1968: Fascinated, the girl sits in front of the television and watches spellbound the pictures of malnourished children from Africa. Suddenly she runs excitedly into the kitchen and shouts: «Mum, now I know what I'm going to do when I grow up: I'm going to learn to be a nurse, and then I'm going to travel to Africa to help these poor children!»
Mbeya is a city in the west of Tanzania with
more than 385,000 inhabitants.
Although I had forgotten this story, my mother told it to me later, it probably shaped me unconsciously! I learned the profession of a nurse. During this time I made the conscious decision to invite Jesus Christ into my life. With the thought of mission in mind, I later completed midwife training and enquired about a Bible school. It did not come to that...
At the language school in England in May 1981, two written requests reached me independently of each other for an assignment with the MEC (Mbalizi Evangelistic Church) in Tanzania. They urgently needed a nurse for their outpatient clinic. The question stuck with me - I prayed and asked God for confirmation. The Bible verse from Jeremiah 1:7 «Do not say I am too young, but go where I send you» spoke to me then. I asked God to give it to me three times as confirmation. He gave me the verse four times! Just one month later, in October 1981, I left for Tanzania: young, quite clueless, without a Bible school training, without a tropical course, but with the certainty that it was God's way for me.
THE ADVENT OF THE DIGITAL AGE
40 years in Tanzania is a long time. Children, I helped give birth to, have now grown-up children of their own. Generational changes always bring changes. The country has experienced great developmental steps. Among other things, the digital age arrived. Even though constant power fluctuations and interruptions sometimes require strong nerves and patience. But communication with Europe became much easier - you no longer have to wait months for an answer by post. Where once only local food was available, you can now buy almost anything, even chocolate. And the population tripled during this time.
The simple MEC infirmary gradually developed into a 200-bed hospital. The staff of five semi-skilled auxiliary nurses at that time grew to more than 240 people with different medical professions. My tasks changed: In the beginning, I examined and treated all patients myself, without a doctor, partly with improvised means. With the organization of a hospital, I automatically came into a management position. I felt my limits and was grateful when I could hand over these tasks to trained doctors and became a coordinator in the management team.
MISSION ALSO DEVELOPS
Mission no longer equals pioneering, preaching and helping poor people, even though there is still room for all of this today. Nowadays, mission personnel are often employed by local leaders and superiors. This is also a good thing. According to the government, foreign professionals should take on more of the role of advisors or trainers. Thus, I am grateful that I could hand over my tasks to well-trained local staff.
RETURN TO SWITZERLAND
Retirement marked the beginning of a twofold new phase in my life: leaving the work process and re-entering my "old" culture. I am grateful that God has carried and used me and provided for me in Africa all these years. My "luggage" is full of precious memories. While I have returned to Switzerland, a new generation will continue the work in Tanzania, in their own way. It is not easy for me, because in Tanzania I felt at home, and sometimes I am overcome by painful homesickness. Through contacts, prayer or support from students, I will definitely remain intimately connected with Africa and the MEC!
After several months in Switzerland, I am in the transition period – I haven't really arrived yet. Emotional ups and downs and uncertainties are part of it. This is normal, and I want to consciously take the time to settle in. Thus, I enjoy beautiful Switzerland, and at the same time I pray over the question what is next «planned» in my stage of life. I firmly believe that I can also experience God's guidance in this – just as I did when I left for Tanzania.
Susi recently retired as a SMG staff member after 40 years of service in Tanzania.
Since her return to Switzerland she is in the process of re-adjusting.
SMG thanks Susi wholeheartedly for her many years of service and wishes her
God's guidance for the next stage of her life.