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October 25, 2013

Zimbabwe: Rising to the Challenge

Treating hundreds of patients a day under challenging circumstances, the staff at Karanda Hospital rely on each other — and the Lord.

  • Tight-Knit

    A mix of Western and Zimbabwean nurses, doctors, chaplains, teachers, students, and support staff work closely together at Karanda.

  • History

    The hospital was founded in 1961 as a medical clinic that served the needs of missions stations in the Zambezi River valley.

  • Lifelong Learning

    Operation of Hope, a medical mission organization, visited Karanda recently to teach a course on neonatal resuscitation to healthcare workers.

  • Local Ministry

    Working at Karanda provides medical student Yiu with service opportunities outside of the hospital, such as helping out with AWANA alongside TEAM missionary Jon Christiansen on Sundays.

  • Services

    The mission complex includes the 130-bed hospital, a nurse training school, and a primary school for the children of hospital staff.

  • Community

    Yiu recently served at an orphan party put on by the visiting Good Samaritan people by dishing out sadza (a local staple food) to hungry kids and volunteers.

In a typical day at Karanda Mission Hospital, doctors and staff see a depth and breadth of medical conditions that push them to the limits. Men with heart murmurs, patients with complications related to HIV/AIDS, babies with hydrocephalus (also known as “water on the brain”), new mothers with postpartum infections, children with neural tube defects, patients with malaria and tuberculosis — the list goes on and on.

“I’m calling upon my entire knowledge base,” says Timothy Yiu, a medical student from Harvard Medical School serving short-term with TEAM at Karanda Hospital. “Life at Karanda has stretched me in every way imaginable — physically, emotionally, culturally, and spiritually.”

The 130-bed hospital, located about 125 miles from the capital city of Harare, was founded in 1961 and sees between 75,000 to 100,000 patients each year. It’s part of a larger mission complex that also includes a nurse training school for around 55 students, a primary school for the children of the medical staff, and a home-based care program that works in cooperation with churches like the Evangelical Church of Zimbabwe. The hospital handles more surgical cases than any other medical facility in the area and treats 200 to 300 outpatients a day under relatively difficult circumstances. As water wells in the surrounding area run dry or break down, the shortage affects the hospital’s crucial water supply. Electricity and Internet service are unreliable, and Zimbabwe’s economic and government troubles affect the day-to-day running of the hospital.

“Elements of structural violence run amok here in Zimbabwe,” Yiu says. “Shipments of medications are delayed for no reason, briberies are commonplace, and we must hire guards to protect the piping that brings water to the hospital and surrounding villages.”

In the face of sometimes overwhelming challenges, the staff rely on the Lord and each other for strength. They are a tight-knit and caring mix of Western and Zimbabwean nurses, doctors, chaplains, teachers, students, and support staff.

“Numerous people all sacrifice so much in making this place run,” Yiu says. As a medical student, he sometimes feels out of his depth when faced with performing new procedures or being left in charge of the pediatric ward or intensive care unit with minimal supervision. But fellow staff members encourage and guide him. “They tell me this is the natural process in becoming a physician,” he says. “Needless to say, apart from feverishly relying on my medical iPhone apps and the Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine, I am praying to God all the time for wisdom and a discerning heart.”

The Christians on staff at Karanda are well aware that the hospital serves as a tool to show the love of Christ to their patients and national staffers in practical ways. As they meet the often-desperate health care needs of people, they bring hope into people’s lives and have the opportunity to share the hope of Jesus with patients and patients’ families. On average, 20 patients accept Christ each month at Karanda.

“The unending need of people here is the primary factor,” Yiu says. “We pray and know that God can meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the patients we see.”

For more information, visit the hospital’s website at

-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
-Photos provided by Timothy Yiu