Sister Mary Thomas

Sister Mary Thomas
Senior Vice President of Mission
Avera McKennan

Recent Posts

  • Building a Future


    This is the rainy season so the Zambian countryside is lush and green; consequently, the grasses grow quickly. Zambian FlowersThe picture below shows the men working and cutting the grass with a tool called a slasher. The grass will be used for hay.Zambians use a tool called a slasher to cut the grass

    A couple of Presentation donors are contributing to the building of a hostel for girls who live in the bush. The girls are too vulnerable when left to find their own housing. The school held a dedication ceremony in our honor. In one picture, you will see a group of young women and men from the school singing a welcoming song for us. We were invited to dance with the girls. I found the direct encounter very moving. I felt we were more mutual – we both had something to offer each other.

    Mwaata High School Students singing to Presentation Sisters

    Mwaata High School students singing to Presentation People

    The Sisters are helping establish a farm. The picture shows a dairy barn that was just constructed with the help of a grant. They also raise pigs. Some of the funds are used to provide an income for the workers and some funds help support the home based care program for people with HIV/AIDS.Sisters helping to establish a farm.

    We are all doing fine here. We have met wonderful people. The sisters in Kalomo are so hospitable. Thank you for your prayers and support!

  • Home Based Care Clinics


    Sister Theresa is a nurse at Kalomo and operates a number of home based care clinics – at least that is what I call the visits because she goes to one location and the people come to her. Sister Theresa has two women who are carers and who know what is happening with the people in their area. They help Sister with translations, usually Tonga as needed and do on the spot updates on each patient, which is recorded in a book. The carers pay to volunteer. I still do not understand this arrangement. Mrs. Makalani is one of the carers standing in the doorway.

    Below is a picture of the clinic. The setting is very humble. You may see that the waiting room and the exam room are the same. There is no HIPPA here. Most of the clients are HIV/AIDS so Sister has a suitcase of vitamins and other supplements to assist her clients. One benefit to this group approach is that the client gets lots of emotional support from the other women, when she admits to Sister that she has been “thinking” too much. This is to say she is very worried about some aspect of her life. It was really touching to me to see the women waiting to be seen and the carers help one woman who felt so alone and overwhelmed to realize that they were her family too.Clinic_in_Kalomo

  • Arriving in Lusaka


    This comes to you from Zambia! The trip to Lusaka went very well. All the luggage arrived and Customs waved us through with hardly a glance. We felt surrounded by a cloud of prayer. Thank you!


    Today was the day to meet Chanda Chewe Luchemba. To give you a brief context, Sister Deb knew of a medical student from her area. Chanda has been a medical student for three years and was now having to face discontinuation of his studies due to lack of funds. Sister Janice contacted Dr. Mike Elliott, Chief Medical Officer at Avera McKennan to see if some physicians might be interested in supporting Chanda. Once presented with the opportunity the Medical Executive Officers decided that the medical staff would support Chanda for three years. He needs $1000 each year.

    Upon meeting Chanda we experienced him as a bright, pleasant young man. He was very considerate and totally grateful for the support. It was a delight to meet him. We took a picture which we will send once we find a computer to read our camera card. We exchanged email addresses so now we have the ability to stay in touch. Thank you for making this possible. It was a heart warming moment!

    Sister Mary Thomas and Chanda

  • The Journey Begins


    Journey Begins

    As people learn of my mission trip to Zambia, many comment on others who have gone there. Who knew that Zambia was a practically a destination site? Well, I am almost out the door now with two huge suitcases plus my personal suitcase. Beware, when mission people know you are coming there is a lot that they can imagine to bring along. All items are in the name of greater service. I am all for it even if I do have to do a relay in the airport as I wheel three suitcases along!

    On a more thoughtful note, these last days prior to departure have been unsettling. Some is due to finishing up the last details. The other is recognizing that I am leaving familiar turf and with that letting go of a level of self-sufficiency. New experiences and new insights will rattle the cage of my current frame of reference. I will be receptive to what the Zambian people will teach me about life. Even though I go as a pilgrim, this journey is less about visiting a holy place as finding the holy within the encounters I have with the people who call Zambia “home.”

    Your many well wishes and promises of prayer warm my heart and send me forth! Thank you.

  • Greetings from Sister Mary Thomas


    If I could be of service, I would willingly go to any part of the world… – Nano Nagle, Founder of the Presentation Sisters

    “Your request to go to Zambia, Africa, has been approved.”

    Really? How seriously did I want to go, and did Nano imagine Africa when she voiced her bold statement? Several years ago, my friend went to Zambia on a mission trip. There was no doubt that she was eager for this journey of faith. Secretly, I was glad I could not go. I was quite content to support her and the mission from afar.

    Now it is different for me. I feel a sense of peace and readiness. I realize I was not called to go five years ago. With the call comes the grace to respond. I think that is what’s different – the grace of God and my desire to respond generously.

    Mission Fundamentals
    I have travel companions: Sisters Pam and Janice, a married couple – Gloria & Larry, and a friend of the sisters—Shary. We will visit two primary missions. One mission in Kaoma addresses the root causes of poverty by promoting skills to develop a sustainable income from farming, fishing and sewing. Sister Virginia, originally from Mitchell, S.D., leads this project in collaboration with the local villagers. The second mission in Kalomo focuses on youth and young adult ministry. Sister Deb, originally from Mobridge, S.D., serves in this educational, spiritual and life skills endeavor.

    A Welcomed Change
    In responding to a call, one ought to prepare herself for a conversion. God will not leave us unchanged! There is a passage in the Gospel of Mark that has been coming to me these days prior to going. “You have eyes but cannot see, ears but cannot hear.” Mark 8:18. I will go to Zambia to discover what this passage might mean for me and for us.

    Your prayers are welcomed!

    We will begin our mission on January 11 and return February 3. Conditions permitting (like electricity) we hope to send updates periodically. Thank you for taking this journey of faith with us.

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