Mission Doctors Association

Sheila Cavanagh on her ending time in Zimbabwe

As we are finishing the last six months of our mission, I thought I would write a little about what we have learned being here. The culture is very different than we thought it would be, the people do not have much, sometimes nothing at all, but they still praise God for everything. We now have a different way to look at life. What we would take as ordinary can be very special.

I teach an art class at the school and we made paper hats one time out of old newsprint. The following week I went back and they were all wearing the hats. Tim and I like to go on walks in the evening and sometimes we take some pictures. The children especially love it even if they do not see the photos printed. School is very important in Zimbabwe. I think the parents would almost go without food to be able to send their children to school; it has been very hard lately with the inflation and some even sell their cattle to be able to keep their children in school.

Food is never taken for granted. Many times what you want is just not available and we learn to make do. We can stretch food like never before. We are living a much more simple life now and wish to continue that when we go home. Many times the electricity is out and that also requires planning ahead with cooking, you can assume that it will be off part of the day. When we do go grocery shopping, with the inflation we now count by millions of dollars. It takes 50 twenty thousand dollar bills to make a million, etc. (Editor’s note: as of 8-1-06 official rate of exchange is 1 US$ to 101,192 Zim$ – changing daily.)

I also had the experience of learning some of the handicrafts from this area. I had a lady come to teach me pottery and traditional basket making. When I make one, I hear “You did your best” which means it is not very good, but it makes me appreciate the work even more and I love what I make.

At night we are often awakened by noises. Sometimes it is a bat or donkey or baby goat that is separated from the mother and many times the children from the high school. Also if anyone dies in the area, they have a wake that goes all night with singing and dancing before the funeral the next day.

There are some people that have made being here pleasant. The Stoughton’s who have been doing mission work for much of their lives and we have shared many evening together. Also Sister John, and SJI Sister who lives her faith every moment of her life and she has taught me about different areas of the culture like eating mice (she has only told us about it, we do not plan to try them) and how to cure allergies and much more. We have had a lot of laughs together. Also Sister Eucheria, a Dominican who lives to help the people. She is now living in the retirement house in Harare but prays constantly for the people. There are many ladies who like to come for tea and a “sweet” from the prayer group that Mrs. Stoughton started. It is fun to visit with them and find out the latest gossip.

We are looking forward to going home in December. The hardest part has definitely been missing our daughters. While we were here our second daughter Megan met and married Scott Rutledge. We were able to go home for the wedding. The younger two (Katelyn and Bridget) have been maintaining our house living there while they attend Arizona State University. Our oldest daughter, Molly, is in California studying. We could not have done this without their full support.


This has been the hardest three years of our lives but we feel like God has walked us through every step of the way and has put little touches in our lives like a working computer that is very old and keeps working even when it probably should not be. Also the friends we met that will always be part of our lives whether we are here or in Phoenix.

There are many other things that touch our lives about living here; these are just a few that we will take back with us,

God Bless you all.

Sheila Cavanagh

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