In February 2017, representatives from Ten Talents Foundation, Nurses for Africa and Hands at Work in Africa gathered for a weekend retreat in St. Louis, Missouri. The retreat agenda included opportunities for members of the three partner groups to build relationships; reach a clearer understanding of each other's missions; agree on their respective roles in preparing, hosting, debriefing and welcoming back NFA teams; and review practical steps and best practices to advance their individual and collective goals.
The gathering brought together two local staff from Ten Talents, eight NFA team leaders from around the U.S., and four Hands at Work volunteers, from South Africa, Canada and the U.S. In addition to a variety of team building activities, the event featured skits to highlight potential challenges that teams may encounter while in Africa and ways to address them. Among other takeaways, the scenarios presented reminders of how visiting teams fit into Hands’ long-term work in and goals for the community; the potentially harmful effects of giving gifts directly; the importance of home visits in encouraging care workers, caregivers and children; and the cultural significance of prayer in the communities where Hands serves.
Paul Thonnard, Executive Director of Ten Talents, sees great opportunity for the partnership between NFA and Hands. He notes that “There is so much gift and talent in our organizations and so much need in Africa.” He attributes his motivation to partner with Hands to a strong desire to be a good steward of funds. NFA Founder and Director Theresa Poole described a “day in the life” of a nurse and emphasized that “it goes beyond a ‘job’ as a nurse; it’s a calling.” She commented that “If [an NFA] team affects a community positively, then we’ve fulfilled our mission.”
Lynn Chotowetz from Hands Canada described the local care workers that Hands and NFA support as “diamonds in the dust, people that God has placed in these communities to care.” He stressed the great value of nurses and others going to Africa to use their skills but also noted the need to recognize our roles as “scaffolding and to come as servants to those who continue to do the work long after we leave.” We are called to demonstrate servanthood when we go, just as how Christ lived.
Amy Shilling, co-lead of one of this year’s NFA teams to Zambia, feels compelled to “give back” through medical missions after having survived a car crash. Malawi team lead Deborah Jackson cites James 1:27 as her reason for joining NFA -- “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
The partnership between Nurses for Africa (sponsored by Ten Talents) and Hands at Work began in 2009, when NFA sent two medical teams to communities where Hands at Work serves in Zambia. Since then, 20 teams of nurses and other medical professionals have gone to Zambia and Malawi to run mobile clinics, teach prenatal and other wellness classes, and conduct home visits in the poorest of the poor communities through this partnership.
Please pray for the four teams of nurses that NFA will be sending and that Hands will be hosting this year. The first team of nurses will be on the ground in Zambia on Friday, April 21.