Monday, 4 February 2013

Zithulele Mission Hospital...

Candace and I joined the National Director of Mercy Ships SA and travelled up to Zithulele Mission Hospital last weekend. (26th - 29th January.) Zithulele is in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, about fifteen hours drive from Cape Town. It was an amazing journey up through the Garden Route of South Africa, as the scenery changed from coastal forests to mountain passes, from arid landscapes to lush farms. We even saw elephants on our drive up!

The Zithulele Hospital is located in a very rural, beautiful setting on the Eastern Cape's Wild Coast. It is about two hours to the nearest large settlement, and reminds me deeply of Appelsbosch - near Durban, South Africa - and the time I spent there with Mercy Ships in 2010. People share the roads with the cars, as do cattle, dogs, sheep, goats, and there are other hazards too, including large potholes! There is poverty here and thus much need.

Mercy Ships South Africa, as Mercy Vision, partners with local government and the Zithulele Mission Hospital to provide cataract surgery and repair in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape. Many people here do not have access to adequate eye care and often a simple infection will lead to blindness. Mercy Vision is here to provide expert eye advice and surgery where necessary. Over the past few months, around 2,000 people in the communities have been screened, and at the end of February cataract surgeries will take place for those with cataracts. So what would Candace and I be doing in this environment? Well, I would help with logistics, administration, and driving the team to rural sites for screening. Candace would be able to help the Mercy Vision team as a nurse, and she would also be available to help out in the hospital as and when they needed her.

While it would be a challenge to serve in this environment, both Candace and I have had experience on the ship with limited opportunities, and we both know the sacrifices that such a choice would make. After visiting the site and returning to Cape Town, Candace and I struggled to discern whether we were at peace with our decision to come to the Eastern Cape - and whether indeed this is God's will for our life together. We spent time praying but couldn't see any real answers.

We then had an awesome talk with my Pastor who saw that we both wanted to continue serving the Lord. He gave us a good reminder. God doesn't always give us clear guidance. He teaches us, moulds us, gives us wisdom, and sometimes asks us to make decisions for ourselves using the wisdom He has given us. God trusts us. God's will for our lives is not necessarily one specific path, but He can lead and guide us in what we choose to do. Upon hearing this, Candace and I both felt a tangible peace and thus we can tell you that we are stepping out and trusting God, and moving to the Eastern Cape. We're not sure on the exact dates of our move, but we will likely be heading there in the next week or two.

Keep praying for us - and enjoy the photos here!

 Island Lake, Wilderness.
 Yachts and pleasure craft in Knysna Lagoon.
 N2 Toll Booth near Tsitsikamma Forest.
 Leaving the Western Cape and crossing into the Eastern Cape.
 Bloukrans Bridge - site of a 216-metre high bungee!
 Smit Amandla, SA's largest salvage tug, in Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth.
 Sunset in Port Elizabeth.
 Elephants off the road near Addo Elephant Park.
 Watch out, Pumba's about!
 Nelson Mandela's house at Qunu.
Typical Eastern Cape rural scenery near Zithulele Hospital.
 The turning to the Hospital.
 Trusty Mercy Ships Land Rover.
 Mobile Dental Clinic at the Hospital. 
 This is the Out Patients department.
 Maternity block.
 Mercy Vision unit at the Hospital.
This will be a sterile area for cataract surgeries.
 It even has a microscope.
 View from the Ocean View Hotel at Coffee Bay, where we stayed.
 The Hotel's lovely Dining Room.
 Accommodation at the Hotel.
 Looking down to Hole In The Wall, near Zithulele Hospital.
 Hole In The Wall.
 A closer view.
 Map of the area. Zithulele is located near where the number 20 is.

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