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Following God... to Uganda 

The desire to do a substantial mission trip in Africa never left nurse Katie Mead, who is now nearing the end of a year-long placement in Uganda. By Stephanie Fosnight Regester

Following God to Uganda 25 Jun
'One of the areas that my church really influenced me in was in relation to missions and our responsibility to take the gospel through all the earth,' Katie said. 'This command, combined with the passion God gave me to work with children, in nursing, and with orphans, has shaped who I am.'

Last summer these passions all came together when Katie arrived in Uganda for a year-long placement as staff nurse at Good Shepherd's Fold Children's Home near the city of Jinja. As a short-term mission partner with Synergy, part of Africa Inland Mission (AIM), Katie looks after the medicalneeds of hundreds: 80 orphanage children, 250 day school pupils and 100 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!' she said.

Katie has accompanied social workers on visits to far-flung villages through dangerous rural areas, she's arranged treatment for neglected children, and at Christmas she accompanied 26 little ones on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the cinema.

'Being at Good Shepherd's Fold as a missionary has exceeded any expectations that I came with. It has been the most rewarding, and of course, life changing experience,' she said. 'Good Shepherd's Fold is a refuge, a safe place and a light in a dark world for these children who in their short lives have already faced so much.'

After giving her life to Jesus as a girl in Christchurch's Sunday School, and growing in her faith through her youth group, Katie was only 16 when she went on her first mission trip, to Zimbabwe.

'From that moment on I knew I had a calling and that God had placed a passion in my heart that I had to pursue and follow,' she said.

Throughout university and her 20s, Katie did short mission trips to several countries around the world. Yet the desire to do serve for a longer period in Africa never left her, even when she got a nursing job in London.

Following God to Uganda 25 Jun'It took me a long time to actually listen, follow and be obedient to what God was asking me to do. I kept worrying about all the obstacles that were between me and going but he showed me in so many ways this was what he was asking me to do,' Katie said. 'When I finally obeyed his call and said yes, God was totally in control.'

Initially Katie didn't know which mission agency to go with. The first few she looked at didn't seem like the right fit for her. Then one night she had a dream. In the dream, she was visiting a friend's house, and she looked up at the cork board where he pins prayer cards from all of his missionary friends.

'All I could see was the AIM logo - all the faces and writings were blurred but that logo was so clear,' she said. The next morning she got on the computer and emailed Synergy at AIM, telling them she wanted to serve as a nurse in Africa.

'The placement was there waiting for me!' Katie recalled. 'The doors flung open and it was clear that AIM was the organisation God was leading me to.'

Not only does AIM have a 117-year history of mission work with African peoples (with more than four million Africans today worshipping in churches that were founded by the work of AIM) but the flexible Synergy programme fit Katie's needs with her existing job. She was able to arrange a year-long secondment to Good Shepherd's Fold, so she knows her London job is waiting for her when she returns to the UK in July.

'I think the great thing about going with Synergy is that you are not just placed somewhere and left to get on with things,' she said. 'A lot of prayer goes into the placements. You are placed somewhere that is appropriate for you and where you can grow, use your skills and develop newones, too.'

One of Katie's biggest challenges during the past year has been seeing the suffering all around her but only being able to alleviate some of it. She's also faced the practical difficulties of living in her workplace, often getting up throughout the night to care for sick children.

However, she treasures so many moments, from playing with crowds of children in the different houses, to the many profound relationships she's created with other staff members, most of them Ugandan.

'I didn't expect to be blessed with meeting so many wonderful people, making so many friends and being blessed daily by those here that I work with,' said Katie, who proudly blogs about her "Ugandan Nana" JaJa Mary, and an HIV-infected boy called Phillip, who holds a special place in her heart.

Now that Katie is getting ready to return to the UK, she feels the conflicting emotions of joy and sadness at both returning home and having to say goodbye. However, she hopes that the lessons she's learned will stay with her, even back in prosperous England.

'I have been living in a developing country for a year, which will have changed my perspectives and views on a number of different things - money, time, relationships, hope, faith and priorities,' she said.

'I hope that when I go home I will see the world through different eyes that I will remember these people that God placed in my path and who have changed my life.'

Synergy is the short term programme of Africa Inland Mission. Synergy works with the applicant to create personal placements, electives or teams that last anywhere from four weeks to one year. For more information visit http://www.synergyafrica.com or http://www.aimint.org/eu
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