Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is responding to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and the Mexico earthquakes.  LEARN MORE.

Mission co-workers in Africa moving to where God calls them

New countries, new appointments, to deliver skills where most needed

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Services

Jim and Jodi McGill. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE – Four mission co-workers have accepted new calls within Africa, including Jim and Jodi McGill, Ruth Brown and Dr. Martha Sommers.

The McGills have been under appointment as mission co-workers since 1995 working with the Church of Central Africa in Malawi in the areas of water/sanitation and health. They have moved to serve with the Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger (EERN), the Presbyterian Relief and Development Agency and the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan. Their work will focus on both Niger and South Sudan.

Jim McGill is working with the EERN and PCOSS to ensure sustainability for clean water and sanitation at the community level and make certain the church has a strong presence in the rural development of Niger and South Sudan and an effective advocate for the health of its people. Jodi McGill works with EERN to create and staff church-run health clinics and to train students in its new nursing school.

In a letter to supporters, Jodi McGill wrote, “The work, weather and cultural environment will be vastly different from what we know, but being part of God’s family will make Niamey home.”

Niger is often called the gateway between North Africa and Sub Saharan Africa. It is one of the continent’s most economically impoverished countries and is at the bottom of the UN’s human development index. In South Sudan, years of civil war and conflict have left the country’s infrastructure in ruins and its people traumatized but the region is home to abundant natural resources and many faithful people.

Jodi McGill holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Arizona and a bachelor of science in chemistry and microbiology from Northern Arizona University. She also holds an MS in nursing as a family nurse practitioner and a masters of public health from Emory University. She has served as a nurse both in the Atlanta area and in Africa.

Jim McGill received his BS in physics from Wake Forest University before finishing his MS in geological engineering at the University of Arizona. Prior to his service as a mission co-worker, he spent many years in Africa doing geophysical research for the Geology Department of Duke University. He is the child of Presbyterian missionaries who served in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

To give to the ministry of Jim and Jodi McGill, go to https://www.presbyterianmission.org/donate/E200385/.

Ruth Brown. (Photo provided)

After serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2011, mission co-worker Ruth Brown has moved to Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, Brown works with the leadership of the CCAP Harare Synod serving as a resource, adviser and colleague to the convener of the Synod’s Chikondano (“Love”) HIV/AIDS and Vulnerable Children Committee, as the committee works to promote health and prevent diseases throughout the CCAP and the communities in which it ministers. She supports church and community leadership training for the implementation of processes for program planning, monitoring and evaluation. She assists the church in collaborating with existing community health programs to promote continuity of care.

“In my work with CCAP leaders I will explore and plan economic initiatives intended to reduce poverty,” she said. “Hopefully, what I’ve learned in Congo during assistance to community savings and loans programs, entrepreneurship training, egg hatcheries and community gardens will be helpful to this church in Harare. Those economic initiatives would also be helpful with supporting and sustaining a health program.”

Landlocked Zimbabwe is home to roughly 15 million people, about 80 percent of whom are Christian. Endowed with fertile farmland and mineral wealth, the country was at one time the “breadbasket” of Southern Africa. More recently, drought, economic decline and a highly-contested land reform program have posed serious challenges for Zimbabwe and the churches who minister in this context.

Ruth Brown has more than 25 years of public health experience and mission service. She brings a storehouse of knowledge to her duties having served as a health service specialist with Rural Family Development in Onancock, Virginia, an agency of the Virginia Council of Churches, from 1999 to 2010. Previously she was director of health promotion for the Somerset County Health Department in Westover, Maryland. She has also been a health education coordinator for a tristate migrant health program on the Delmarva Peninsula, a homeless center manager in Virginia, and a high school English teacher in North Carolina and Virginia.

Her history on the African continent goes back to 1979, when she served in the Peace Corps, first in the Ivory Coast, where she taught technical English in an Agricultural University, and then in Central African Republic, where her focus was health promotion.

“For years, I have enjoyed helping communities to develop their own sustainable public health initiatives,” she said. I welcome this work with churches in Zimbabwe as a gracious call from God to use my training and experience to help the Church in Zimbabwe have abundant and healthy life in Christ.”

To give to the ministry of Ruth Brown, go to https://www.presbyterianmission.org/donate/E200528/.

Martha Sommers. (Photo provided)

In 2015, veteran mission co-worker Dr. Martha Sommers, a family practice physician, was invited to serve as an instructor The Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai (IMCK), the primary health care facility and a center for medical education in the central region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. But after arriving in Congo in the fall of 2016, there were multiple incidents of violence and PMA’s partners, the Presbyterian Community of Congo (CPC) and IMCK, felt she should be evacuated until the region stabilized.

Since last fall, she has been temporarily living in Madagascar practicing as a family health physician and deeply immersed in language studies. Just last week, however, she was invited by the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Nkhoma Hospital in Malawi to serve as a lecturer and family medicine practitioner. The assignment is for one year. She then hopes to resume her work in Congo.

In Malawi, she will assist with developing the family medicine course at Nkhoma Hospital, which serves as a training site for the master’s level students and facilitation experience district hospital doctors to be trainers for the course. About 50 percent of her time will be spent teaching and about 50 percent will be in medical practice.

Sommers began her Presbyterian mission work in 1997. 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.

Much of Sommers’ childhood was spent in Detroit and 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.

To support the ministry of Martha Sommers, go to https://www.presbyterianmission.org/donate/E200526/.


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?