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Alabama Educator, Dr. Linda Godsey, Returns to Africa for Fourth Mission Trip

Retired Gadsden, Ala., educator Dr. Linda C. Godsey is hoping to return for the fourth time to a summer time medical church mission in the African country of Zambia where, earlier, she gained first-hand experience of how others live in a Third World Country. This year, due to a knee injury, she may not be able to go on this mission which provides medical help to “so many Zambians who otherwise never receive modern health care.

“They live far out in the ‘bush,’ and never see a doctor or a nurse, even when they have the most terrifying health problems,” Dr. Godsey says. This year, due to an automobile accident, her own health may prevent her from fulfilling a “not only enjoyable experience of seeing people led to Christ, but of helping people for whom there is, otherwise, no medical help at all.”

Dr. Linda C. Godsey , showing what Zambian women wear to her Church of Christ social group in Gadsden. The garment is modest and most volunteers wear them over slacks as June and July is Zambia’s cold months, south of the Equator.

The mission, sponsored by the Church of Christ, she says, “was an experience that taught me to be very grateful for the least of our blessings here in this country,” says the former Georgia Special Education practitioner who retired a couple of years ago from the Paulding County School District in the Atlanta, Ga., area after years spent in special education in Alabama. She also worked for the Department of Defense at Fort Rucker where she served as school superintendent on base. She resides in Gadsden, Ala.

She usually returns, each year, from the medical mission at the end of July after working with the Namwianga Mission, about 120 miles north east of Livingstone, Zambia, usually joining at least 76 other volunteers from various other states in this country, and from Canada.. The Namwianga Mission was established in 1936 and includes four orphanages, nine basic schools, a secondary school, the second tallest radio tower in Africa that broadcasts Christian programming, a small hospital, and the George Benson Christian College of Education.

The Namwianga Mission was established in 1936 and includes four orphanages, nine basic schools, a secondary school, the second tallest radio tower in Africa that broadcasts Christian programming, a small hospital, and the George Benson Christian College of Education.

While medicine isn’t her discipline, she along with other volunteers, assisted in health care for over 14,000 poverty stricken Zambians deep in the African bush last year and two years previously. In addition to the usual 76 or so North American and Canadian volunteers, there were approximately 150 Zambian medical professionals from Livingston, and Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, who worked in the clinics providing support for these Zambian living in the bush.

“It’s an experience I’ll always treasure,” says the retired Georgia educator whose discipline is education, not medicine. “And I hope to do it again, next year, if I can raise the funds to go once again and my knee is well enough for my getting around in the bush.” She was aided in her fundraising efforts to pay for the trip come from by church members of her congregation, the Church of Christ in Gadsden, other churches, and individuals, including several from her mother’s hometown in Northwest Alabama. Each of the other 76 American doctors, nurses and medical mission volunteers like herself last year paid approximately $5,500 to take part in the mission which brought seldom experienced medical, dental, optical, perinatal health care and religious aid to thousands of bush people living in remote areas of Africa. Zambia, in the heart of the African Continent which was at one time the British colony of Northern Rhodesia but became an independent country in 1967. Doctor Livingstone was the first white person to see the “Smoking Thunder”of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls, on the Zambezi River.

Dr. Godsey, a retired educator, volunteers in the mission pharmacy.

“Zambia is a very poor African country suffering from a severe three-year long drought,” Dr. Godsey explains. “The extreme dry weather is resulting in terrible health and living conditions where the lifestyles of Zambians who live outside the very few cities have already been existing at the most basis levels. In a country with few natural resources, lacking the oil and diamonds found in neighboring South Africa and Kenya, it is at peace, while surrounded by other countries at war within themselves. A former British colony, the official language is English even though most people in the bush speak local dialects of their own tongues.”

While her time was taken up by working in the traveling medical mission’s pharmacy, Dr. Godsey, on each mission, did have the chance to visit a number of schools where she handed out the pencils and small candy packets from the USA, gratefully received by each student.

“Bush communities — you can’t quantify them as ‘villages’ — where we set up the medical clinic serving the populace included general medicine, eye care, cancer screening and dentistry, as well as spiritual support, were locales where there was a school, a church and a single water source, a well with a hand pump– all supplied by the Churches of Christ which sponsored the medical mission. “It’s an experience I’ll always treasure,” says the retired educator. “And I hope to do it again, next year if I can raise the funds to go once again.” The arthritic knee problem made it difficult enough last year for her, result of a car accident in which she was hit from behind. The problem has worsened, over time. But she still hopes to make the late June deadline for signing up for this year’s mission.

“These people live in open huts, roofed with thatched elephant grass and floored by dirt. There is no running water, outside the mission areas, almost no electricity except for occasional solar panels, and no flush toilets.

She has been aided in her fundraising efforts to pay for the trips by church members of her congregation, Gadsden Church of Christ and by other churches and individuals, including several from her mother’s Tuscumbia, Ala., hometown. Each of the other 76 American doctors, nurses and medical mission volunteers last year, like herself, paid approximately $5,500 to take part in the mission which brought seldom experienced medical, dental, optical, perinatal health care and religious aid to thousands of bush people living in remote areas of Africa. Zambia, in the heart of the African Continent, was at one time the British colony of Northern Rhodesia, but became independent in 1967. Doctor Livingstone was the first white person to see the “Smoking Thunder” of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls, on the Zambezi River.

“Zambia is a very poor African country suffering from a severe three-year long drought,” Dr. Godsey explains. “The extreme dry weather is resulting in terrible health and living conditions where the lifestyles of Zambians who live outside the very few cities have already been existing at the most basis levels. In a country with few natural resources, lacking the oil and diamonds found in neighboring South Africa and Kenya, however, it is at peace while surrounded by other countries at war within themselves. A former British colony, the official language is English even though most people in the bush speak local dialects of their own tongues.”

While her time was taken up by working in the traveling medical mission’s pharmacy, Dr. Godsey did have the chance to visit a number of schools. “Bush communities — you can’t quantify them as ‘villages’ — where we set up the medical clinic serving the populace included general medicine, eye care, cancer screening and dentistry, as well as spiritual support, were locales where there was a school, a church and a single water source, a well with a hand pump– all supplied by the churches of Christ which sponsored the medical mission. “But while the locale where clinic set up was primitive enough, people living in the vicinity of those ‘villages’ often walked for two, three or more days to reach this rare medical help. While there, she helps in the pharmacy, packaging and labeling meds and helping to hand them to patients.

Tent city is set up at each bush locale where the American, Canadian and Zambian mission volunteers sleep

“These people live in open huts, roofed with thatched elephant grass and floored by dirt. There is no running water, outside the mission areas, almost no electricity except for occasional solar panels, and no flush toilets. Yet, these people are outgoing, friendly and very approachable,” she notes. “Their children pay to attend school and almost no one owns a pair of shoes, yet they seem happy, eager to work and learn; grateful for the most simplest of things — like the pencils and small bags of corn candy. While there, she and other volunteers overnight in tent cities and travel near non-extant roads in a bus while their tents, bunks and other equipment travels in open trucks.

“Seeing how they live makes me thankful for the simplest blessings we have in the United States, including plumbing and running, drinkable water,” she adds. Each month, she sends financial support to a family of seven whose mother is hospitalized. The father makes a meager living, while caring for five children, two of which are from another family.

When she returns from a mission, she gives presentations to church groups who supported her efforts. Hopefully, if unable to return this year, her knee will be well enough to allow her to volunteer again, next year.
“I look forward to that, with all my heart,” she says.

 

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