New project helps underpin spiritual ministry

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The work of Partners in Hope is supported by SIM Malawi project MW#96853 Medical Discipleship and Spiritual Ministry

In the third of four articles on Partners in Hope Medical Centre we look at the spiritual side of its work and the new SIM Malawi project which has recently been set up

Since its inception, the spiritual life of Partners in Hope Medical Centre (PIH) has been as important as the medical services it provides to patients. Almost two years ago, PIH appointed a new full-time Chaplain to oversee its spiritual work and development, and the new SIM Malawi project which has now come into force also looks to underpin this.

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Chapel Service Revd Joseph Chirwa leading a Chapel Service for Partners in Hope staff. These services are held twice a week

The Chaplain is Revd Joseph Chirwa, who is also the pastor of a church in Lilongwe’s Area 36 which sits within the Centre’s catchment area, and he is very clear about what his rôle entails: “We consider the spiritual ministry as part of the ‘core business’ of PIH, and my job is to lead that,” he said.

“PIH has got a vibrant spiritual ministry, and we organise activities for both the staff and the patients. So, for example, we have Chapel Services twice a week on Wednesday and Friday and we have a staff Bible Study every Thursday.

“For the patients in the Dalitso Ward we have more of a one-to-one setting, but before the Moyo Clinic opens every day we have prayers and some preaching in the patient waiting area.”

Revd Chirwa notes that PIH is an inter-denominational organisation and the spiritual activities that are run offer help to bring people together and to unify them; this is especially true of and for the staff members.  He has also seen the ministry having a significant impact on the staff.

“I have seen an increase in the knowledge of the Bible for many people; they want to know more about the Bible and how to use it as well,” he said.

“There has been an increased interest in prayer, with people forming groups to meet together to pray and also praying with and for patients. The programmes we have are certainly helping people because I see them maturing in their faith.”

‘Hand of Hope’: The Hand of Hope shop has been set up so that money can be raised to help patients who otherwise may struggle to attend their clinic appointments

The new SIM Malawi project, Medical Discipleship and Spiritual Ministry, will further help in the development of these programmes and ministries. The Objectives of the Project are threefold:

· To disciple Malawian Christian staff at PIH and encourage, challenge and equip them for spiritual and pastoral ministry at the Medical Centre and in the community through the Community Outreach programmes, specifically to train three staff to act together as a Spiritual Ministry team with, and alongside, the chaplain.

· To provide for the spiritual needs of patients, and evangelise patients and community, through above 50% staff attendance at chapel and through the formation of two to five small groups for staff, and counselling support groups for patients.

· To work with traditional leaders and pastors/churches in the catchment area to provide ongoing spiritual support in the community - linking patients with churches etc. Specifically, to see three pastoral community mentors.

“We are excited about getting to grips with the new project as this will help us integrate the spiritual ministry of PIH more closely with the medical work,” said Revd Chirwa.

“The new project will allow us to disciple more deeply the medical staff, to take discipleship out into the community through the work of Tigwirane Manja, and we are certain that this will have a major and positive impact on the life and work of PIH.

“This new project is also important because, right from the outset, PIH was founded on the basis of God’s Word, so it is important that this work goes on and is now more structured than in the past. Every day we come across patients whose needs are not just medical but also spiritual, so if we can empower physicians, nurses and other workers in the Word, then they should be able to exercise a spiritual ministry in addition to their everyday work; this could be vital for patients and staff, as they experience both sides of the work,” said Revd Chirwa.

One of the things which Revd Chirwa has introduced to help patients in a practical way, as well as spiritual, is the ‘Hand of Hope’. At its heart it is a tuck shop on the premises.

“One of the things we found when visiting patients in the community was that there were many who were so poor that they were not able to afford transport to travel to PIH,” said Revd Chirwa.

“This meant that they were not being as regular as they should be in taking their ARVs. We decided that we needed to do something to help them if we could, so we came up with the idea of Hand of Hope,

“We sell snacks and drinks and so on through the tuck shop, and any ‘profits’ are used to subsidise poorer patients in the community to help them attend PIH. We hope that by supporting them in this way they no longer have to decide between eating or taking ARVs as both are important in their treatment.

“It is a small aspect of our work, but we are already seeing some benefits, and so are those people who we have been helping in this way.”

Having a new Chaplain in post is another of the changes which PIH has had to implement in recent years. Like other people in the organisation who are facing change, Revd Chirwa is looking determinedly to the future and has plans for how he sees his ministry developing alongside the new project.

“We are looking at having extra people involved with the spiritual ministry of PIH, people such as assistant chaplains. This will be important as the Centre is now open 24 hours a day,” said Revd Chirwa.

Staff Bible Study: Staff are encouraged to attend the weekly Bible Study class

“If we are to have a strong discipleship ministry in every aspect of the organisation I think that there are three core ministries which need to be developed.

“The first is the Intercessions Ministry. Prayer has increased in PIH and people are becoming more used to it. I think a dedicated Intercession Ministry will be a great benefit to both our staff and our patients.

“The second is the Financial Ministry. We have already laid some small foundations for this with Hand of Hope, but I want to build on this further to help people in the community to access the facilities here in the Centre.

“The third is the Patient Outreach Ministry. This will be for both patients here at the Centre and also out in the community. We need to have people who are willing to go and meet with patients in the wards and also those who are on palliative care in the community to talk to them and pray with them.

“To help with this third ministry area, we are looking to introduce the ‘Grace Prescriptions’ programme which has been developed by the Christian Medical and Dental Association in the USA. The idea behind this is that it helps train physicians, clinicians, nurses and other workers, for example, how to bring the Gospel into conversations with patients. We are at an early stage in this and are trying to set up dates to start the training.

“Sometimes it is easier for such people to engage with patients than it is for me because I am a Pastor, and sometimes people feel uncomfortable talking to a Pastor.

“Our desire is that every member of staff and every patient we encounter in the Centre and in the community should meet Christ, and they should be encouraged spiritually, even if they are already Christians. Such people may need encouraging in their faith. We are looking to talk about Christ, share the Bible and offer prayer support in every contact we have. It is an ambitious aim but one which we will strive to meet with the help and the grace of God.”