by John Eybel
Clinical Pastoral Education at Bugando Medical Center in Mwanza, Tanzania, is my ministry. Students from throughout East Africa (mostly from Tanzania) are brought together for pastoral ministry in the hospital and the fruits of reflection on that ministry to persons in crisis.
An example of this ministry and reflection follows, an example of which I am particularly proud. Sister Peninnah Kaimukilwa is a Lutheran religious sister participating in CPE. She is also a nurse midwife and AIDS counselor at Ndolage Hospital in Tanzania. Her first verbatim report of a patient interview concerned a 34 year old woman suffering from vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF), an embarassing condition in which a woman leaks her urine uncontrollably. Her husband is a fisherman. The condition occurred after a problematic stillbirth. The patient is also considerably paralyzed below the waist. As a result she spends most of her time sitting in her urine, often unhappily. God, from a considerable distance, "wanted her in that condition," perhaps a punishment, or so she thought. Sister Peninnah offered her patient the choice of Good News about a God who was not so distant from the urine as might be thought, but rather was right there in it with her. This God was there in order to help her to manage as best she could as she waits for a reward. The proverb that came to Sister Peninnah’s mind while reflecting on this ministry was “Hujafa hujaumbika” (If you haven’t yet died, you haven’t yet been created).
Sister Peninnah is one of a group of 12 peers each engaging in a unique and personal ministry. One by one and as a group I help them foster compassion as they encounter others in the hospital.