Roz and Helen are now 6th year Medic students at the University of Leeds. During the summer of 2012 they went to Madagascar to gain experience as well as see what God was doing around the world. They tell their story here:
This summer we spent nearly two months at a mission hospital in Mandritsara in the north of Madagascar. Mandritsara is a town of about 30,000 people but the hospital serves a much wider region; we saw patients who walked, canoed or cycled for at least two days to get there, sometimes carried on a home-made stretcher by their relatives.
It’s set in beautiful, mountainous countryside, reminding us often of Psalm 121; “I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth”. 'Hopitaly Vaovao Mahafaly' (HVM) - meaning Good News Hospital in Malagasy - is staffed by both Malagasy and international missionaries, working to show God's love to the people around them, both through providing medical care and by telling them about who God is.
We went as part of our medical elective; a part of our medicine degree where we can choose where in the world we want to go, depending on the kind of experience we want to have. Both of us wanted to see and experience the delivery of health care somewhere completely different from the UK and the NHS, and as a mission hospital we thought HVM would be interesting in how it integrates everyday work with God. It was hard to see the the lack of resources, meaning patients did not get treatments which would be routine here, but in this place of limitation, we saw the inspirational reliance of the staff on God.
Every morning starts with prayer and a Gospel message in the outpatients department and on the ward, and prayer really does underpin the work of the hospital. Patients are encouraged to pray with their families and the staff, and we saw some patients walk out who were never expected to recover. A girl became a Christian while an inpatient and is now being visited and supported by the community team in her village to set up a church there. In fact, some of our most memorable experiences came from our time spent with the community health team. Madagascar is technically a Christian country, but particularly out in the rural areas, there is a lot of ancestor idolatry and spirit worship, and the community team combine their vaccination trips with evangelism and supporting growth of new churches.
Photo: People walking to Church in the next village.
A family we stayed with on one outreach trip had been practising ancestor worship all their lives, and for over four years had been seeking healing from witch doctors for the wife’s illness. They spent all their money and found no cure. In the end they tried asking Jesus for help, and she was healed in two days!
Since then they have set up a church in their village, and a youth group has developed too, now numbering about 150 young people. We went to this youth group and sat for hours round a fire with teenagers who had walked for miles to join together, learn about Jesus, and praise him. It was amazing to get the opportunity to share some of our stories of faith with them, and hear how they had come to know God. One boy was the only Christian in his village, and his family tried to discourage him from coming, but he would not be stopped, and in fact, he had walked 60km to come!
The work God is doing in this country was so evident to us, as we met people who had turned from spirit worship to Jesus, churches springing up in villages where for years there has only been one Christian faithfully praying, and the many young people we met who had such passion, dedication, and love for Jesus and his work. We could go on...!
Praise God for his plan for Madagascar, and the people he is equipping to spread his word.
Some of the prayer needs we discerned while we were there (and would love the church to join us in!)
- unity between the different churches in the area
- people to continue to step up to continue the villages work
- sustenance and energy for the staff of the hospital, who work long hours and on-calls
- unity between the staff, that they put patient needs above anything else
Finally, going on this trip was such an incredible experience for us that we would recommend anyone who is considering short-term mission to go for it! St George's short-term mission fund was able to help fund us, for which we are so so grateful. Seeing a completely different part of the world and seeing that God is still the same God, in charge, with a plan, and bringing people to him, taught us so much in those two months.