We asked Katie Mead 10 questions about her time serving in Africa:
1. What’s your name and where are you from?
Katie Mead, from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire
2. Where in Africa did you go?
Good Shepherd’s Fold Children and Babies Home near Jinja, Uganda
3. What do you do while you are there?
Until my assignment ends in July, I am the on-site nurse for the 80 children who live in the orphanage, the 230 children that attend the school and the 100 or so staff members!! This means doing twice daily drug rounds for children with HIV, checking every child on site each day, doing medical reviews, arranging and escorting children to hospital appointments, working with the social work team to provide care for those on the feeding programme and external community projects…the list goes on!
Phillip is one of the children Katie looks after. Read more on her blog.
4. What has been your best experience in Africa so far?
I love serving God in such an exciting place. I feel privileged to live and work alongside people from another culture and it’s been great life experience, teaching me huge amounts about others’ way of life, beliefs, cultures and traditions. Most importantly it has taught me about God’s sovereignty. I have grown in my own faith, and my relationship with God is deeper and stronger as a result of the challenges I have seen and had to deal with. In the toughest times, when I don’t understand the suffering and my own inability to be able to help, God has shown me he is sovereign over everything.
5. What do you find most difficult or unpleasant?
From an emotional point of view, it’s seeing people with medical needs who have had no access to help because of a lack of funds or lack of education. It is frustrating not being able to help everybody and knowing that children are sick when there are such simple cures around.
From a practical point of view, it is very hard living and working on site. There is no rest and I work 24/7. It can be very draining and difficult living with 80 children who are all craving attention and love all the time!!
6. What is the greatest lesson you have learned?
I have learnt a lot about being patient. After the many hours I have spent here waiting for a meeting to start, for transport, to see doctors in hospital (my longest wait in a clinic so far is 11 hours!!) I have become an expert at it! On a more serious note, however, I am daily learning (as referred to in the above question) to trust and rely on God and his sovereignty in all situations. Many things in Africa make me question life and myself, as many of the things I have had to deal with are almost incomprehensible. It’s almost like being in one of those Comic Relief videos with sick and starving children. Trusting that my Father has a plan is what gets me through difficult times. I may not understand everything, but he works all things out for the good of those who love Him!
7. How has your experience affected your view of mission?
The reality has been totally different to my expectations. I think being a ‘missionary’ myself has changed my view of what missionaries are, as I have experienced life in Africa and both the joys and challenges that it brings. I have been blessed to meet such a variety of people serving Christ here with their own skills and talents. When I return to the UK, I will have a new appreciation for others serving in Africa, and it will change how I give to them. I now know the reality of what these people have chosen to give up in order to follow God’s call. These people are not just another flyer or business card you pick up at a conference, but real life disciples going out and saving souls for Christ.
8. Would you recommend Synergy to others considering short-term Africa experiences? Why?
Of course! I think the great thing about going with Synergy is that you are not just placed somewhere and left to get on with things. A lot of prayer goes into the placements, both back home and at the placements themselves. You are placed somewhere that is appropriate for you and somewhere where you can grow, use your skills and develop new ones, too! It is not the same approach as with some generic voluntary website that has a number of placements running and you just choose to join an existing one. The process goes deeper than that.
9. Is there any advice you would give to people planning a similar assignment?
You need to have a good church and supporting team behind you. As well as this being important for all the practical things like prayer and fundraising, when you get here you’ll realise what a blessing it is having so many people supporting you. It has been invaluable for me.
I guess my other top tip is to not worry or panic in the days/weeks/months running up to your arrival in Africa. Looking back, I see I could have saved myself a lot of stress if I had actually 100 percent trusted God and not let my human nature get in the way. God had told me to come and that he would provide, yet I still made sure I did a lot of worrying about every detail. Only now am I looking back thinking, “Wow! Look at what God did.” At the time I didn’t appreciate that since I was always looking towards the next big stumbling block that (I thought) was in the way.
10. Why did you choose Synergy?
I guess God chose Synergy for me!! I knew I should be coming to Africa to serve but didn’t know which missions agency to apply to. God did the work by telling me, I sent an email and the placement was there and waiting for ME! The doors flung open and it was clear AIM was the organisation God was leading me to for this trip.