Serving with hope
John and Gwenda Fletcher seek to make a long-term impact in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
September 20, 2012
When Mamu Mujinga brought her sick baby boy to Good Shepherd Hospital, she was at the end of her rope.
The Congolese woman walked 160 miles to get her son the help he needed. No doctors near her home could treat Kasawu’s rare colon condition. At Good Shepherd, Dr. John Fletcher, a Presbyterian mission worker, and a medical team were able to perform the lifesaving surgeries Kasawu needed. Kasawu was able to make a full recovery thanks to the treatment he received at the hospital founded by Presbyterian missionaries and now run by Congolese Christians.
John and his wife, Gwenda, an education consultant, want to make an impact in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that lasts beyond the time of their service there. John both performs and teaches surgery at the hospital. While it’s the best-equipped medical facility in the Kasai region, it lacks the technological sophistication and medications available in Western hospitals. Knowing that he could do more with additional resources discourages John, but that feeling disappears the moment he sees a patient. He also takes heart when he looks toward the future. “I recognize that by being there I can teach other doctors to take care of people in a better way and that they will save people who would otherwise die,” he says.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo ranks last on the United Nations’ human development index, which measures poverty, literacy, life expectancy and other factors. Gwenda works with educators in the Presbyterian Community of Congo’s school system who are working hard to make things better. She points to people like Pastor Jonas Katema, who walks six miles to the school he serves as principal. Seating is available for only 80 of the 330 students. The rest sit on the floor. Neither the teachers nor students have textbooks, so the teachers work from notes they took when they were students.
Gwenda acknowledges that the challenges facing educators in the Congo can be overwhelming. “But then you walk into a classroom full of adorable children doing their best and teachers doing their best,” she says. “You see the pride of children when they give a correct answer and see them showing off their notebooks."
While striving for better education and health care in the Congo, the Fletchers emphasize that the faith espoused by the hospital and the Congolese church make them more hopeful. “Along with medical care, we (at Good Shepherd) bear witness to God’s redeeming love,” John says.
The church helps instill hope in the Congolese people, and the church-run school opens new vistas for them, Gwenda says. “An education enables them to see the world differently and gives them the ability to impact their own destinies.”