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Kiersten Hutchinson:  ‘Wherever He Leads I’ll Go’

Missionary Kiersten Hutchinson of Elizabethton returned to Zimbabwe this week where she serves as a Physician Assistant at the Karanda Mission Hospital with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM). The Karanda Hospital is located in the northeast corner of Zimbabwe about 100 miles from the capital.
“We’re a bush hospital, however, we do serve some urban folks. In addition to treating the sick, the hospital works to equip and complement the church as it reaches out to people in need,” Kiersten shared. She has served in Zimbabwe 20 years. It’s not a mission she takes lightly.
“It’s my mission in life. It’s my work. The Lord has blessed me. I can’t say it has been easy, because there have been times it has been hard. God gifts people for the calling He gives them. He gave me an adventuresome spirit and an okay for a simple lifestyle. The blessings have far outweighed the challenges,” Kiersten said this week as she prepared to return to her work a half a world away.
Her missionary calling was one that developed over time. She’d gone on short-term mission trips and had attended the Urbana missions conference, not once but twice. She also had led her church’s mission board and helped in mission conferences.
She had no qualms about being a missionary — that is until she accepted her first two-year assignment.
Suddenly, Kiersten, the confident 20-something, was gripped with fear that wouldn’t budge, and she almost backed out of the assignment, but thankfully she didn’t.
She went on her first short-term mission trip to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and from there she was hooked on missions. After that she served in short-term missions in Mexico and Ecuador in small clinics. “With each mission trip, I learned a little more about who I was, and I where I could serve best,” Kiersten shared.
Kiersten’s home church and sending church is Memorial Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton. She graduated from Elizabethton High School and later attended King College in Bristol, where she received her degree, which led her to medicine and serving as a Physician’s Assistant.
Kiersten now finds she has two homes — one in Elizabethton and one at the Karanda Mission Hospital, where she does primary care. “We are a 130-bed hospital. My days consist of morning rounds followed by the required ‘British tea break.’ The rest of the day I see patients in the outpatient department,” she explained.
Some common conditions she and doctors see are HIV, TB, and malaria as well as the more familiar hypertension, diabetes, and arthritis. Some common surgeries done at the hospital include hysterectomy, hernia, C-section, and fracture repairs.
Outside of her hospital work, Kiersten makes opportunities to build relationships with the women in the village through a weekly Bible study in her home with the nursing students at the hospital, caring for several widows, and helping orphans go to school.
The major people with whom she works are the Shona, which Kiersten describes as “open, friendly, and quick to smile.”
“They love to sing and dance,” she said.
Although the Shona practice their traditional way of life and live in rural brick huts and cook over an open fire, Kiersten lives on the hospital complex in a “traditional” American home complete with a stove, refrigerator, and a traditional American living room and bedroom. The one thing missing is running water. “Our water must be carried and boiled,” she said.
However, clean water is coming to the village with the help of a Moody Aviation graduate, Jon Christiansen, who with his wife, Kathy, have been serving in Zimbabwe since 2004. Jon’s parents formerly worked with TEAM at the Karanda Mission Hospital. He returned to the states to attend Moody Aviation in Elizabethton.
Christiansen, who oversees maintenance and development of Karanda Mission Hospital, has been instrumental in providing a reliable water source for the Karanda Mission Hospital and Shona people through the digging of wells and the installation of LifePumps.                                                                                                                                                                                                          
“Kathy helps with the children’s school. They are among my best friends and are a connection to Elizabethton, which I really enjoy,” said Kiersten.
“Sure, I get homesick, but not as much as I once did. I’ve an appreciation for both of my homes. The calling was hard, but it has been worth it. I’ve found my life work, and it is fulfilling, and I know I am in God’s will. I also know that I have many, many prayer partners back in the states. I just want to use my gift to help build His kingdom whether it be at Karanda Mission Hospital, in Elizabethton, or somewhere else in the world. God has richly blessed me,” said Missionary Kiersten Hutchinson, who is now back in Zimbabwe at the Karanda Mission Hospital, her home abroad.
“I have a busy schedule at the hospital and in ministry when my day is done at the hospital, usually by six in the evening. There are so many needs in the village where I work and serve, and God is blessing,” she said. “We don’t immediately see the results of our ministry, but we know that God is working. What is important is that we are obedient and we leave the results to Him. In His time, He wins.”
While at home these past six months, she has traveled and spoke in several different churches, which are partners in her ministry and mission work. Usually, she serves in Zimbabwe two and one-half years and then six months in the states with family and friends.
“I do enjoy coming home and seeing family and friends and sharing about my work at Karanda Mission Hospital, but I also enjoy getting back to my work,” she shared.
Kiersten’s parents were the late James and Hayes Hutchinson, who lived in the Powder Branch Community. She has a brother, who lives in Abingdon, Va., and a sister, who resides in Jonesborough.
The hymn “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go” could very well be Kiersten Hutchinson’s testimony.