Katie Wilcoxson Serves As OCMC Missionary in Tanzania
Katherine Wilcoxson, daughter of Fr. Aidan Wilcoxson of St. John the Forerunner Church in Cedar Park, Texas, has always wanted to find ways to serve. "In Tanzania," says OCMC's website, "Katherine is dedicating her training and experience as a registered nurse to the Orthodox Church’s Resurrection Hospital. Because Tanzania is one of the many African countries plagued with treatable diseases and poverty, this ministry of preventive healthcare and health education is vital."
Now that she's newly settled in her mission assignment, Katie took a moment to tell her story.
From an early age I have loved helping others. During middle school and high school, I was the youngest regular volunteer at the local food bank. The year I graduated from high school, I learned about the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). In 2000, I went on my first OCMC short-term trip to Alaska. In the following two years I also went on short-term trips to Guatemala and Tanzania. I had a real connection with the people of Tanzania, and I knew I would return as a long-term missionary.
A few years later, I discovered that the best way I could help out in Africa was through health-care. So, I went to nursing school in order to return to Tanzania as a nurse. The year I graduated from nursing school, the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America sponsored me to spend a few months in Guatemala as an intern at the Hogar Rafael Orphanage. I learned a great deal about mission work in those three months. One huge lesson was that mission work takes a really long time. This has been true for all Orthodox missionaries of the centuries. Many of these heroic men and women dedicated their entire lives to mission work, and some even died before the fruits of their service were revealed.
In the summer of 2008, I received an email from OCMC asking me if I was still interested in doing long-term mission work. I tried to contain my extreme excitement; I think I sent an email saying "sure." It took three years of planning, training, and fundraising before everything was finally in place, but I am now serving with a team of four other Orthodox Americans; our commitment is to be in Tanzania for two years.
We arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in early July. We have moved three times since then, and we now in our permanent home in Bukoba, where we will be working at the Resurrection Orthodox Hospital. Currently we are continuing our Swahili language lessons. Learning the local dialect was the first bit of advice St. Innocent gave Saint Nicholas of Japan when he first met him during his freshman year in Japan. After the great apostle did this his ministry really took flight. After reading about this missionary saint, I have felt a great connection with him. Here is a quotation from him I really connect with:
"We cannot ask God and His holy saints that they remove all the difficulties from our missionary road and everything that causes us moral suffering. We can only pray that He help us carry the cross, and enable us to survive the difficulties and sufferings that await us on our missionary road. Our service is giving birth to spiritual children for God; and what birth is not accompanied by pain? And for this we must be prepared in advance. But we have a source of great consolation. To serve with energy and success we must have confidence beforehand that our labor is not in vain and that our work will be crowned with success." (St. Nicholas of Japan) Dnevniki Sviatogo Nikolaia Iaponskogo (5 vols. St. Petersburg: Giperion, 2004)
To see more pictures and read Katie’s most recent missionary letters go to her OCMC Missionary homepage here.