringing such a large group of visitors to Malawi was to increase awareness among stateside WELS congregations and donors about our Mobile Clinic’s mission of mercy.

Inside the newly refurbished clinic room at Mwalaulome Lutheran Church

The twelve-day trip allowed us to take in the people, the villages, and the varied landscapes of Malawi. We were able to enjoy the beaches of Lake Malawi and walk through a nearby village. We saw many of God’s created animals at Camp Mvuu while on safari, and we saw the physical needs of the Malawian people treated at the CAMM mobile clinic in the village of Thunga. It is hard to describe the atmosphere and the number of people waiting to be seen by our nurses on a clinic day. The staff works diligently to make sure all the waiting people are seen.

The beauty of Malawi is breathtaking and filled our hearts with joy. Seeing children run alongside our bus waving and jumping excitedly brought smiles to our faces. Seeing the medical assistance provided to so many villagers on clinic day was eye-opening. I feel slightly ashamed that in the past I have been impatient because my doctor was 20 minutes late for an appointment, while visitors to the Mobile Clinic walk miles and wait hours to be seen in a room filled with about thirty other people.

Children show off their new toothbrushes they received at Thunga clinic

I feel guilty for wanting a really nice sweater or newer car when I think about Malawian children who only want an empty used water bottle to carry to school, or the Malawian mothers who just wanted medication to make their baby well again. In spite of Malawians’ lack of material possessions, they are grateful for their family, their faith, and access to medical care through our Mobile Clinic. So, yes, Africa may need us but we also need Africa to get perspective on our lives. We need to see the joy of children running to us barefooted. We need to witness the gratefulness of those receiving the next immunization for their child so they don’t become sick. We need to tell others about the blessings of our mobile clinic’s ministry that, from our perspective, is occurring in the middle of nowhere. We need to be reminded that we have Christian brothers and sisters halfway around the world that shares our love for Jesus and His blessings. We need the opportunity to put Christ’s words into practice: “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.” – Matthew 25:40

As we recall our CAMM trip and the blessings of a safe and inspirational journey, this bible verse comes to mind, “Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” – Jeremiah 33:6

Written by Angela Sievert, Public Relations Coordinator for the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) 

 

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Faces of Faith – Alisad

The Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) has been operating a clinic in Mwembezhi, Zambia, for almost 60 years. Part of the mission is to turn much of the operations over to Zambians. CAMM recently hired Alisad Banda as clinic administrator, an important step in nationalizing the clinic. He first came to the Mwembehzi Clinic in 2005 in conjunction with some work he did in Health & Development. He was impressed how the clinic worked so closely with the Lutheran Church and enjoys knowing that Christians are showing compassion, care, charity, and integrity in a hospital and clinic setting. Both his mom and dad were Lutherans and instructed Alisad and his siblings in the doctrine and teachings of the Lutheran Church. He has worked diligently to advance his experience and professional life, receiving a diploma for Social Work from the University of Zambia (2007) and a diploma in Public Health from the Chainama College of Health Sciences (2017). He will graduate in October 2019 from the University of Lusaka with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. In addition to his studies, Alisad can speak five languages. He is excited for the new challenge and seeing the clinic progress. Alisad lives in Lusaka with his wife, Cecilla, and their two children. CAMM is blessed to have Alisad and his strong Christian values at our Mwembezhi Clinic.

From Angela Sievert, CAMM Public Relations Coordinator

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Central Africa Medical Mission – September 2018 Update

“Lord, Why did you pick me? What can I do to help people all the way over in Zambia and Malawi? How can I help give tens of thousands of people healthcare?”

All of these are thoughts that have passed through my mind in the last 5 years, but especially now as I was chosen to be the chairman of the CAMM in late 2017. I am confident that thoughts just like these also passed through the minds of my fellow committee members – Cindy Fietzer (Nurse Coordinator) and Cheryl Valus (Contact Woman Coordinator) and advisory member, Mike Valus – as we were all about to board the airplane to Malawi. Every few years, the Central Africa Medical Mission sends a few committee members to the field in order to make sure that our ex-pat volunteers in Malawi and our national workers in Zambia have the support that they need. In July 2018, that is exactly what we were asked to do!

CAMM committee helps unpack pill bottles in the pharmacy in Malawi

Malawi, The Warm Heart of Africa, is exactly that. The people are kind, smiling, have a great sense of humor, and live every day in poverty. Poverty is hard. As we drove out to our clinic in Suzi, the first thing we all noticed was the litter. There is litter everywhere because of the lack of basic infrastructure like sanitation services. BUT there are also mountains and green farmer fields and children who see the ambulance pass that are waving and smiling and running after us. When we pulled up to the clinic grounds, we see that the Malawians are resourceful – there is a market at the clinic site because the villagers know that there will be people attending our clinic. We see expecting mothers, parents with their children, and sick people waiting for the clinic services to start. We see our clinic staff member, Mrs. Howa, educating the patients on diabetes signs and treatment. We hear them singing along to the song that she uses to end the education. And we see smiles – smiles at the visitors who stand out, who don’t know exactly where to go or what to do. For Malawi to be called The Warm Heart of Africa is a perfect description.

After our week in Malawi, we went to Zambia. Zambia and Malawi are very different and so are our clinic services in each country. In Malawi, we have 4 clinic sites that our staff travels out to each week. In Zambia, we have one stand-alone clinic in Mwembezhi. This clinic is run by national workers with Mr. Jackson Kalekwa at the helm. Here we offer care 24/7 – including delivering babies. We encourage expecting

mothers to come to the clinic to deliver instead of staying in their homes, so we can help if something goes wrong. We also encourage them to bring their newborn babies to the clinic within their first days so that we can assess them for their overall health. In Zambia, the culture says that the baby should not leave the home for 40 days, so we do have trouble getting the moms to bring their babies in. Watch for a request from Cheryl in the upcoming months on how you can help us with a project that we will be doing to help provide incentives for the moms to bring their babies in to be checked.

Finally, one letter is NOT enough for us to share the news from the clinics and what we saw when we went to Malawi and Zambia. In November, we are going to be doing a campaign where each of us will be sharing a more personal experience with you both in this letter and on Facebook. We know that each of us can give a different perspective on how the little that we do impacts tens of thousands of people every year.

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.

Matthew 25:40

Shelly Sievert
Central Africa Medical Mission – Committee Chairman
[email protected]

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Sweeter the Second Time

Beth and Gary Evans serve the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) in Malawi in the capacity of Head Nurse and Manager of Operations. This is not the first time they have lived overseas. In fact, they first met 33 years ago in Malawi, when Beth was serving as one of CAMM’s mobile clinic nurses and Gary was working as a civil engineer building water supplies with the Voluntary Service Overseas (the UK’s version of the Peace Corps). For both of them, the second time around is sweeter.

Pastor Beza doing devotion before Clinic at Mwalaulomwe

WELS missionaries first arrived in Central Africa in 1953 and began working in Zambia. In 1961, WELS became involved with humanitarian medical relief work in Zambia by opening “The Mwembezhi Lutheran Dispensary,” a stationary medical clinic that is still operating today as the Lutheran Rural Health Center.

In 1970, WELS began serving the medical needs of the people of Malawi by establishing the mobile health clinic in five different locations near the town of Salima, where the nurses lived. Every day of the week the nurses traveled to a different site to offer medical care to people in remote areas. The model is still being used in Malawi today but is based out of Lilongwe, the capital city.

Nurse Beth Evans (nee Ebert) served CAMM in Malawi from 1983-1985 along with fellow nurse Corrine Sievers, soon after the nurses were moved to Lilongwe. Each week the two nurses and their Malawian staff members traveled on a one lane paved road to Salima, which is about 60 miles from the capital of Lilongwe. One to two nights every week the nurses lodged at a small house that had been previously used by a Lutheran evangelist, in order to conduct clinics in the Salima area on two to three different days. One of these clinics, in the village of Katumba, continued once a month even after new clinics were established in the Lilongwe area.

Mothers and children line up early outside the Suzi clinic

By 1984 CAMM received the government’s permission to open clinic sites closer to Lilongwe in the villages of Suzi and Msambo. Initially, the nurses worked out of little storefronts and a grass-thatched shelter. Nola Christianson and Beth were the diagnosticians and would see each sick patient. In addition, there were 3-4 Malawian nurse-midwives, a nutrition worker and a driver who also registered patients. The nurses frequently saw diseases like measles because most children hadn’t been immunized. Malaria was common and many children were undernourished. Then as now, the goal of the mobile clinic was primarily preventative healthcare, including checkups of children under the age of five, immunizations, health teaching and prenatal care for pregnant women, but anyone who was sick received care. The clinic staff encourage all women to deliver in a local health center or hospital, but Beth remembers that a baby was born at a clinic site once. Eventually CAMM turned over all of the Salima area clinic sites to other missions or government clinics. Permanent buildings were constructed at Suzi and Msambo which are used for church services on Sundays. Years of reaching out to Malawians not only with medicine but also with the Word of God in clinic devotions and pastoral outreach resulted in LCCA congregations being established at these villages.

Beth and Gary met through mutual friends, when “social networking” was carried out face to face. It seemed more than a coincidence that they kept running into each other at various events around Lilongwe, like music concerts and farewell parties. Their first official date was a dance held at the “swanky” Capital hotel. Gary used to take Beth to the local tennis club on his motorcycle. Wild dogs used to chase them but no problem, they took turns swinging their tennis rackets at them to scare them off. Gary used to serenade Beth with a song from his parents’ era, “If you were the only girl in the world.” It must have seemed like they were the only two people in the world when they climbed Malawi’s remote Mount Mulanje, the highest peak in Central Africa. In fact, they were so alone (and so hot) that they free to jump into one of the mountain’s ice-cold streams with their clothes on. It was a match made in heaven.

Gary and Beth in 1985

By February 1986, Gary and Beth were married and living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After that, their life in America moved on at a pretty rapid pace. Gary worked for a Civil Engineering company, and Beth started out in hospital nursing. They lived downtown near the campus of UWM and later bought a house in Whitefish Bay. They their first child, James, in 1989. Gary took a job for Waukesha County, where he stayed for 28 years and eventually became the County Engineer. Their daughter Abby arrived in 1992, and their twins, Liam and Olivia, were born in 1996. Beth mainly worked in pediatrics and worked for Children’s Hospital. Eventually the family moved to Mequon, Wisconsin.

Beth and Gary are members of St. Marcus Lutheran Church, where they have both used their unique gifts to serve the Lord. Gary was confirmed in May 1986 and by December was elected to the Church Council. He served in various posts including School Board, Treasurer, and President, but spent the majority of his time as Facilities Chairman, mostly as Project Director on various school expansion projects.   Beth sang in the St. Marcus Gospel Choir, was a Parish Nurse and eventually became St. Marcus school’s first School Nurse.

But Beth and Gary never forgot about Malawi or medical mission. Beth served as the nurse coordinator on the CAMM committee for five years. In 1996 Gary and Beth traveled back to Malawi for a vacation, visiting the CAMM expat staff at that time. Gary and Beth had talked about working again somewhere in Africa after they retired, but in the process of recruiting a nurse for CAMM in Malawi it was difficult to find someone willing to commit for three years. When they learned that a married couple could apply to serve the two positions of nurse and administrator, Gary was eager to go. Beth on the other hand had reservations about leaving her two jobs and her two college-age and young adult kids behind. But after much prayer, things fell into place. Beth found a friend who was willing to serve St. Marcus as the school nurse, and Gary was able to take an early retirement. With their children’s support they decided that the time was right to return to Malawi.

Weekly staff meetings are held at the CAMM house

As you can imagine, there’s a lot involved with uprooting yourself and moving to a foreign country. Beth and Gary put their house up for rent and arranged for Beth’s brother to have power of attorney over their finances. Like others working in third world countries, Beth and Gary got a thorough medical checkup, had immunizations and were tested for HIV because they are working with patients in a place that has one of the world’s highest incidence rates of AIDS.

The work of CAMM has changed somewhat since Beth’s first tour of duty in the mid-1980’s. CAMM now hold clinics at four locations, all in the Lilongwe area: Msambo, Suzi, Thunga and Mwalaulomwe. Local church leaders still offer devotions for the patients before the start of each clinic. The clinic staff is much larger and there are now 21 people on the payroll. The clinic still focuses on prenatal mothers, children under the age of five and nutrition education. There is more HIV testing and counselling at the clinic sites. There is less severe malnutrition today than 30 years ago, but there is more hypertension and diabetes – perhaps the result of a more western (junk food) diet. Increased government requirements and the complexity of running the clinics has meant a change in the American staffing of the mission. Instead of two nursers, there is now one nurse in charge who oversees the medical work, and a clinic administrator to handle the business needs of the clinic.

Gary and Beth have agreed to serve in Malawi for three years, although they will head to the US in June for a quick visit to attend their son’s college graduation. They would like build on the past efforts of many who have continually improved the clinic work , and also to keep the medical mission as a sustainable operation into the future.  Gary’s experience in civil engineering will come in handy, as some of the clinic buildings are over 30 years old and are in need of some TLC. Funds have been raised to complete renovations.

The Lutheran Mobile Clinic staff in Malawi and the Zambian team at the Lutheran Rural Health Center would not be able to do their work effectively without much help and support from their Christian brothers and sisters in the United States. The Central Africa Medical Mission is a non-budgeted mission of the WELS; no money is received from the regular synodical budget. The responsibility and support of the Central Africa Medical Mission has been given to the women’s groups of the WELS. Contributions are also received from Christian day schools and high schools, Sunday schools, some circuits of the LWMS and other friends of the medical mission. The Central Africa Medical Mission reaches the hearts of many WELS members and beyond.

Msambo clinic

CAMM supplies and supports the American personnel as supervisory staff, erects and maintains clinic buildings, and purchases necessary medical supplies. The clinic work is aligned with other private and government run clinics in its approach to healthcare, and CAMM’s clinics are required to meet the regulations of the Ministry of Health in Malawi.  Both the Malawian and United States governments provide some support in the form of certain medicines and test kits, but detailed statistical reports must be completed each month to show how these are used.

The Central Africa Medical Mission is administered stateside by the Central Africa Medical Mission Committee (CAMMC), with input from Medical Mission Councils in Malawi and Zambia. The CAMM Committee is an all-volunteer group, they provide the guidance, oversight and financial resources for the clinic to continue. The current Committee consists of a Chairman – Shelly Sievert; Contact Woman Coordinator – Cheryl Valus; Website controller – Mike Valus; Treasurer – Bea Punke; Outreach – Linda Liesener;  Public Relations – Angela Sievert; Secretary –  Kris Olson; Nurse Coordinator – Cindy Fietzer; Nurse Advisor – Kari Belter; Medical Advisor – Michael Brooks; and Pastoral Advisor – Kevin Schultz.

In the past, contact with CAMM was by mail so it could often take at least two weeks to get a response. These days the Evans remain in contact by cell phone and typically check in with Chairman Shelly Sievert every two weeks or so. More urgent issues can be handled by text messages, email or What’sApp.

Beth and Gary Evans serve the Central Africa Medical Mission in Lilongwe, Malawi

Former nurses and administrators and current CAMM committee members give presentations to schools and church groups around the country about the medical mission. There is also a network of contact women to pass on information to congregations. If you are interested in serving CAMM in Malawi or Zambia, you can contact Chairman Shelly Sievert at [email protected]  Applicants must be in good health and able to do physical work, be comfortable with other cultures and able to adapt to a warm climate. It is important for anyone considering this kind of position to pray, to consult with family and church friends, and to talk to those people who have done mission work in the developing world. Beth Evans writes: “This experience has caused me to learn and grow in my faith, and trust God more than I ever imagined.”