Catriona and Stephen Bennett Link Letter no. 13

Dear friends,

The rains are definitely here – we can’t remember a wet season that was so wet. So greetings from a soggy Rwanda! For those for whom this is the first of our link letters you have read, Steve is a consultant general surgeon and Catriona is a consultant anaesthetist, both from the UK. We now work at Gahini Hospital in Eastern Rwanda where our mission is to provide a surgical and anaesthetic service, develop the hospital’s facilities and train local healthcare staff.

Enjoying the rains!

Gahini Hospital

Catriona has officially started back at work now after maternity leave. She is only doing one clinical morning a week at the moment but is in the hospital almost every day, still troubleshooting equipment problems in the new theatres. It has been a long and frustrating road, especially as you expect new facilities to work, but she is making progress. It has also been a massive learning curve for her as equipment maintenance and procurement are not usually the remit of a consultant anaesthetist.

Steve has continued to work hard treating patients and developing the surgical service. He has submitted a grant application to refurbish the surgical ward which is in an even worse state than the paediatric ward was prior to its refurbishment last year. Steve has drawn up some plans to enable the separation of male and female beds, put in a surgical high care area as well as tile the floor and sort out the broken mosquito netting etc. It is a much-needed project and one he had hoped to do for sometime. Please pray for a positive outcome for the grant application.

 The English-speaking service at Gahini Cathedral

Sadly there have been more setbacks this year. John (our Rwandan colleague in charge of organising the English service) has enrolled in a university degree course which we wish him all the best for. However, this means that he can no longer partner with Steve in leading the English service so Godfrey has taken over as the leader; it’s just unfortunate that he does not live close to Gahini and so it is not quite as easy to lead.

Welcome Godfrey, who has taken over the leadership of the English service.

The second problem has been that the cathedral was beautifully decorated for the inauguration of Bishop Manasseh with walls covered in fabric. This prevents them being used for a projector. There is a small screen available but its size and height make it useless for the size of the congregation. Steve has had many discussions with the bishop regarding this problem but a mutually agreeable solution has sadly not been found. It has left Steve unable to use the projector to show videos or enable the congregation to follow the Bible readings and song words. This is a significant hindrance to the service; please pray for a resolution to this situation.

Fabric decorations in the cathedral.

Visitors

We have recently been blessed with many visitors. Some were from the UK and much looked forward to and some were spontaneous visits from local Rwandans. In Rwanda, the normal visiting times are 7–8am and 5:30–7pm. As you can imagine, this is somewhat countercultural to us! However, every visit is a blessing and we have tried hard to make time for those who visit in amongst the chaos of the children’s routine at that time.

Catriona felt particularly blessed by one of the hospital nurses who visited us. We see her often but don’t know her due to language barriers. Yet she decided she would visit us for the birth of our daughter Rachel, bringing with her many Rwandan eggs which have a vibrantly yellow yolk and are considered very nutritious. She came at 7pm on a Friday night, just after the kids were in bed and Catriona was starting to cook for our visitors from Kigali who were staying over that night. She doesn’t speak any English so brought her eight-year-old grandson to help with translation but understandably he was very shy. So we were all seated in our lounge with us trying our very best to dig up any Kinyarwanda we knew to make conversation. Rwandan children would not be asleep at that time so we lifted a sleeping Rachel from her cot to show our friend the new baby and fortunately she didn’t stir. It wasn’t the easiest 30mins but Catriona felt so blessed that she had visited despite the challenges.

We have also recently enjoyed a visit from Dean and Elizabeth from the UK. Dean is the minister from our sending church. They blessed us with much DIY, both in our house and the guesthouse, and took care of the children for us so that we could manage our first bike ride together in a year. It was a lot of fun even though Catriona did feel very unfit!

With Dean and Elizabeth who came to visit.

Finally, we want to share an answer to prayer! Catriona has been doggedly persistent in praying for and exploring ways that we could find some children of a similar age for Hannah to play with. God has finally provided two other mums, in a town 35 minutes’ drive from us, who have daughters of much the same age. Every Thursday afternoon is now play date afternoon. Hannah is so delighted to talk about “her friends” coming to play. Please thank God for visitors and new friends.

Hannah on a play date!

And finally…

As we write, it is two months to Christmas so we want to take this opportunity to wish you a joyful and blessed festive period.

Happy Christmas!

Wishing you every blessing,

Catriona, Stephen, Hannah and Rachel

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