Save Mhlanga

The night is crisp and clear. The moon is full, glowing like daylight at Mt. Selinda, a mission community of the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe.

The night is crisp and clear.  The moon is full, glowing like daylight at Mt. Selinda, a mission community of the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe.   It’s a good thing, since the power is out.  This is day five of a power outage, due to a wild storm that flooded rooms and took a roof off the midwifery student dorm.  The storm also took the satellite dish off the administration building, crashing through the roof, sending clay tiles flying and leaving holes.  Several offices are flooded including the hospital library.  The hospital communication is cut off.  Trees block the main road in eight places, our driveway in two places.  People are walking around saying, “It’s a disaster!”  They pronounce it, Di-SAS-tah, with a huge emphasis on “sas”.  I can smell the blooming Jacaranda trees and the embers of the dying cooking fires.  The air is blessedly cool on my skin. 

So, on day five, the sky is clear and the moon is breathtaking.  I go out for a walk on the path to the hospital.   There are sounds in the distance, voices inside of homes.   I can hear a motor running, clunking really, but I don’t know what it is.  Maybe it’s a generator, but to my knowledge, there are only two in the community, one being at the hospital.   The hospital is dark and quiet.  The hospital can’t afford the fuel to run the generator more than a few hours each day.  

I wander to the hospital and visit the folks at the male ward.  They are using a solar lamp, which is a new addition and provides nice light; however, there is only one light for an entire ward.  A man is in traction with a broken femur.  His wife is parked on the floor next to his bed, where she will sleep.  Through a translator, she reports that he is in pain, but with pain medication, he sleeps comfortably.  There is a rumor that the mission has made enemies with the power company because the mission generates its own power.   I assured her that was not true.  The power company is working hard to restore power, but it was a wide spread storm and there are many poles and lines that need replacing. 

Outside the male ward I meet Save Mhlanga.  Save is one our dedicated male nurses, friendly and handsome.  We commented on the bright moon, casting shadows.  He said he is afraid of the full moon because of a bad experience that he and his twin brother, Gift, had long back where they thought they heard the voice of a spirit.  Since that time, he has had an aversion to  the full moon.  Save told me he was born right here in the community.  His mother was a nurse.   He was in Grade 5 when his mother died, leaving 11 children.  His father died soon after.  The 11 orphaned children moved to Gwenzi, a township about 15 miles from Mt. Selinda.  I asked, “How did you survive?”  He said Benjamin Mlambo, the head tutor at the Mt. Selinda School of Nursing, rescued them.   Mr. Mlambo told them not to worry about anything.  He paid their school fees and Save followed his mother’s path into nursing.  Save said, “I will never leave Mt. Selinda.” 

I am back after seven months in the United States hugging and spoiling grandchildren.  (oh, yes, there was work and training in those seven months, too.)  I have renewed energy for work and mission.  I have new ideas and fresh eyes to view life in Africa.  It’s nice coming back.  I see things new and fresh, like the first time, yet the adjustment is easy.  I love the accent and the way of turning a phrase.  I love the sense of humor and the resiliency in the face of disaster.  I am accustomed now to the local pronunciations of certain words:  “Biz” for busy.  “Mahn” for money.  “Mel-ode” for Melody.   I even understand many of the words in the Shona language, and make a game of remembering words.  It helps that many of the people’s names translate into words I understand.  Chipo for Gift.  Kumbarai for Please.  Tinotenda for Thanks. 

Please keep Mt. Selinda Hospital and our partners, the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe, in your thoughts and prayers as we work hand in hand to save lives. 

Maryjane Westra 

Donald and Maryjanme Westra are missinoaries with the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe. Donald serves as staff to the Micro-Enterprise and Strategic Planning/Management Program at Mt. Selinda.  Maryjane serves as a health and child care consultant at Mt. Selinda.