Former mission partner Pat Gilmer reflects on her CMS journey
I have always had a love for Africa and particularly for East Africa, having been born in Kenya.
So, having completed my training as a nurse, I embarked on a two-year mission-partner training course, believing that I would be returning to the north of Kenya with another mission.
However, despite a passion for that area since my teenage years, I did not end up working there. God had other plans for me.
During my last term, I attended a conference and found myself in conversation with a couple who had just retired from serving in a leprosarium in the west of Uganda.
They told me of the urgent need for a nurse to replace the only fully trained one, who was herself past the usual age of retirement.
This was God's call on my life and so, in 1966, I found myself as the nurse at this church-run leprosarium on an island in a lake in Uganda.
However, times and medical developments had changed.
Given the new medicines available, it was time to change the method of leprosy care from isolation to integration within general medical facilities.
This was radical, because fear of leprosy was very strong. And who was I – a new missionary and not even a doctor – to contemplate and make that leap?
But God worked a miracle, and the changes were implemented steadily.
I spent the next 19 years travelling a large part of the south of the country, setting up the integrated clinics and making sure that patients kept taking their medicines.
It was exciting and an incredible privilege to watch people's attitudes change as they saw the effect of treatment, particularly as some of the most crippled became wardens within the churches.
Following those very exacting but rewarding 19 years, I spent a short time back at home in the UK, and then returned to Uganda.
Another wonderful time of pioneering involvement ensued as I was asked to head up a new diocesan ministry of care for orphaned children, which soon also developed into helping children with physical and learning disabilities.
I am still amazed at how a seed prayer germinated in God's care all those years ago.
During early nursing training, I saw a Leprosy Mission film that moved me at a very deep level. Before the lights went up, I found myself saying to God, Father, if you ever want me to do anything for these people, I will go.
God continues to raise up new people who say, I will go. I believe that God simply calls us to put one foot in front of another while he opens the way and enables our faith journey.
Continuity through prayer and giving
I have also found a huge challenge in 'retiring' to Scotland.
However, I still have the same heart for mission that I had all those years ago. What is God's call on my life now?
I have realised God has been so gracious in showing me – just as he has shown others – that part of the answer is to serve him faithfully by praying for, and financially supporting, those who go now.
But I have also taken up the challenge of another of my own questions. What about continuity of this work beyond my own lifetime? In 20 or 30 years' time, will there still be support and prayer for those who go?
Well I believe I have found one answer to that question.
Like many others in retirement, I don't have a lot of money to give just now. However, it's been a blessing to have worked out that I can leave a small legacy in my will to support the CMS family for that time when I will no longer need such money.
If you would like to know more about how you can help ensure the continuity of the work of CMS, Hannah Caroe, our legacy coordinator, would be delighted to talk to you on 01865 787521 or you can email her on email@example.com