Peace of mind

By Amy Bareham Chapman | Chad in East Africa

In the rural villages of central Africa, Ann learned people are desperate for peace of mind.

Ann is one of several missionaries taking part in SIM’s Faithful Witness Initiative, which is introducing the gospel to communities that have never heard of Jesus as Saviour. She first traveled to Africa from her home in England in 1988. It was the beginning of a fruitful career in medicine that has since brought her to the Ouaddaï Region of Chad.

Throughout more than 30 years as a missionary doctor, Ann has learned that mental health isn’t broached in medical terms by many Africans. The nearest psychiatrist is about 900 kilometres away from the hospital where she serves.

Ann said: “A lot of people here would believe that mental health is for healers and not traditional medicine. Sometimes patients are so sick that when they present to me, they don’t know what they want. But they are very troubled people.”

Those struggling with an acute psychiatric condition are often hidden away and abused. Ann said, “They’re difficult to control, which is why they chain them up really.”

As Ann prepares to relocate from a Chadian city to a rural area, she is determined to make mental health part of the primary care conversation. After all, the Prince of Peace came to heal minds just as much as he came to heal lands.

Chad is a predominantly Muslim nation, and most communities speak variations of Arabic. Over the past two years, in addition to working in the local hospital, Ann has studied Arabic diligently to ensure she can communicate with those in her new home.

She was delighted when three people from her language school came to Christ over the course of their lessons. While Ann played a small role in this, she was quick to attribute their faith to God and his divine appointments.

"Surely this is what God intended when he declared that Jesus would bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted: his children tending to the minds, bodies and souls of the weary and the wandering."

     

The salvation of these peers has been particularly encouraging because Ann has found it difficult to balance medical work and relationship building. Patients need her, and much of her attention is reserved for her clinics.

She’s also discovered that many Chadians can be distracted from religious conversations. She noted: “They’re raising their families and dealing with poverty. It’s a bit hard to find people who are really interested.”

Ann’s role as a doctor has earned her a positive reputation, and she is hopeful that will open doors for improved healthcare in her new village. There, she will treat patients and train nurses as she has always done. She will also advocate for mental health awareness and connect with local churches.

Surely this is what God intended when he declared that Jesus would bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted: his children tending to the minds, bodies and souls of the weary and the wandering.

Pray:

• That God would enable Ann to multiply her efforts so she can do immeasurably more for her patients and community.

• That Bible stories would be translated into the Maba dialect, which is spoken in rural parts of the Ouaddaï Region.

• That Ann would make good contacts in her new town and have discernment as she looks for people who truly want to encounter God.

• That team members would come alongside Ann and partner with her in this work.