Answering God’s Call at Mukinge Mission Hospital


Images by David Uttley, Story by Carter Mize

It may feel like a “tug on the heart,”or a “still, small voice” in the mind, or maybe even an overwhelming shout — however it comes, God’s call to missions can be persistent and irresistible for many.

CHSC Physician Assistant Jessica Winston’s call came early on in childhood. The words weren’t specific, but the goal was clear enough: go and serve others.

“I wanted to allow him to use me in a faraway place, but with some
skill, or way to help the people that I was encountering — and not just in a spiritual way, but also a physical way,” Jessica said. “That just naturally led me towards medicine.”

Now at 33, Jessica works as a Physician Assistant at CHSC-supported Mukinge Mission Hospital, a 200-bed facility serving an area of roughly 100,000 people in rural northwestern Zambia.

Mukinge is an oasis of healing in a large region without many other hospitals or sources of quality healthcare. The sprawling hospital complex encompasses seven inpatient wards and a offers a wide array of services like physical therapy, family planning, STD testing and more in its outpatient clinics. Jessica can often be found riding a bike through Mukinge’s maze of covered walkways to travel from ward to ward.

The rural surrounding area, filled with greenery and exotic birds, is dotted with small villages made up of brick huts with dirt floors. Most lack running water. Jessica’s bike rides often lead her through these villages, where she gets a view of many of the patients she sees at Mukinge.

“In Zambia, you’re able to see the lack of doctors and the lack of access to medicine in general,” Jessica said. “You see patients that have walked for hours and days and have been turned away from facilities because they either didn’t have medical providers or they didn’t have any medications. And so oftentimes, we see these patients present very, very late in very dire situations.”

The Physician Assistant role enables Jessica to directly care for many patients without needing several extra years of medical school and special training. She acts as the main clinician visiting patients in Mukinge’s pediatric and malnutrition wards, makes diagnoses, oversees patient care plans, consults with physicians on difficult cases, and takes weekly on-call shifts.

Their versatility has made PAs an extremely useful tool for expanding medical capacity in hospitals and clinics worldwide, even as the position has no exact analogue in many African countries. Mukinge staff have sometimes taken to calling Jessica “doctor,” but she insists on letting them know her actual role.

“I always want to make sure people know that I’m not a doctor, and to work within my scheduled practice,” Jessica said. “That’s something very important to me. It gives more dignity to the individuals I’m treating.”


Road to Mukinge

Jessica’s journey into medical missions didn’t come with a perfect blueprint. For many missionaries, reaching a lasting place in missions often requires trial and error, immense soul searching, and more than anything else, a willingness to listen to God’s call.

Her first taste of medical missions began in short-term trips to South Africa and Guatemala, operating free clinics with teams of PA students. The trips helped the students understand work in the field, but Jessica left Guatemala with questions on how well they actually served local communities.

While their clinic in Guatemala attracted attention from local people, Jessica noticed a nearby Guatemalan-run clinic sat empty.

“I’ll never forget seeing that office and thinking, ‘Are we taking away from their livelihood?’” Jessica said. “They have put in this work, they know this people… and yet, we’re coming in and setting up this free clinic for a couple of days, and possibly doing more harm than good.”

Jessica wasn’t alone in her concerns. Some of her questions appeared in the book When Healthcare Hurts, a guide to medical missions written by Christian Health Service Corps (CHSC) founder Greg Seager.

“I came across Greg’s book and really started to better understand,
what does it mean, as a Christian… and as a medical worker to come
alongside the people that are in these countries doing this work,”
Jessica said. “How can I love them, empower them and ultimately show
them who Christ is? By being partners with them.”

“So much of my heart is wanting to just provide a seat at the table
for people who are already doing the work and may not have a voice.”

Jessica’s drive toward mission work strengthened after she graduated
from college. With the help of a medical missionary couple in her home
state of Arkansas, she compared sending organizations that aligned with
her theology and aspirations.

She wanted to work in a place where she could find community among an
experienced hospital staff, and a patient population that could benefit
from her knowledge. Christian Health Service Corps had the perfect
opportunity for her in Mukinge, where she could work alongside seasoned
CHSC staff like Kent and Amber Brantly and Stephen and Amy Snell.

“[Mukinge] felt like one big family,” Jessica said. “It’s been a
place to grow. It’s a really sweet place that very quickly felt like

The work at Mukinge hasn’t been without its challenges. Like so many

other medical missionaries before her, culture shock, fatigue and seeing
more suffering than the average US physician all have impacted her
experience in Zambia. Through it all, Jessica feels God has reminded her
and others of His goodness and faithfulness.

“He’s revealing more and more of himself to me, and I’m just really thankful for that,” Jessica said.

“Here [at Mukinge,] people come to you at their very worst. They come
to you when they have been to mission hospital after government
hospital after rural health clinic and, and not been seen — really,
really seen. And we have the opportunity to look at patients and really
see them for who they are — who God created them to be. We may not be
able to fix whatever physical ailment they have. But we’re able to show
them the love of Christ, we’re able to show them that they are worthy of


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