After two medical mission trips to Zambia, a Lino Lakes resident has not only changed the lives of others, but developed a new perspective on life.
Monica Stoesz has been a nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital since 1995. As a Christian and nurse, a medical mission trip has always been on her bucket list.
“I grew up in Christian family that very much emphasized serving others and giving out of your own blessing. You are blessed to be a blessing,” she said. “With my line of work, it has been in the back of mind for years to do a short term medical mission trip, but it is not always something you can do when your kids are little. I have waited all of these years and finally got to go.”
In 2016, Stoesz went on her first trip to Zambia and returned again in August 2018. Both times, Stoesz went on the trip with her church Bethlehem Baptist in Mounds View and worked with Action International Ministries, particularly the ministry project Churches Ready to Overcome Silence and Stigma (CROSS).
The project exists to disciple and equip Zambian churches with the knowledge and application of the word of God in their response to issues of HIV/AIDS and domestic abuse. According to Action International Ministries, HIV/AIDS impacts the entire nation. Fifteen percent of Zambians are HIV-positive with a 20-25 percent urban HIV infection, and only 28 percent of adults know their HIV status. Life expectancy at birth is around 50 years old.
There are many factors that contribute to the spread of HIV in Zambia such as marital unfaithfulness, domestic violence and lack of concern for orphans and widows.
“They are trying to help them get past the stigma so they take their medications, get tested, get treatment... so they get help they need,” Stoesz explained.
While in Zambia, Stoesz put on 12 workshops for roughly 120 people who were bussed in from area churches to learn about wound care, particularly how to take care of cuts, burns and bed sores. Other workshops also included topics such as hand washing, washing clothes and dishes and brushing teeth. “They are basic concepts that we teach our kids here by the time they finish high school... these people don’t,” she said.
Locals also learned about how to give someone a bed bath if they are too sick to get out of bed, how to change the linen underneath them, how to reposition them or transfer them from a bed to a chair, nutrition, dehydration and end of life.
“I was trying to teach them how to take care of that with the resources that they have, that’s the tricky part,” Stoesz explained. “A lot of people there don’t even have Tylenol or Ibuprofen, so it is all about how they can help with the pain by using things like massage, talking to them, reading scripture to them, praying with them and singing songs to them.”
She added, “The people who came to these classes were so thrilled to have this information. Either they walked away filled with the joy of just soaking in all of the information, or there would be that sadness because they wish they would’ve known that earlier and perhaps their loved one would still be here.”
Even after the workshops are done, Stoesz said there is a ripple effect, as the people who participated in the workshops then go back to their communities and share the knowledge with people they know and the message continues to spread.
Both trips, have given Stoesz a new perspective on life and made her grateful for the quality of life in the U.S.
“People there have so little and yet they can still have joy on their faces and sing their hearts out. It is very beautiful,” she said.
As to whether Stoesz will return to Zambia, she said “that is in God’s hands.” Stoesz encourages everyone to get out of their comfort zone and be a blessing to others, whether that means simply giving up a cup of coffee to donate money or going abroad on a mission.
“If there is something on your heart to try, do it. You will be blessed in the end. If everyone did something to makes someone’s life better, easier or more filled with joy, it would help so much.”
Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.