In November 2006 Dr Antony Webb returned to Mpongwe Mission Hospital to work as a locum doctor for one month. It was his first visit back to Mpongwe since leaving in 1995. He agreed to help out after a call from Tuesday Musaka the acting Hospital Manager. A sermon had challenged him that giving your time and talents were as important as giving your treasure.
Previously a Swedish run mission, preparations were then at an advanced stage for handing over ownership and responsibility for day to day affairs to the local Zambians. Since the early 1930’s Swedish Baptist Missionaries had carried out a combination of medical and church based work at Mpongwe but in recent years more of the responsibility was taken over by the Zambian people.
Mpongwe Mission is situated in a rural area 70 km South West of Luanshya in the Copper Belt Province of Zambia. Mpongwe Baptist Association has responsibility for over one hundred churches in the area and the hospital, which has 100 beds, serves the local population.
Antony’s first visit to Mpongwe was as a medical student in 1984 but he returned in 1988 with his wife, Lizzie and 10 month old daughter, Lottie to work alongside an experienced doctor, Gunnar Holmgren. Gunnar had been working at the hospital virtually single handed for fifteen years and was very pleased to have a young apprentice to share the load.
The trip back to Mpongwe in 2006 was a chance to renew old friendships and meet some of the board members of Mpongwe Baptist Association (MBA). The MBA were hoping to find new partners to work with them in the future. After returning to the UK, Antony reported back to the fellowship at St Cleers Chapel with the invitation for others to visit and a challenge for the church to adopt Mpongwe as their main overseas missionary focus.
Since then over thirty different people from St Cleers Chapel and other nearby churches have visited Mpongwe on regular working parties. The teams have ranged in age from 17 to 70 and young people under the age of 25 have made up about a third of the working parties.
Another working party is planned for the coming year in November and they will continue renovation work in the hospital. The partnership with Mpongwe Mission has had a number of positive spin offs for our fellowship. It has rekindled a renewed interest in mission, not just in those who have visited Mpongwe but also in those who have supported through fund raising and prayer at home. It has provided opportunities for local mission too with many people in the town expressing an interest in the link and making generous donations.
All who have visited Mpongwe have had a life changing experience. Seeing a completely different culture up close and experiencing the warmth and welcome of the Zambian Christians are frequently mentioned as highlights by returning team members.