Messiah News

Marcella Gowan on her 'exciting and fruitful' trip back to Africa

An immunization and patient education clinic in Uganda

Marcella Gowan attends services at Messiah North and currently works at Linfield University as an associate professor in the School of Nursing. Over the past 40 years she has spent significant time in Africa.

" In my former life I was a long-term missionary nurse-midwife living and working in East Africa, even raising our kids abroad. We adopted two of our four children, one from Ethiopia and the other from the Republic of Djibouti. All four kids thank us often for raising them overseas. Africa and the people we developed relationships with has been a significant part of our lives. They say you can never get Africa out of your blood, and I have found this so true."

Heading to a home visit on a motorcycle.

Gowan received the Henberg International Faculty Scholarship Award which made it possible for her to travel back to Africa this past January. First, she returned to Ethiopia to visit with past workers and friends. She shared the fun fact that Ethiopia is eight years behind our calendar. It was 2015 when she got there!

"It was wonderful to reconnect with so many people I knew and loved and see the ongoing work there".

Throughout her stay she had the opportunity to connect with people she had not seen in decades, and even had the opportunity to meet several children (now grown adults) who she delivered over two decades ago.

She met a young Somali man while in Ethiopia who had spent seven months in prison in Somalia because of his faith.

He was arrested last year for texting, "Merry Christmas" to his Christian friends living abroad. Apparently even his texting was under surveillance by the authorities, and he was put in jail and beating daily for promoting a Christian holiday.

"It's a good reminder that there are people out there who suffer for their faith," Marcella said.

It was also a reminder to her that we are privileged to live our lives with accessible health care, and the safety to express our beliefs, whatever they may be.

Next, she flew to Uganda for the first time, where she served at the Show Mercy Mission Center an organization that seeks to serve the medical, educational, and spiritual needs in the community.

During her time there Gowan intentionally worked directly alongside the Ugandan nurses, midwives and clinical officers at the Birth Center. She enjoyed assisting with the management of the labors and deliveries of several babies and providing patient education. She felt an instant connection with the midwifery staff and immediately became a part of the team and provided much desired in-service education to the midwives.

Every morning patients would line up outside the clinic to be seen, sometimes waiting for hours; Marcella and the other midwives used this time to provide education to the waiting patients. In the afternoons they made postnatal home visits to check on the mothers and their newborns. For more remote homes visits, this would entail traveling by motorcycle.

She found the love and support she received from all the Ugandan staff to be amazing and delightful. They had read her profile ahead of time and knew all about her. They made certain all her needs were met while there.

Soon after arriving a co-worker told Gowan, she needed to attend a Monday morning administrative staff meeting which she was not excited about. But, instead of status reports, she was greeted by drummers and dancers. Everyone joined in singing and formed a dancing train in a small amphitheater at the center.

"It was an hour long and we never talked about anything administrative," she said with a laugh.

Time in Uganda also gave her the chance to experience yet another culture and to see how the medical staff was coping after three long years of responding to the Covid pandemic in a limited resource country.

During her time in Uganda, she would work with and help people from all religious backgrounds from evangelical Christians to Muslims to Catholics. In every place they visited, regardless of faith background, they were given the opportunity to pray when they entered the house. Unlike some other African nations, Uganda does not restrict freedom of religion.

Show Mercy participates in prison visitations and Gowan joined others in meeting with the prisoners and spent time with the women inmates. Many of the women were in jail because of debts accrued through payday loans, often needed to buy food to feed their children. During time spent with the women they had the opportunity to play charades, share stories, dance, read scripture and pray with them.

Marcella greatly appreciated the prayers of Messiah for safety and for the patients she served. It was an exciting and fruitful trip, and she hopes to keep serving both locally and globally for as long as she can.

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