Mercy Muthumbi moves more slowly than she once did. She stands before the stove, warming water for her tea, but her thoughts are with God as she prays for strength. When she sits for breakfast, the morning light is too dim to read by, so she relies on the voice from the In Touch Messenger to bathe her in Scripture. The endurance needed for her work at Kenya’s Kijabe Mission Hospital is possible only through the Lord.
“Going to the hospital every day, seeing the sick people, is very hard. It really takes a lot out of you. You have to keep in tune with God,” says Muthumbi, a hospital chaplain known to her patients as Mama Mercy. “I used to hallelujah all the time, but now my body is telling me, ‘You’re not hallelujah-ing—you need to be slowing down.’”
She leaves home early for the uphill walk to the hospital, knowing she’ll be stopped often along the way by anxious parents seeking prayer for their children. Lately she’s found herself pausing to catch her breath. “I feel things I haven’t been feeling before. That I didn’t feel five or 10 years ago.” At the hospital, the team gathers to sing and pray, and Muthumbi encourages the workers with the Word of God.
To each room she visits, Muthumbi is the aroma of Christ. She sits with mothers whose children are sick with cancer, respiratory problems, pneumonia, and heart disease. Tuberculosis is very common. Often they ask with heartbreak, “Why is this happening to my child?”
Families are under incredible stress. Money is scarce, and families often divide—the mother tends to the sick child while the father stays with the other children. Many families break under the pressure. Muthumbi has witnessed it all and gives everything she has to each one, sitting and praying as long as they need. “I just have to share Jesus,” she says. “It’s like taking people from death to life. I love the work here.”
Some months ago Muthumbi suited up in a mask and protective gear to visit a child in medical isolation. “He was very, very sick,” she says. “I told him what God says about children.” (See Matt. 18:1-5; Mark 10:13-16.) The boy surrendered his life to the Lord. “One week later he was gone to heaven and they had his funeral. He went a very happy boy, but before, he was sad because no one was going into that room.”
When her long day is over, Muthumbi stands in her home, in front of a wall where she has posted the name of each of her patients. “It’s like a picture of them, so I remember to pray for them before I go to sleep.” The days aren’t getting easier, as she has already worked a dozen years beyond her first thoughts of retirement, but the joy and strength of the Lord carry her. “I give all my life for this. God called me and I listened to Him. And I say to God, ‘I will do anything as chaplain that You want me to do.’”
Photography by Gary Longnecker