SANYATI, Zimbabwe – Joining in the “extreme makeover” of Sanyati Baptist Hospital in Zimbabwe, a crew of nine youth, ages 11-18, proved up to the task.
In four days, the “missionary kids,” whose parents serve in nearby Botswana and South Africa, offloaded 15,000 pounds of roofing metal from a truck and assembled 15,000 screws to help future roofing teams, besides painting a hallway, inventorying supplies and visiting two local churches.
Sanyati Baptist Hospital, a 60-year-old icon of Southern Baptist work, had fallen into serious disrepair over the past decade as the African country’s economy collapsed. The problems included a broken water system, leaking roofs and rotting, termite-damaged wood. The electrical supply, averaging only four hours a day, was so unreliable that hospital staff had installed auto headlights and a battery in an operating room to be sure doctors weren’t plunged into the dark in the middle of surgery.
“This team of kids maintained a great attitude of servanthood, flexibility and commitment to the task at hand,” said Daren Davis, an International Mission Board missionary in Botswana who was one of four fathers accompanying the youth. “They enjoyed working together, playing together and eating together. It was a great experience for these kids and something they will not soon forget.
The task of assembling roofing screws was tackled by a team of “missionary kids” during a four-day venture to Sanyati Baptist Hospital in Zimbabwe. The screws – made up of three separate parts – came in bags of 1,000. By the last day, 15 bags were completed, enabling an upcoming volunteer roofing team to quickly start roofing more the hospital compound’s buildings.
“They were moved at the conditions the patients must live in and the inadequate resources the nurses and doctors have at their disposal to meet the needs of these patients,” Davis said. “They were blessed to be able to do a little to help make the hospital a better place and to share a message of encouragement with area churches.”
“Even though my jobs were small,” said Meredith Davis, 16, daughter of Daren Davis and his wife Shawna, “I know they were important and that I was helping the future teams that are going to come and put the new roof on the hospital.”
Meredith’s brother Micah, 18, added, “When younger generations go on trips like these, they will see that they need to stop complaining about the hard stuff that they are going through because other people are going through things that are twice as hard.
“I learned that I need to be happy with what I have and stop wishing for things I don’t have.”
Rhett Warner, 12, was struck by Sanyati Baptist Hospital’s importance.
It is “the only hospital in that village, and the village is in the middle of nowhere,” said Warner, son of missionaries Brandon and Torie Warner in Botswana. “So it was cool being able to repaint the walls and assemble screws for them. If I have another chance to go again, I will definitely go.”
The hospital handles 35,000 outpatients and 1,800 inpatients a year as well 1,000 surgeries and 1,500 births, said Mark Hatfield, who with his wife Susan directs work in Sub-Saharan Africa for Baptist Global Response, a key partner in the renovation project.
“With the economic difficulties Zimbabwe has experienced the past 10 years, many people find it very difficult to feed their families, much less provide medical care,” Hatfield said. “Sanyati is the only option for hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who need medical care. Hospitals in the country struggle to keep their doors open, and volunteer teams like this one are making a difference for Sanyati.”
The five-year “extreme makeover” of the hospital intends to restore its facilities to where they can be locally maintained, said project director Peter Sierson, missions pastor from Pleasant Heights Baptist Church in Columbia, Tenn.
A dozen teams a year will be needed over the course of the project, Sierson added.
In 2011, about 125 volunteers came to Sanyati, and another 150 to 200 are expected in 2012, Sierson said. “We were able to replace the roofs on two of the 12 buildings this past year,” he said. “I hope we can get at least 10 buildings under new roof by this time next year, then our thoughts can turn to inside the buildings.”
For 2012, teams already are lined up from Kentucky, Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, Sierson noted.
“We had Zimbabwe churches involved in the project last year, and we look forward to more of them joining us,” Sierson added. Tim Shaw, an International Mission Board missionary in South Africa who also accompanied the youth team in their venture to Sanyati in December, reported that several volunteers from the community showed up to help paint or move steel. “It was a pleasant surprise,” Shaw said. “They never asked for anything, just wanted to help.”
Another boost to the project, Sierson said, is that the Chick-fil-A corporation is “partnering with us in 2012. They already have led a leadership development conference for the Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe that included hospital leadership.”
In answer to prayer that God would call an on-site project coordinator to smooth the way for volunteer teams coming from the United States, Ryan Sifford, a member of First Baptist Church in The Colony, Texas, agreed to come with his wife Rashel and three girls, ages 2-7, to help provide coordination. Sifford, who served on a Sanyati work crew last summer, will stay for six months, starting after Easter.
Plenty of opportunities to help at Sanyati are still available, Sierson said. “There are still openings in the schedule for more teams,” he said. “There is a focus on roofs, but other projects need to be done as well.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly is the media strategist for Baptist Global Response, on the Web at www.gobgr.org where more about the extreme makeover of Sanyati Baptist Hospital is available. For information about volunteering for the project, e-mail [email protected].)