Volunteers help makeover hospital
Mark Kelly, Baptist Press
July 12, 2011

Volunteers help makeover hospital

Volunteers help makeover hospital
Mark Kelly, Baptist Press
July 12, 2011

SANYATI, Zimbabwe — Volunteers

are digging into the renovation of the historic Sanyati Baptist Hospital so new

generations of Zimbabweans can experience for themselves the love of the Great


Many more teams, however, will be needed to complete the ambitious five-year


A 17-member team, mostly of Kentuckians, launched the renovation in May,

replacing worn trusses and metal roofing on the hospital’s pharmacy and medical

records warehouse. They were followed by 11 volunteers from Tennessee and

Florida. A four-member team from Georgia is on the ground at Sanyati for the

first two weeks of July, said project director Peter Sierson of Pleasant

Heights Baptist Church in Columbia, Tenn.

As many as 60 teams will be needed over the next five years to complete the

project, which is being conducted in partnership with the Baptist Global

Response relief and development organization.

The first team of volunteers tore into the roofing work — an act of faith,

considering the roofing supplies hadn’t arrived yet, said Mark Byler, a

physician from Kansas City, Mo., who serves at Sanyati.

“With only four workdays — and no roofing materials — the scene looked

challenging, but this group was up for the task,” Byler reported. “By faith,

they began tearing off the leaky, rusted, metal roofing sheets and piling them

in a nearby storage facility. This revealed some very termite-ridden trusses

that had to be replaced, as they literally just crumbled to the ground. The new

roofing material was on the way — maybe.”

By the end of the second day, however, the roofing material arrived and the

team spent four hours unloading the heavy steel sheets by the light of the moon

and a pickup truck, Byler said. “What seemed like only hours later, on day 3,

the new gleaming-white roofing was in place and skillfully being fastened down,”

he added.

Other team members spread out through the hospital, crawling up in the ceiling

spaces to trace out old wiring systems, Byler said. They ran new wiring for a

solar power system that provides electricity for X-ray and ultrasound

equipment, the labor and delivery area, the operating room, and immunization

and lab refrigerators.

BGR photo

Seth Mishne fastens down new sheets of metal roofing at the 60-year-old Sanyati Baptist Hopital in Zimbabwe, currently the focus of an “extreme makeover” volunteer effort. See video.

One team member, Tina Weitkamp, a clinical nursing instructor at the University

of Cincinnati, spent time teaching nurses and the nursing students about

techniques in neonatal resuscitation and how to help newborns in distress,

Byler noted. The volunteers finished up their week touching up, applying cement

and finishing repairs on hospital equipment.

Texas volunteers Gerald and Bobby Thornton served as on-site project

coordinators from Feb. 1 to May 18. Tennessean Don Smith, who recently retired

after 22 years as a project manager in hospital construction, followed the

Thorntons and plans to serve on site through August.

The five-year “extreme makeover” plan will greatly extend Sanyati’s renowned

60-year history of meeting both physical and spiritual needs, Byler said. The

hospital treats an average of 35,000 outpatients and 1,800 inpatients a year.

The staff performs about 1,000 surgeries and delivers more than 2,000 babies

each year. Southern Baptist missionary physician Archie G. Dunaway Jr. was

killed at Sanyati in 1978 by guerrillas fighting against the government of what

was then Rhodesia.

Byler described the volunteers as “generous, hard-working, dedicated men and

women (who) did more than just put up roof and wires; they ministered to people

they’d never met before in many ways.”

“They shared words of encouragement and prayers with people of the community

and patients. They shared devotions with the staff in the morning. They shared

a meal at a local village of believers. They shared the Word of God at two

different local churches.

“They unselfishly shared their skills and hearts in a way that will last long

after the new ceilings start to fade and leak,” Byler added. “God’s love, shown

in this practical way, is making an impact at Sanyati Baptist Hospital.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly is senior writer and an assistant editor for

Baptist Press. Learn more about the extreme makeover of Sanyati Baptist

Hospital at www.sanyatimakeover.com. For information about volunteering, e-mail

[email protected]. Baptist Global Response is on the Internet at


Sanyati Hospital: First ‘extreme makeover’ volunteers from BGR on Vimeo.