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Eva Walderhaug Sather: memories from the maternity ward

Some thoughts about my experiences in Nazareth: Eva Walderhaug Sather

Volunteering at Nazareth Hospital’s Maternity Ward

“Doing something you believe in will probably amplify your faith.”

Eva in Nazareth

Eva Walderhaug Sather, one of our wonderful SERVE volunteers, has shared with us her experiences in Nazareth. Eva has worked as a lead nurse in hospital (medical wards) and community (health visitor and home care). She has also been in leadership in universities, as well as lecturing up to 30 years all together in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (Norwegian University of Science and Technology/NTNU). She was awarded the degree of Philosophiae doctor (PhD) in Medicine in 2020.Her theses were about mental health services in the transitional process between hospital and community (patients and healthcare professionals experiences).

How did I end up volunteering here?

I visited the Nazareth Trust for the first time in 2017 on a tour with volunteers from ‘The Norwegian Church Ministry to Israel’. In 2018, I applied to work for three weeks as a volunteer at the Nazareth Trust through SERVE Nazareth, which was then run by Christine Farah. I went to Nazareth, went into the hospital together with some local volunteers to different departments, and sat with patients and prayed for them. And I felt that I was in the right place. One night during that stay, on the 10th of March 2018, a word from the Holy Bible especially touched my heart: ‘No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God’ (Luke 9:62). That was a challenge – but meeting people in Nazareth had given me a heart for the people there – and I realized that God has given me a calling for serving in Nazareth further on. – And then Covid-19 arrived!

On a tour trip to Nazareth in the autumn of 2022, I made an agreement with the SERVE coordinator Majdoleen to volunteer at the Nazareth Hospital for one month, the next January (2023).

SERVE Nazareth volunteers

Norwegian Night at the Doctor’s House

What tasks do you do as a volunteer?

I worked in the Maternity ward (Obstetrics & Gynecology Care) at the Nazareth Hospital. I received a warm welcome as a foreigner among the staff. They said, ‘it’s the first time we have a volunteer from Norway!’ I did my best and fell quickly into their routines and learned a lot from the healthcare professional staff. I just loved to take care of the newborn babies and give the parents some advice and instruction with baby care. Each newborn baby is unique and a wonder!

The Pilgrim's Guest House, volunteer accommodation at Nazareth Hospital

The Pilgrim’s Guest House (also known as the Doctor’s House), volunteer accommodation at Nazareth Hospital

Are you taking this volunteering experience as a personal retreat – a disconnection from the busyness of life?

I live on the west coast of Norway, near the town of Aalesund, and I am lucky to have a family with grown-up children and grandchildren. I have a Bible study group with six younger Eritrean women (from different congregations). I also have contact with some Arabic-speaking people, Muslims, that live in the neighborhood. I am still doing some research as an emerita professor/lecturer and writing scientific articles. I enjoy my life here, but still, I must go to Nazareth – to meet the local people there!

Babies at Nazareth Hospital's Maternity Ward

Newborns at the maternity ward.

What do you love most about volunteering?

Serving in a maternity ward is a chance to serve and love the local people. I think serving is helping me to focus on the right things in life, not just on money and productivity. Doing something you believe in will probably amplify your faith. Also, participating in a volunteering team is instructive and valuable; you make friends, grow in your faith, and learn a lot from other cultures.

What was the most challenging part of the experience?

Being an ‘English speaking’ person in the hospital seems not to be a big challenge, even with patients (young parents). But when a parent asks for a pacifier (English), in Arabic ‘masasa’ or in Hebrew ‘motzetz’, it could be a challenge. When the staff had their professional discussions, I had to ask what it was about afterwards. And with the local people in shops and churches, it would be useful to talk in their language in order to have a deeper and better interaction with some of them.

Are you thinking of repeating the experience in the future?

I have planned to go back for a month (5-6 weeks) period, probably two times a year. Further on I would like to serve and meet local people living in Nazareth and its surroundings.