Dr. Mwenda becomes the third recipient of the 2016 Christian International Health Champion Award at the 30th Annual Christian Connections for International Health Conference on June 19, 2016.
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Dr. Mwenda's acceptance speech delivered at the event
I greet you all in the precious name of our Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ.
I am very pleased, humbled and deeply honored to stand before you to receive this distinguished Recognition and Award of the 3rd CCIH Christian International Health Champion.
The email from Garrett Grigsby, Executive Director of CCIH, which conveyed the news of this Award came as a pleasant and most unexpected surprise to me. I consider it all God’s favour.
I wish to thank God for the grace and opportunity to serve, to learn and to grow in the Healing Ministry of the Church in our modest attempt to make our little contribution to the Great Commission (Mathew 28:19-20).
I believe that this Award is not just a recognition of my passion, commitment and contribution to Church health work but my conviction that there is hope and great future for the contribution of Church health services to the Global Health Agenda and the under-served communities of the world from the Christian perspective.
I also believe that this award is a result of our relationships and partnerships and our collective work together, including the entire CHAK family. It is indeed a recognition that I will for ever cherish and one that I share with my colleagues at CHAK.
Allow me to reflect a few memories about my public health career in the Church health sector. I started engaging with Church health services as a medical student volunteer 25 years ago at a rural Methodist Mission Hospital in Kenya which was the only health facility providing services to a population of over 250,000 people.
There was no electricity, no running water, no telephone, no passable roads and very little education and economic means of the people in the catchment area. The hospital depended on Missionary Doctors, limited number of nurses and locally trained health workers.
But it had a vibrant community outreach programme that served 13 outreach stations once every month taking maternal and child health & family planning services to communities that were hard to reach. The MCH outreach, maternity delivery and child health services had a lasting impact on my medical career.
Dr John Lakuma, a refugee doctor from Uganda who had dedicated his life to selfless service in this hospital trained and mentored me and convinced me to join the hospital to be a part of the transformation efforts that were needed. This was the turning point in my life and I made the decision to join the Church health ministry and to dedicate my life to this service. I became the first Kenyan Doctor to serve in this mission hospital and later the first to become a Kenyan CEO.
I was happy and satisfied to serve in a rural remote hospital with a very dedicated and passionate team who got their inspiration from their faith in God. The Chapel that stood at the centre of the compound was central to our work and life every day.
As a young family doctor, I found myself assigned the responsibility of leading the team that was working in a very busy maternity unit which was conducting between 3,000 to 4,000 deliveries each year.
The congestion and suffering of mothers in this 30 bed maternity unit inspired us to mobilize partnerships and funding that constructed and equipped a 100-bed modern maternity unit with comfortable labour and delivery rooms, neonatal nurseries, sterilization room and operating theatres.
During my work here, I had opportunity to receive and work with a short-term volunteer Doctor an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist from Scottsdale Arizona, USA by the name Dr Henry Reuss. He helped train, mentor, encourage and inspire my work and helped me gain essential skills.
We started a dedicated women’s clinic at the hospital to provide special attention to the many health needs of women in that area. Henry encouraged me that I had great leadership potential and was destined for great things. (However this meant nothing to me at that time as I was too grass root based and only focused on serving our local rural communities). In 1998 Henry facilitated my first visit to USA, in which I addressed a Women’s Health Conference at Osborn Health Care in Scottsdale Arizona. Despite my anxiety, the presentation went well and I earned subsequent invitations to other conferences thereafter in Arizona.
In 1998, I found myself on very unfamiliar ground when, I was requested to lead Maua Methodist Hospital as the Medical Superintendent/CEO taking over from a US Methodist Missionary, Dr Lynn Fogleman who had to leave for home unexpectedly due to family reasons. There was no training nor induction but I inherited missionary values in the office I took over, which I cherish to-date. This marked my turning point into health systems leadership. I had to learn by getting involved in dealing with challenges and through networking even before I got opportunity to join further training in Hospital Management and later Health Systems Management.
In 2001, CHAK Church Leaders requested me to join CHAK to steer the leadership of the organization at a time of major difficulties which had necessatated major organizational restructuring. Bishop Horace Etemesi then Chairman of CHAK gave me three things when he commissioned me to this responsibility;
1. Job description in two words “you are to be ‘baba na mama’ (father and mother) for CHAK”- I was to live, work and dream for CHAK at all times;
2. Scripture of encouragement 1 Thessalonians 5:24 “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” and,
3. Promise for prayer and support. I have in all ways possible tried to be faithful to this commissioning. I am grateful to God for the tremendous organizational growth that we have accomplished at CHAK over these years through partnerships and process of continuous learning and strategy improvement.
CHAK has grown from a small humble local organization to an internationally recognized faith based organization that is regionally and globally connected. An organization that is always listening, learning, innovating and working to transform mistakes and challenges into opportunities. We proactively undertake periodic environmental scanning and subsequently adjust strategy to harness opportunities. We value and promote teamwork and harness the skills and talents of our staff, members and partners.
CHAK provides leadership for the Faith Based Health Services Coordinating Committee (FBHSCC) in Kenya which provides a platform for the coordination and joint advocacy for the FBO health service providers in Kenya ( Protestants, Catholics, Muslims and MEDS). I chair the FBHSCC which spearheaded the development of MoU between FBOs and Government of Kenya in 2009 in an elaborate process that involved an expansive situation analysis study of FBO health services vs MOH health facilities, study tour to 5 countries (Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia) and strategic negotiations with Government technocrats and political leaders
I led and supported the establishment of ACHAP in 2007 through the inspiration and encouragement of Munoj Kurian at WCC and we continue to host its Secretariat and provide the necessary support. We are deeply grateful to the international connection opportunities through CCIH and WCC.
Ray Martin has been a good friend and source of encouragement and inspiration. We have walked to many offices in DC and Capitol Hill together drumming up support for the Church Health Work in Africa. Henry Mosley, Douglas Huber and many more present here and those not present have also inspired my career. I thank you for being a part of my life and key ministry supporters. Thank you Garrett Grigsby and CCIH Board for this honor. Together we have reached this far.
The timing and venue of this award are very significant; the 3rd Award at the 30th CCIH Annual Conference during CHAK 70th Anniversary are important milestones.
Johns Hopkins University is a distinguished institution globally. My first visit to Johns Hopkins was in 2003 to the School of Public Health when we worked on a partnership to develop a proposal for HIV treatment in FBO health facilities which we targeted to submit to PEPFAR in track one, when it first started.
After the first week of meeting here, I was sent home to bring the Minister for Health to come and indicate Government support to the proposal. We were collaborating with Dickson Cheng and Emergency Medicine physician and student of public health. And indeed I presented the invitation and flight ticket to the Minister for Health and she accepted to come to support the Churches' proposal.
It however took nine years for CHAK to get direct PEPFAR funding for HIV treatment project which we have implemented successfully for the last four years taking care of 41,000 PLHIV with very good viral load suppression and retention rates.
As I leave US on Monday 20th June, I shall travel back home not with pride but with a sense of great humility, feeling of anointing into an obligation with higher expectations of performance and dedication. This award has renewed my strength, my resolve, my commitment and rekindled my passion for Church health mission work. You can continue to count on me, with God giving me guidance, good health and grace. I am well aware that there is a lot more to be done in the Lord’s vineyard because; “….the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few…..”
I wish to recognize and thank my family, for their prayers, support and sacrifice which enables me to dedicate so much time to Church Health Ministry. My wife Glory, daughter Cynthia and sons – Mark and Emmanuel you share in this Award.
The First President of the Republic of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta stated; “Our children may learn about heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves architects of the future”
My daughter made a contribution to my speech from which I wish to quote the following;
“If I was given nine hours to cut down a tree, I would spend the first six sharpening my axe” – Abraham Lincon.
“Well done is better than well said”- Benjamin Franklin
“Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.”- Chinese Proverb.
She goes on to conclude with her own quote that states; “accompany your self interest for a greater life with the brilliance of seeing the bigger picture and you will achieve great things”
My dedication to this work is inspired by the scripture from Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
I take home the challenge and responsibility recorded in Mathew 5:16 “…Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”
Thank you all, God bless you, God bless CCIH, God bless our partnership, God bless Church Health Ministry throughout the whole world! To God be All the Glory!
Dr Samuel Mwenda
- Celebrating the successes of faith based organisations in the fight against HIV/AIDS
- Church leaders to strengthen advocacy towards quality health care for all as CHAK hospitals feel the pinch of on-going doctor's strike
- New dates for CHAK AGM&AHC 2017
- Afya Jijini project launched
- CHAK GS receives Christian International Health Championship award