Read letters from Martha Sommers
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The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 147
Mission co-worker in Congo
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Martha Sommers will next be available to visit with congregations in Spring 2016. Email her to extend an invitation.
About Martha Sommers' ministryThe Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai is the primary health care facility and a center for medical education in the central region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its services are centered at Good Shepherd Hospital, a 160-bed facility in the village of Tshikaji, where surgery, obstetrics, pediatrics, general medicine, ophthalmology, radiology, and laboratory services are offered. In 2015, veteran mission co-worker Martha Sommers, a family practice physician, was invited to IMCK to serve as an instructor and resource to physicians, medical students, interns, and residents. Her duties also include clinical practice. IMCK was founded in 1954 by the American Presbyterian Congo Mission. It is now a ministry of the Presbyterian Community of Congo, the Mennonite Community of Congo and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The Democratic Republic of Congo, a country roughly one quarter the size of the United States, has been ravaged by conflict. While Congo has rich natural resources and rich mineral wealth, most Congolese struggle daily for survival. In recent decades, civil wars have heightened regional and interethnic tensions and have devastated Congo’s infrastructure and economy. Despite a peace deal and the formation of a transitional government in 2003, Congolese in the eastern part of the country continue to encounter violence from militias and the army. Amid the challenges wrought by war and poverty, the Presbyterian Community of Congo and other Congolese churches bear faithful witness to Christ’s love through multiple ministries.
About Martha Sommers
Compassion welled up inside Martha the day she saw ailing people who needed shelter and a doctor getting drenched by a downpour outside a hotel in Mexico City.
“During that high school trip, I decided I wanted to be a doctor because that was the way I could help people like those I saw outside our hotel,” she says.
For Martha, the scene was a poignant illustration of the world’s injustice, and it pricked her resolve to help people in need. Her aptitude for and love of science pointed her toward a career in medicine.
While a college student at Notre Dame, she began to see her commitment to help less fortunate people from a theological perspective. While majoring in microbiology to prepare for medical school, she minored in theology and embraced the Catholic social teaching of “God’s preferential option for the poor.” Yet it’s been her experience in Presbyterian mission that caused her understanding of service to grow.
“In college I understood service as charity and the need to empower,” she ways. “Through my work with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and our partners, I have come to understand that service is best done in partnership as mutual givers and receivers. We fill the gaps that our partners ask us to fill for a time.”
Since coming under Presbyterian mission appointment in 1997, Martha has indeed filled the gaps and done much more. In Malawi, she trained doctors and other mission personnel and provided healing and hope through direct patient care. She worked at two hospitals affiliated with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian’s Livingstonia Synod, Embangweni Mission Hospital (1997 to 2001) and Ekwendeni Mission Hospital (2001 to 2015). Martha’s former responsibilities are now performed by competent Malawian doctors, some of whom Martha taught.
In 2015, she accepted her current assignment with the Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai. Her heart was drawn to Congo as soon as she read the job description. “When I saw they wished to have someone successfully train their country’s doctors in family medicine and to have someone coordinate their new master’s in public health with St. Louis University, I knew this is where I could help fill an identified gap until it could be filled locally.”
As she fills the gap, Martha says she leans on Jesus’ promise in John 10:10: “…I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.”
“My hope for the people of Congo and all people is that they will have life and have it abundantly,” she explains. “It’s my hope that people can live life to the fullest as they enjoy the wonder of God’s creation, and celebrate God’s love for them while loving one another.”
Martha spent her childhood in Detroit and her early adolescence in Farmington Hills, Michigan. While in high school, her family moved to Oregon, Wisconsin. After graduating from Notre Dame, she returned to Wisconsin to study medicine at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She completed a residency at Marshall University in West Virginia and then practiced for five years in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, before entering mission service.
Martha is a member of Holy Mother of Consolation Catholic Church in Oregon, Wisconsin, but has regularly attended both Catholic and Presbyterian congregations while serving in Africa.
Birthday: January 19