When five year old Jason Blanchard first entered Malamulo Hospital, in the South of Malawi, Southern Africa, it was to have his tonsils out. As he walked down the hallway to his bed in the paediatric ward, close by was nursing midwife Lisnett Chipyoza in the maternity ward.
Thirty-five years later, Jason Blanchard walked up the steps of Malamulo a second time, but this time as Chief Executive Office, charged with leading the Hospital through its 100th Anniversary and into it's second century of caring for the medical and surgical needs of the surrounding rural community. On his first day as CEO, he walked down a familiar corridor to his executive office, the exact room in which he was operated on many years before. Shortly afterwards, he met up with Lisnett Chipyoza, then 107 years old, and still supporting and praying for the hospital.
Blanchard and now 109-year-old Mrs Chipyoza featured in the official celebration of Malamulo Hospital's 100th Anniversary on Tuesday 8 September.
Blanchard reflected on the journey that first brought him to Malamulo. "I was born in the USA and moved to Matandani Mission, the second oldest mission in Malawi, Southern Africa, when I was four. My missionary father was responsible for the agricultural program at Matandani. My mother was our homeschool teacher and a midwife."
Little Jason's parents became concerned about his health and he was driven three and a half hours to Blantyre where his parents were referred to the nearest Adventist medical clinic. He was taken on another 90 minute drive on a winding but picturesque road through verdant tea gardens, to the Malamulo Mission Station, home of Malamulo Hospital, School and Publishing Press.
"I was told I needed to have my tonsils out. I have a vivid memory of the operating room and an anaesthetist smiling down at me, asking me to breathe normally as he put a mask over my mouth and nose. My last memory was replying that I wouldn't breath! The surgery went well and two days later I went home to Matandani. Two years after that, our family returned to the USA," Blanchard said.
In spite of the discomfort of the surgery, the experience had a positive impact on his life that would entwine the future of the grand institution of Malamulo Hospital with his own.
The vibrant 100th years of caring celebration was filled with an array of festivities, performances and recognition honoring those who have played a vital role in reaching this milestone.
Chipyoza cut the anniversary cake and gave a short sermon concluding with, "Jesus is really coming again! If you were doubting it, don't doubt now!!"
Other guests of honor at the Anniversary celebration included Dr Peter Kumpalume MP, The Hon. Minister of Health, Mrs Mary Navicha, MP Thyolo Thava and other civic leaders, a team from Loma Linda University led by Dr Richard Hart, President, and Dr Lowell Cooper, Chairmanof the Board and senior leaders of the church in the General Conference, Southern Africa - Indian Ocean Division and Malawi Union Conference.
Dr. Peter Landless, director of the General Conference Health Ministries, conveyed the congratulations and best wishes of the General Conference on this memorable occasion. " We are grateful for the dedication and passion for mission demonstrated by Malamulo, its staff and administrators. Our prayer is that soon, the work will be finished and Jesus will return. Until then we will work, plan and minister especially in comprehensive health ministry of every kind."
A recurring theme of the celebration was the positive impact that the Christian institution had had on its patients and community.
Dr. Peter Kumpalume MP, The Hon. Minister of Health, representing the President of Malawi said, "In spite of economic challenges, Malamulo has been an excellent source of support to the surrounding community. I have only just discovered that Malamulo charges only 250 kwachas (US50c) per night for inpatient care to local villagers who live near the hospital. They have very little money and the hospital is generously helping in a significant way. But this is obviously not enough to run a hospital! We are really grateful for what the hospital is doing for the community and ... for the support of donors from abroad."
"This institution has come from humble beginnings but it is built on the sold rock of Jesus. It takes courage, faith and belief to run our institutions," said Dr. Bangwato Sikwa, Health Ministries Director of the Southern Africa - Indian Ocean Division.
"What will we take from the past into the future?" asked Lowell Cooper, chairman of Loma Linda University board. "It is the realization that this place was established to honor God and serve people."
"I first visited Malamulo in 1972," said Dr. Richard Hart, president of Loma Linda University. I remember my windscreen being broken by a flying chicken! I've been back many times since then ... I give special thanks to the 36 medical alumni from Loma Linda Hospital who have worked at Malamulo long term. Some have been buried in the Malamulo Mission Cemetery. I also remember the thousands of students who have studied at Malamulo and some have gone on to study at Loma Linda University."
In 1915, Malamulo Mission opened its first clinic, which later became Malamulo Adventist Hospital. Today it stands as one of the region's best health care facilities providing quality, caring and Christ-centred health care to Malawi's underserved rural population. The 200 bed facility provides preventative health care services and specialized services in women's and child's health, infectious diseases, chronic disease and general surgery. Typical cases include pneumonia, malaria, TB, HIV complications, dehydration and meningitis.
Malamulo Hospital is managed by Adventist Health International and hosts the Loma Linda University Field Station, which gives residents of Loma Linda and elsewhere the opportunity to rotate outside the United States of America and still get accreditation for the rotation. It is the first of only two such sites (Malawi and Haiti). It is the only place in the world where surgeons from the USA are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.
Malamulo Hospital is shifting from a care facility to a teaching hospital. "Through our 5 year surgical training program, which is accredited through the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS) and our sister institution Malamulo College of Health Sciences, also on the campus, we train nurses, clinical officers, bio technologists and others to be Christ-centered practitioners to give first quality care to the people of Malawi," Blanchard said.
Malamulo is able to reach a wide range of people serving a catchment area of approximately 500,000 people through outreach health services in16 mobile clinics and 3 health centers.
"We have big plans for the future," Blanchard said. "In 2016 we will be building a new health centre in the southern Blantyre area of Limbe to provide additional Christ-centred services in the region . We will continue on with our surgeon training program and ultimately aim to have most of the services of the hospital and clinics provided by Malawian or African nationals. This is something we are passionately encouraging. We are forever grateful for our partners in mission, Loma Linda University and the many donors who have given through Adventist Health International as well as directly to the hospital," Blanchard said.
President of Southern Africa - Indian Ocean Division, Paul Ratsara, moved by the sacrifice of so many staff over the last century commented, "I pay tribute to the many missionaries and local staff who have offered their services to Malamulo, including our present talented team. Whilst our needs are vast due to our aging equipment and limited financial resources, we pay tribute to our loving heavenly Father who has continued to provide for us through the care of donors, talented local and international missionaries and key leaders who have paved the way for a brighter future for medicine in Malawi. "