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Catriona and Stephen Bennett link letter no. 3 May 2017

Dear friends,

We’re delighted to be writing this link letter from our new home in Oxford, where we are undertaking our mission partner training with Church Mission Society. As you may remember, this is the last stage of our preparation before we head out to Gahini Hospital in Eastern Rwanda, where we aim to use our skills as doctors to share God’s love with the local community. Steve will work full-time as a surgeon, performing surgery and training local doctors, while Catriona will work part-time alongside the nurse anaesthetists, providing complex anaesthetics and enabling professional development for existing staff. We will aim to establish a safe surgical service, which will require input into the facilities available, and training of local healthcare staff.

If this is the first link letter you’ve read, please see this page on the CMS website for further details, along with our previous link letters: bennett

Mission partner training

We are now a third of the way through our mission partner training, and we can’t believe how time is flying by. We are particularly enjoying our Tuesdays where we join with a group undergoing a pioneer mission course, which is a modular course leading to certificate, diploma or MA through the University of Durham.

Mission partner training in Oxford

The module we are joining them for is an introduction to the Bible, which will hopefully give us a better understanding of how the whole Bible fits together, and how this relates to mission.

It’s great to meet people from a range of different backgrounds, bringing different perspectives to our discussions, and challenging us to look at Bible passages in a new light.

There are a range of other training sessions addressing topics such as culture shock, management of finances and information technology issues. We are also studying the whole idea of how we do “mission”, especially in the context of working as doctors.

A patient in Africa illustrates how this might work in practice. When Steve was previously working at a mission hospital in Uganda, he was faced with a six-month old baby who was close to death and required an emergency bowel operation. Against all the odds, the baby survived, but the mother was too poor to afford the food to support herself while in hospital with her baby, and certainly could not afford a second operation required six weeks later, so Steve provided some financial help. The motto of that hospital is “We treat – Jesus heals”, and certainly the miraculous is seen frequently in the healing of patients despite the limited treatments available.

Six months later, Steve heard that not only was the child healthy, but that the mother had become a Christian through the loving care given her by the hospital. We hope that we can continue to demonstrate God’s love through our work at Gahini.

Link churches and fundraising

We spent April touring southern England visiting another seven of our link churches, and have visited a further two in the last couple of weeks. It has been great to meet our supporters in person, and we feel very blessed to have so many people interested in our work at Gahini, and committing to support us in prayer and finance. It was fascinating to meet a good number of people who had either worked at Gahini in the past or who had personal connections to the hospital. There is a long legacy of missionary service in Gahini and the surrounding diocese over the last 90 years. We are currently researching some of the history of Gahini and its place in the East African Revival of the early 20th century as part of our training.

Enjoying a link church visit

We are delighted that our fundraising is on target to support our departure in August. We are very grateful to all of our supporters, whether church or individual, current or future, who are giving so generously to enable us to pursue what God has called us to do.

Further blessings

God has continued to surprise and amaze us by his provision for this time of transition. Just as Steve was sitting down to work out how we should get our work permits and medical licences sorted out, a friend – who Catriona hadn’t heard from for some months – emailed to put her in contact with someone who had recently moved to Kigali! The timing couldn’t have been better, and this lady has been extremely helpful in providing local knowledge and advice on so many tasks that lie ahead of us. Sadly the above-mentioned licences will have to wait until we are in country but at least this was discovered quickly and with great clarity.

We have also been deciding about whether to maintain our UK medical licences, and decided that Steve would try to do this, while Catriona would relinquish hers and reapply for it when we return – possibly the easier option. When Steve enquired about the possibility of getting the appropriate annual paperwork done with our current employer, he was given the option of having a long-term career-break, which will allow him to return to work in the NHS for two weeks each year, keep his UK medical licence and have a job to come back to in due course! What an amazing blessing!

One of the most difficult tasks to address as you prepare to leave the country is what to do with your belongings. This has caused much hilarity as well as some interesting discussions as Catriona is very much in the minimalist camp and Steve loves his books! Fortunately a “guardian of the books” has come forward so they are safe. However, some items will need to be sold or given away and we felt very blessed when someone else worked this out and asked us if they could buy our second car. So it was good-bye to the Fiesta and welcome to the bicycles as we prepared for our new life in Oxford, a city best travelled by bike. Even Hannah has embraced this new life with whoops of joy from her bicycle seat on the front of our bikes.

Family life

The goodbyes have continued as we had a lovely evening saying good-bye to some of our Edinburgh friends. Parties at the Bennetts haven’t really featured since Hannah’s arrival so it was great to be able to dust off the cookery skills and invite some folk round. Hannah was a star and slept through the evening, whilst Steve and Catriona appreciated the opportunity for some adult conversation, even if it meant “good bye for now”.

Moving to Oxford has been both exciting and challenging. It is great to feel that we are one step closer to departing for Rwanda, but it has been strange moving to a different city within our own country first. Culturally, Scotland and England are very different. We have also moved from semi-rural Fife with deer in the field behind our house, to city life in Oxford. There has been a noticeable change in the pace of life, going from 10-hour days in medicine with barely 15 minutes for lunch, to tutorials with ample coffee breaks and much more time for contemplation and discussion. As we reflect on our thoughts and feelings during this transition we are certain that they will be good preparation for what lies ahead.

Cycling to mission partner training in Oxford!

Hannah is as usual taking everything in her stride. We are fairly convinced that as long as food arrives and there are people to wave at she will be happy. She is now cruising and walking with a baby walker. She has discovered swings and slides and absolutely adores afternoons in the local park. She chatters away in complete babble to anyone who will listen and is delighted with her new skill of clapping her hands. If you ever needed anything to ground you in the chaos of life, a small child is definitely high on our list.


We are delighted to be able to announce the flights are booked. We will be moving to Rwanda on 2 August! It is uplifting to have this date in the diary and a real horizon to look for as the reality of trying to extricate ourselves from life in the UK unfolds. For us this means it’s time to get organised; for you it means by the time we are writing our next link letter we will have arrived in Rwanda – how exciting!

Scottish wildlife... we wonder what will be in our garden in Rwanda?

Wishing you every blessing,

Catriona,Stephen and Hannah