December 7, 2002 - Duluth News Tribune: Liberia RPCV Kelley Jewett, a physician and missionary to Liberia and India, awaits her next assignment

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Liberia: Peace Corps Liberia : The Peace Corps in Liberia: December 7, 2002 - Duluth News Tribune: Liberia RPCV Kelley Jewett, a physician and missionary to Liberia and India, awaits her next assignment

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Liberia RPCV Kelley Jewett, a physician and missionary to Liberia and India, awaits her next assignment

Liberia RPCV Kelley Jewett, a physician and missionary to Liberia and India, awaits her next assignment

A medical mission
SERVING OTHERS: Kelley Jewett, a physician and missionary to Liberia and India, awaits her next assignment.

Three years ago Kelley Jewett left a job as a doctor in Duluth to become a medical missionary in Africa, then India.

She doesn't think what she does is remarkable. It's simply what she believes God called her to do.

"Everyone has a purpose," Jewett said. "... People say, 'you're a doctor and a missionary' and they idolize you and put you on a pedestal. But everyone's part is important."

Jewett believes she has been blessed to have food, clothes and a good education. "I feel responsible to share with other people," she said.

Jewett, 40, was in Duluth recently visiting friends and family. She has completed a three-year commitment to serve with the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church and is waiting to find out where she'll be sent next.


Jewett dreamed of being a doctor who helped people in Africa when she was a girl growing up on a small farm in Swatara, south of Hill City.

Before her recent assignment in Liberia, she had served there twice -- for two years as a Peace Corps worker following college and later for three months as part of a medical relief team helping people suffering because of the country's civil war. Among the people she treated were torture victims and starving children.

Although Liberia's seven-year civil war officially ended in 1997, there still is fighting and people are suffering, Jewett said. About half the country's population is believed to have been displaced or killed in the war. Poverty and malnutrition are widespread.

Jewett's recent work in Liberia was at a United Methodist hospital and clinic in Ganta. The 60-bed hospital was the only one in the region. It had no running water. A generator for electricity was turned on only for surgeries. She also did a lot of work in villages, teaching about sanitation and nutrition and giving vaccinations.

Although she was trained as a family practice doctor, she learned to do surgeries, such as amputations and Caesarean sections, because often there was no one else to do them. Making do was a challenge, but it was what she expected.

Sometimes it was overwhelming to treat people in tough situations -- especially when she knew they would have access to better medical care in the United States. She kept hope by knowing that she was doing the best she could with what she had.

"I've had to let go of thinking I'm in control and let God be in charge. I have some knowledge and skill, but it's not in my hands. I'm not in charge of the world," Jewett said.

She recalled treating a little girl in Liberia named Patience who was attacked by a chimpanzee while walking home from school. Her parents found her mangled body and walked 14 hours as they carried her to the hospital. By the time they got her there, she had lost so much blood she nearly died.

Jewett gave her a blood transfusion and worked to repair her wounds and fractures. The girl remained in the hospital for a month.

"She was a little spitfire," Jewett said. "When it was time to go, she couldn't walk normally (because of injuries to her feet), but she was dancing and singing all around the place. It's really a miracle she survived. The dedication of her parents and her incredible spirit pulled her through."

Jewett was inspired by the people she met. In Liberia, people who lost everything in the war -- including family members -- still had faith in God, she said.

"Every day they thank God for life and they mean it," she said.


After serving in Liberia for 1 years, she transferred to a hospital and clinic in Jamkhed, a city of about 40,000 in southern India.

This time she worked in a well-equipped medical facility. Although there was poverty, it wasn't as widespread as in Liberia and there wasn't as much malnutrition. Still, she saw many sad situations.

Jewett remembers a bright, beautiful young woman who had been cruelly treated by her stepmother and who had tried to commit suicide by burning herself with kerosene. She survived, but her neck became wedded to her shoulder by scar tissue. Jewett met her when she did surgery to release the skin.

"No one visited her when she was in the hospital. I wound up talking to her a lot and we became friends," Jewett said, then paused as she blinked back tears. "The day I left, she cried and cried and said, 'You're the first person who ever cared about me.' The plight of a lot of women is horrible. To be 19 years old and never have anyone care about you is so sad."

Jewett said she learned that caring for people sometimes was more healing than any medicine she could provide.


About 30 churches contribute money to finance Jewett's work, including congregations in Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Colorado and Minnesota. Among them are the two Duluth congregations of which she is a member: Peace United Church of Christ and Hope United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Elton Brown, co-pastor of Hope, said Jewett is a remarkable person who is down-to-earth, intelligent and has a mature faith.

"She has a deep understanding of God's grace and God's challenge for people to serve the needy, the weak, the poor," he said. "One of the reasons she moved from practicing medicine here to go to Africa is because the needs are so desperate there. She could make such a difference there, saving lives every day."

Jewett has been back in the United States since late July, traveling and speaking to congregations that support her work. She believes she is planting seeds, especially when kids hear her talk.

Jewett tells people that everyone has a job to do.

"You don't have to get on a plane to do it," she said. "There are people in our own community who need food and shelter and are lonely. As Christians, we all have a responsibility to help them."
LINDA HANSON covers family issues and religion. She can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5335 or by e-mail at

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Story Source: Duluth News Tribune

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Liberia; Medical Missionary



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