By Tapiwa Machemedze
Zimbabweans have paid tribute to the late Dr Roland Russell Stephens, who was instrumental in developing Karanda Mission hospital in Mt Darwin into a health facility of repute.
Although he died thousands of kilometres away at his Springfield Ohio home in the United States of America, Dr Stephens, who was 91, left an indelible mark in Zimbabwe and Mount Darwin in particular.
Dr. Stephens first came to Karanda, then Gunderson-Horness Mission Hospital in 1962 and played an instrumental role in addressing the widespread health challenges in the remote area of Mt Darwin by establishing a centre of health care excellence where people now converge from the four corners of Zimbabwe.
“Firstly I want to express my condolences on the death of Dr. Stephens, I am one of the people who was helped by Dr Stephens in a great way.
“I went to Karanda when I was sick to an extent I was supposed to get an operation, but because of Dr. Stephen when I got to Karanda I was received well and got a lot of help. Because of him I didn’t even get an operation. I was treated and got healed so I feel a lot of pain,” a resident of Karanda said.
Another said, “At Karanda I met Dr. Stephens. He wanted to see my leg which was grinding and he didn’t shun or discriminate and I don’t think he ever mishandled anyone.
“He used to touch wounds and he didn’t even care about looking for gloves or anything. He was a good-hearted person and hearing about his demise, it’s a great loss. Yes, he was a white man, but he was kind.”
Evangelical Church of Zimbabwe Bishop, Benson Magojo worked with Dr. Stephens for about 10 years and had a first-hand experience of how he assisted the local community even when hospitals were closed down during the liberation struggle.
“Dr. Stephens had a heart for people, he didn’t discriminate and he had a heart for people. He didn’t look at the time when he got work so that when he was helping a person with healing or spiritually, he would help,” said Bishop Magojo.
He added, “Even during the liberation struggle he said as long as I’m not intimidated, I will continue to help people. He eventually had to close the hospital because of government regulations and Karanda was the last hospital to close.
“He was more than a missionary, you’d see godliness in him so when we heard of his death we were really disturbed. He died as a Christian and I want to think he is home with His Father and Our God. So, we appreciate him as a community. I appreciate him as a church. I appreciate that we a learnt a lot from him. For the community of Karanda, Dotitio area is really a loss. We will miss him greatly.”
Karanda Mission Hospital was established in 1961 to address the needs of mission stations in the Zambezi River Valley which were established as churches and then small dispensaries into clinics.
Dr Stephens’ death comes after President Mnagangwa commissioned a multi-million-dollar bridge linking various communities to Karanda Mission, validating the importance of the hospital in the country’s health care system.