Hello I’m Caitlin Bilton, I just completed my nursing program at Prairie Bible College in Three Hills and in August I was blessed with the opportunity to do rural nursing in Mozambique, Africa.
For 4 weeks, I worked alongside 2 fulltime missionary nurses and 7 other nursing students. We worked at the local school doing checkups for hundreds of kids, worked at the local health post, and taught countless health lessons to every age group. One of our main focuses in our time there was to identify community health needs. We were fortunate to be able to spend several days living with local families, accompanied by a translator, to really understand what health challenges arise in their day to day living. Thus, the full-time missionaries, as well as future groups, can then begin to address these challenges.
We were able to have a taste of what a day in the life of a Mozambique woman is like. With babies on our backs we hauled 20 gallon pails of water a half mile down the road. We cooked chicken and corn over the open fire and sat for hours talking to try and gain a better picture of what their lives look like. These house visits were what missions look like to me, not going simply to give to another people group, but to work alongside them. To gain relationships, share knowledge and love on each other.
We lived on a farm that is run by a handful of Canadian missionaries. The farm is one of the only sources of income for the local villagers. As well as running a farm, the mission runs a school for the village, a health post and has begun a pastors training program. The mission has done an incredible job of empowering a village. While this may sound impressive, it is said that it takes close to 100 years to educate a village. The average villager still only receives about 2 years of schooling. Only a handful of them can read and write and most don’t even understand what a germ is. The biggest barrier to health in rural Mozambique is education. Our group spent countless hours with translators trying to strip every health lesson down to the utmost basics, in order to eventually explain concepts such as how to prevent diarrhea, which kills thousands of children around the world daily.
I would like to show you a short slideshow to give you a glimpse of what my time in Mozambique looked like. (see attached photos)
I hope my pictures look nothing like the images that flood sponsored children advertisements where you see an African child with tears falling, torn clothes and pot bellies. The torn clothes and pot bellies caused by malnutrition is a frequent occurrence in rural Mozambique but tears are seldom seen. I had the privilege of teaching many health lessons to all age groups, but what I took back is the lesson those children taught me, to always choose joy no matter the circumstance.
We worked several days at the local school doing health assessments on hundreds of kids. Almost all of them had signs of malnutrition, many with infected wounds and enlarged livers from having malaria so many times. Yet, as every child sat in our chair to have a head to toe assessment done, every single one had a smile on their face and radiated joy. The people of Mozambique live out Philippians 4:12 every day. This verse states “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Running with kids at the school and seeing a smile when we cleaned out their wound, or laughing with the grannies after we taught a health lesson was the most heart-warming experience. Yet there was also a lot of heartbreak. When your bag of medications can’t cure the baby dying of hydrocephaly or band aids cannot cure AIDS, there’s a point where you feel helpless. A hospital is far and often not set up to adequately treat most ailments anyway. So, I found myself on my knees praying for each patient I saw, first for healing and second to give it up to God. I pray that the medication or the wound dressing would help that individual but I also pray that through my actions Jesus would shine through with the message of hope.
I don’t comprehend why I am blessed with education or the access to western medicine. I could ponder that idea forever and work myself into such anger for the poverty and lack of equality in this world. My heart for nursing was ignited with my desire to not dwell on the injustice in the world or feel guilty for all that I was born into, but to take the education I was blessed with and help the world. I was grateful to have the opportunity to do health teachings and share the outcome of the education I was so greatly blessed with. I knew there was an education difference but I found it alarming just how great that difference was. The concept of teeth brushing or even knowing what germs are is something we learn at such a young age that we wouldn’t associate that “common knowledge” with education. I was challenged with having to dissect every concept to its simplest terms and still at the end of it pray that they understood the main message of the teaching.
While God stirs the seas, I make a splash. It’s difficult to look back at the issues that need to be addressed for better health in Mozambique. I do not have the power or means to fix them all. I was grateful to have the opportunity to make my splash in the community.
This opportunity would not have been possible without the generous financial support of many here. I want to thank everyone that supported me with prayer or helped to make this experience financially possible.