Carrying out my mission to help thousands in South Africa
August 29, 2017 / By Erma Mae Perkins, Zululand Hospice Partnership, Member Rush UMC
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of the Advocate; all article sin this issue were centered on the theme Trusting that God is Enough.
I have had an interest in the continent of Africa for as long as I can remember.
My friend Judy spent several terms as a nurse in Ethiopia. Judy adopted an abandoned child before returning to the U.S. When Patience, her adopted daughter, was 12, Judy planned to take her to visit her country and invited me to go along. It was an uncomfortable visit in many ways, but upon my return home, I had an intense desire to revisit Africa.
In 2002, I noticed an appeal for a team to teach Vacation Bible School in South Africa. The cost was $1,700— I applied and was accepted. I was a hospice nurse and hoped to connect with work with AIDS patients as the epidemic was much in the news. Our hosts in Johannesburg were protective of us and I did not encounter anyone in healthcare.
Upon my return to work in the U.S., I discovered my colleagues also had an interest in getting involved with HIV/AIDS in Africa. I received permission from the leadership of Lifetime Care Home Health and Hospice to apply for a partner hospice through Global Partners in Care. We were assigned to the Zululand Hospice Association (ZHA) in South Africa.
I went on two visits organized by the leadership of the organization. Then it relocated and there were no more trips to join. I knew if I was to go back, I would have to organize the visits and I lacked confidence.
However, the Lord continued to grow my concern for this mission. In 2006, I trusted that God was enough to support my planning the visit and providing the finances. I am currently preparing for my 14th trip in support of Zululand Hospice and an orphanage, Musa weNkosi.
The number of travelers has ranged from three to 13.In 2014, seven people from Rush UMC accompanied me to convert an abandoned chicken house into a kitchen and dining room for the orphanage.
We shop in South Africa at craft markets and bring items back to sell to raise funds. We have raised over $250,000. ZHA has four vehicles with the Lifetime Care logo on them. This has allowed the staff to grow in size and increase the areas in which they provide care where there is great need. Many patients live in hovels without running water or electricity. ZHA fills the “boot” of the cars with Morvite, a nutritional cereal as many patients don’t have food with which to take their medication. We take hundreds of pounds of medical supplies each year.
It is disheartening to see the living conditions, heart-rending to hear the stories of neglect and abuse, but heart-warming to see the dedication and hard work of the staff. Despite hot, humid conditions there during our winter, God is enough to strengthen the care workers every day. They sing and pray each morning before they are deployed.
When we return home, we carry the orphans, patients, and staff in our hearts and prayers.
Trevor Hudson writes, “In light of Jesus’ example and words, embarking along the compassionate way involves three primary tasks: becoming aware of those who suffer; being with them in their pain; and where appropriate, acting together with them for the sake of their greater wholeness.” A Mile in My Shoes
I am grateful God empowered me to trust that He is enough to provide everything I need to carry out this mission and share the opportunity with everyone who opens their hearts and bank accounts to Zululand Hospice and Musa weNkosi.