Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The harvest is abundant and the laborers are few…

Our office just received an email from one of our doctors who is completing his service in rural Tanzania at the Bwambo Health Centre. Mark, Molly and their seven children were the first sent by Mission Doctors to the diocese of Same, and Dr. Druffner provided a detailed report of the hospital, it’s equipment, facilities, staffing and access to transportation and pharmaceuticals.

The harvest is abundant and the laborers are few…(Luke 10:2)

The needs of the Health Centre and the people of Bwambo are indeed plentiful. The hospital is without an x-ray machine, a fully stocked pharmacy or full staff. The 40,000 people who are served by this rural hospital are without a fully-functioning health center. So, while the need is great, unfortunately, the laborers, are few.

This verse from Luke has spoken to me since I started working with Mission Doctors Association. In locations around the world, hospitals and clinics are in need of trained doctors to treat patients suffering with everything from a broken bone, to pneumonia, TB and HIV/AIDS.

The second half of that verse in Luke has gives us the faith and prayer to continue this work, and we “… ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest”.

We are all called to be missionaries by our Baptism.

If you are a doctor feeling called to work in the mission field, visit the MDA website
and check our 2010 Retreat/Seminar. If you are not able to serve yourself, consider a financial gift to Mission Doctors Association and support those who labor in the field. Working together we live our Baptism as we were anointed to the mission to live and love as Jesus lived.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Holy Discomfort

Dr. Richard and Mrs. Loretta Stoughton returned to the United States in July after nearly 8 years in Zimbabwe.

They are now facing the challenges of ‘re-entry’ – coming home, adapting to life again in their home culture. They witnessed many changes in Zimbabwe and there have been changes in the United States since 2001.

Dick wrote:
“Re-entry” is easy because SO MUCH IS AVAILABLE (gas, electricity, water, groceries, ATM’s…)
“Re-entry” is tough because SO MUCH IS AVAILABLE! How do we reconcile the differences?

I am especially touched by this last question. “How do we reconcile the differences?”, one that is often echoed by those returning from a long-term mission, as well as those who have served a month.

Even for those who may never leave home the challenge remains – keeping the missions alive in our hearts so that our choices, our actions acknowledge this disparity and we live with the discomfort.

Author Ronald Allen wrote, “The Apostle Paul advocated a “holy discomfort” with the present status of the world. Paul’s gospel calls for people to be discontent with brokenness, injustice, scarcity, exploitation, violence and death and to believe that God seeks to increase community, wholeness, justice abundance, peace , love and live…. “

It is in this discontent with the brokenness, injustice, we strive to make the world a better place.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sharing a Gift that Sustains

Dr. Phil Hawley, a veteran Mission Doctor has traveled several times to serve in the Peten in Guatemala. When there he is working with Dr. Linda Novak’s project to provide a service learning program for medical students and residents from Loyola Stritch in Chicago.

Springtime in northern Guatemala — blistering heat, burning fields, and warm hearts. The Mayan men leave their villages each day with machete in hand to clear jungle for next year’s planting, cut lumber to repair a neighbor’s hut, or haul water from a distant river.

Women gather in groups each morning to mend and wash clothing, and then spend each afternoon shucking, striping, grinding, kneading, shaping and baking corn into tortillas. What’s left of each day is used to cook simple meals over open fires. Mayans appreciate life and accept its challenges.

That’s the lesson I relearn with each visit to Peten, Guatemala. And the
countless warm smiles — that’s the gift that sustains me until my next visit.

The community living in the Peten and it's peoples' spirits encourage Dr. Hawley. What gives you the energy and enthusiasm to serve?

Monday, July 13, 2009

National Holiday in Uganda

June 3rd is a national holiday in Uganda. Workers and students are off; churches across the country hold festivals and as many as a million people travel miles to the city of Namungongo to celebrate the lives of 22 young men who gave their lives for the faith in 1885. Why celebrate the gruesome death of young people at the hand of a tyrant, over a century ago?

These 22 young men, Catholic converts, died as martyrs for our faith. In the late 1800s Christianity was for the most part unknown in Uganda. As the faith grew, the young king, King Mwanga feared Christianity’s power and its rejection of both slavery and polygamy (both common practice at the time). This fear and the spread of the religion, led to the persecution and martyrdom of Christians.

Joseph Mukasa Balekuddembe was the first Catholic convert to be martyred. Joseph had been a chief advisor to the King and had spoken out, condemning the King's order for Anglican Bishop Hannington's death. The King would not tolerate this criticism from his advisors and ordered Joseph beheaded on November 15, 1885. Joseph proclaimed "Mwanga has condemned me without cause, but tell him I forgive him in my heart." King Mwanga may have believed that by killing Joseph he would convince other converts to give up their new faith. However, others in the King's service responded not with fear, but faith.

Charles Lwanga was the chief of the 400 pages who were the young men in the service of the King. When Charles learned of Joseph's death he went together with Bruno Sserunkuma, James Buzabalyawo and several others to the Fathers and asked to be baptized. They escaped from the confines of the palace grounds at night to be instructed, knowing that they were putting their lives in God's hands. Denis Sebuggwago, who was a servant of the king, was found teaching catechism and was killed on May 26, 1886. Andrew Kagwa who was the bandmaster to the King was also a catechist who had converted his wife and gathered many others to the new faith. Andrew and Ponsiano Ngondwe were beheaded the same day.

The King's anger and distrust of Catholics grew and he announced that it would be necessary for the pages to choose between their faith and life. He ordered that all the "who prayed" stand aside. Charles Lwanga led the way and was followed by others; all knew what their fate would be. Tied up, the next day they were forced to walk 12 miles to the hill that would be their place of execution at Namugongo. Gonzaga Gonza collapsed and he and Antanansio Bazzekuketta were killed on the road. One of the pages, Mbaga Tuzinde, was the son of the chief executioner who tried to hide him. He escaped from his family and joined the others.

Once they arrived at Namugongo, the place of their death was not ready, and they waited for seven days. They were cold and hungry, but despite this they were filled with joy and kept praying the Our Father and Hail Mary. On Ascension Thursday, the drums alerted them that their execution was about to take place. Charles Lwanga was first; then the others were brought out and tied in bundles of three and thrown into the fire, where they kept singing and praising God until they perished.

The King's intention had been to deter the growth of Christianity, but the martyrdom of these early believers sparked its growth instead. It has been observed in many other instances, that the blood of the martyrs proved to be the seed of faith. Christianity is now the dominant faith in Buganda and Uganda as a whole. The 22 known Catholic martyrs were declared "Blessed" by Pope Benedict XV in 1920. On October 18, 1964 Pope Paul VI canonized the 22 Catholic martyrs during the Vatican II conference. These 22 young people are recognized for their sacrifice and witness of faith.