Helen (who was in Zambia as a medical Doctor) writes:
Christmas in Zambia isn’t a lavish festival but there are hints of celebration. Two chickens intended for the hospital administrator’s Christmas dinner attempt to escape from a box in his office, disrupting what could have been a very dull financial briefing on Christmas Eve.
Life in the mission hospital is like the rest of Zambia, governed by the slow rhythm of seasons not the relentless march of minutes driving the Western world. Advent and the onset of the rainy season coincide and both are times of waiting for signs of life and hope.
At Christmas, adult wards are almost empty. It’s planting season - seeds are sown when the rains begin. Then people watch and wait – will there be enough rain for germination? Or too much, washing the precious seeds away? These potential crops are their sole food source in the coming year so only the very sick will come to hospital, any lesser ailments must wait until planting is complete. We carry out wards rounds as usual on Christmas Day, handing out a donated garment to each patient as we go.
The children’s ward is full. Standing water in irrigation channels provides perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, carriers of the deadly malaria parasite. Protective screens and insect repellents are too expensive. Young children with no resistance and already anaemic from hookworm and malnutrition are most vulnerable. Diagnosis is usually simple but the doctors are as desperate and limited as the anxious parents watching over sick children. We offer what treatment we can and wait and hope with them.
Our Zambian brothers and sisters plant and watch for the means of life to grow,
Praying for children to keep well, to grow strong.
Forgive us when we live in wasteful plenty, forgetting our dependence on the earth’s provision, its harvest at others' labours.
Forgive us when we take for granted our medical resources, when we are dulled to others’ pain.
Your way, O Lord, is for ‘all people to see God’s salvation’ –
Help us seek Your Kingdom and work for dignity for all.
1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar – when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene – 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
‘A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.”’