Nicci, a CMS mission partner at Potter’s Village children’s medical centre in Uganda, shares her journey.
At medical school I harboured a secret desire to join Médecins Sans Frontieres and repeatedly thought about a “gap year” for some sort of medical mission. But the gap year idea wasn’t feasible for sensible reasons: I was undertaking my paediatric training, then studying for a PhD.
Yet every time a missionary came to speak at church, I would be shouting in my head, “What about me, God? What about my dream? Pick me! Pick me!” Not quite as nicely said as Isaiah 6:8, but you get the idea!
And then I became increasingly unsettled and unhappy in a job I previously adored. I decided to look again at medical mission. It seemed very impractical – I had a life in Plymouth, friends, a secure job, a great church, mortgage and bills to pay. And did anyone want a consultant neonatologist anyway? But I started researching, and discovered that neonatal mortality is the one area of maternal and child health that has barely changed under the UN Millennium Development Goals. So maybe I could be useful somewhere. I reasoned that if I really wanted to do this, I should find out a bit more. I expected to be dissuaded but I attended a course run by Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) and was anything but dissuaded! I immediately started planning a sabbatical.
In March 2016 I was accepted by Church Mission Society for a short-term placement. Despite significant opposition to my plans for sabbatical leave, I took encouragement after hearing a sermon about Abraham, Sarah and God’s apparently crazy big plan that they would have a son. This really spoke to me about my crazy big plan to go on mission.
Eventually, after much prayer and God’s intervention, the obstacles to my sabbatical were overcome and the next step of the plan came together – to spend a year at a children’s medical centre in Kisoro, south west Uganda.
I approached my departure with a mixture of excitement and some moments of being quite overwhelmed by questions. To rent the house out or not, possibly selling my car, sorting out the bank, mortgage, insurance, tax and so on – lots of practicalities to arrange. I’d been thinking about the finances for my trip quite a lot while packing, and one evening on the way to church I was telling God about some of my worries and my ideas about how I might save money if things started looking tight. After church, one of the mission committee handed me a cheque – enough money to cover the cost of my work permit, all my outbound flights and possibly even some change! I left feeling totally overwhelmed at the goodness of God.
En route to Uganda, I started to feel pure excitement for what was ahead.
I arrived to a warm welcome from staff and settled into the centre and the town, then got stuck into medical work, seeing some really interesting patients early on – but also adjusting to the reality of working with fewer resources than I was used to.
It wasn’t all easy and fun and positive but my overwhelming feelings were of joy in what I was doing. I met and worked with some of the most dedicated and talented people I could ever have wished to work with. I looked after some of the sickest children I’d ever seen. I celebrated with their families when, against the odds, a child got better and went home and I cried with families when even our best efforts were not enough to save the life of their child. I despaired at some of the poverty I witnessed and was torn between anger and grief at some of the awful things that happen to people as a result of poverty, ignorance or greed. My faith became bigger, deeper, and clearer.
I don’t think I’d ever been happier or felt more fulfilled both personally and professionally than in those months.
Most days work was a joy, and I felt very happy and settled socially too. The year was a bit of an experiment to see if this sort of life was really for me, and I found out it was – I’m now serving in Uganda long-term.
To find out more about opportunities (short or long term) with Church Mission Society, head to churchmissionsociety.org/mission-opportunities