A team from Ahwatukee’s local Bridgeway Community Church recently returned from a mission with Covenant Medicine Outreach in eSwatini, a small country in Africa.
The team included Bridgeway Lead Pastor Gregg Cantelmo and two members of the congregation, Margaret Reis and Victoria Tschappler.
Covenant Medicine Outreach, founded in 2016, helps people globally who have been left behind and who need medical care. The countries CMO focuses on are Kenya and eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland.
CMO not only brings faith-based medical care to the people of these countries but also ensures that the care will be sustainable.
To do so, CMO partners with local health clinics, community healthcare professionals and physicians to provide training programs, so individuals are well-equipped to continue aftercare, once the CMO team departs.
The organization’s mission team typically consists of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, pastors and laypeople.
The Bridgeway team joined six others from across the U.S. who treated 542 people in 10 days.
“I had been on mission trips to Africa before, but this was my first medical trip. I enjoyed hearing discussions among the doctors and nurses, which so clearly revealed their passion for healing and helping physically, emotionally and spiritually,” said Reis, administrative assistant at Bridgeway Community Church.
CMO has gone to eSwatini for many years, each time continuing to strengthen the programs volunteers put in place.
“Returning each year to the same place opens many doors in the hearts of the people as they see that we really care,” said Cantelmo.
He said the mission was meaningful to the people in several ways. Not only did they appreciate the volunteers’ help, but they appreciated their dedication.
“One of the women told me that she knows we love them because we keep coming back,” said Reis.
The team faced many challenges along the way. Most notably, after the first day of the medical clinic, the group got stranded with a broken trailer hitch for a while.
“Even though there were innumerable problems, we could always ‘report them to God’ and trust that He is working in the situations,” said Reis.
Tschappler, a nurse, said she also appreciated the chance to bond with the other team members.
“One of the most rewarding parts of this trip was the relationships I made with my teammates,” she said. “We all had similar visions and motivations when it came to treating and loving on the locals. ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ is a phrase I think about with our team because although we were each talented individuals, we were able to make a more significant impact when we worked together.”
Tschappler also said she was moved by “how grateful the Swazi people are for the small things.”
“A simple gift of food and blankets is received with so much appreciation,” she said. “It opens my eyes to how I may take for granted the food in my fridge or gas in my car. Or at least I should be reminded that those simple things in my life are still a gift to be appreciated.”
This trip was made possible in part because of the continued support of Bridgeway Community Church.
“Bridgeway contributed a lot. Three church members were part of the team. We took their pastor, Gregg Cantelmo, and their administrative assistant, Margaret Reis, away for the week. The church also prays for us unceasingly as well as supporting those who go,” said Dr. Lara Yablonski, medical director for CMO.
Cantelmo was also thankful for his church’s assistance and prayers.
“While I raise money for the trip outside of Bridgeway, the church gracefully allows me the time away for this mission work and supports me with their love and prayers,” he said.
Yablonski said the entire experience is unforgettable.
“For me, two things stood out on this trip. First, so many patients saying ‘thank you’ and letting us know how we touched their lives. I am always amazed at how thankful people are for the littlest things,” she explained, adding:
“Second, it is gratifying to see the strides that have been made by Kudvumisa, the ministry we partner with, in the area they work in.”