Sao finds comfort and hope in Christ through palliative care team

By Susan Akyeampong | Angola in Southern Africa

Irene Westendorp and her palliative care team

Sao has been battling breast cancer since 2021. She lives in Angola, where life expectancy is just 62 and healthcare is far from perfect. 

She has been from hospital to hospital but the cancer always seemed to be one step ahead. She was never able to get the right help. 

This is where Irene Westendorp, a mission nurse sent through SIM UK , and her palliative care team stepped in. They serve  at the Christian hospital CEML (Centro Evangélico de Medicina do Lubango) in the capital of Angola and now provide holistic care – physical, psychological, and spiritual – for terminally ill patients and their families.

Irene had noticed how patients were often being discharged with little support and forced to pay for consultations, even for follow-up questions. Her vision was to create a team that could educate patients and families while managing pain and avoiding unnecessary financial strain.

Irene says: "Previously , it seemed as though palliative care was only available to those patients who already had a nurse in their family, but creating this team meant the hospital could work together with discharged patients in their own homes." 

Her team allows the hospital to extend care to patients at home, from diagnosis to their final days. Irene explains that this support system not only alleviates physical suffering but also provides emotional and spiritual guidance. She says: “Patients and families find solace in knowing they're not alone and can rely on the team for answers, comfort, and hope in Christ."

Over time, the team have earned the trust of the community, including Sao.  Since their visit, Sao has been recuperating and is in a phase of a certain physical, emotional and spiritual stability. The regular home visits have helped her manage her pain and offered spiritual counselling through prayer. 

It hasn't been easy for Irene’s team. They've faced challenges: clashes in cultural values and beliefs, patients wanting to rely on traditional medicine. But they never give up. The team bring medical care and most importantly comfort of faith to people facing their final days.

Irene left the programme in November 2023 but is confident it's in good hands. "I trained local nurses," she says, "and learned so much about Christ's love from my Angolan colleagues." 

She hopes to return and witness the programme's growth, praying that many more like Sao will find not only physical comfort but also faith in Christ through this vital ministry.

Please pray

  • For God to give his strength and wisdom to the palliative care team in Lubango.  
  • For Irene to stay connected with the team, despite the distance.
  • Give thanks for SIM health care ministries that are used around the globe to open doors to show God’s love and invite people into a relationship with him.

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