God’s unfailing love for the dying

Death is a part of day-to-day life in Angola, where the overall life expectancy is 62. Health care is costly because there’s no health insurance and many end up turning to witchcraft as their last hope.

Irene Westendorp

However, a palliative care team set up by SIM UK mission nurse Irene Westendorp is providing care for terminally-ill patients and their families holistically – physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

While serving at the Christian hospital CEML (Centro Evangélico de Medicina do Lubango) in Angola, Irene noticed how terminally-ill patients were often discharged to face the world alone.

“They would then need to pay the price of a consultation to come back to the hospital if they had questions,” she recalls.

Irene realised the solution was to have nurses explain all the issues to patients while they managed their pain and so keep their families from spending unnecessary money.

“Previously, it seemed as though palliative care was only available to those patients who already had a nurse in their family, but creating this team meant the hospital could work together with discharged patients in their own homes,” Irene explains.

“The team provides support to the patient and their family from the moment of diagnosis to the terminal phase in order to alleviate physical and psychological suffering. They know we’re always there to answer questions, help with uncertainties and to give them hope in Christ.”

Slowly, the palliative care team gained the trust of patients and in time, visited many patients, where they treated their pain and gave spiritual counselling through prayer.

“Many times patients told us. ‘It’s good to know you’re here and that we can pray together’, “ says Irene.

Despite its success, the ministry still faces demanding situations, such as social problems within the family or community, or the role traditions and customs play in the Angolan culture.

“Because of the context in which many Angolans live, many still turn as their last hope to the traditional healer,” reveals Irene. “But our team is able to offer the peace of Christ to patients and show God’s love as they help them deal with the anguish and psychological distress in their final days.”

Irene, far left, with her colleagues on the palliative care team

Irene set up the palliative care project before she left her ministry in November, but she returned home knowing the ministry was in safe hands: “From the beginning, I trained local nurses to run this ministry and I learned so much about the love of Christ working with my Angolan colleagues and friends. So often I noticed how many of them ministered in such a natural way to those who were in need.

“Leaving my team was difficult, but I hope to visit frequently and see how the programme is growing and I pray many Angolans will come to know Christ through it.”

By Kerry Allan

Sao’s story

Please pray

  • For God to give his strength and wisdom to the palliative care team in Lubango.  
  • For Irene to stay connected with the team, despite the distance.
  • Give thanks for SIM health care ministries that are used around the globe to open doors to show God’s love and invite people into a relationship with him.

Offering financial support to the palliative care team will help keep this caring ministry operating. The team would appreciate sufficient funding to afford medications for patients, as well as mattresses and wheelchairs. Visit if you’d like to support this ministry, quoting Project Number 94388.

A vision in the making since the 1980s, CEML now has a great intern programme to train the next generation of Angolan doctors, but more medical specialists are required, either short term of longer term. If you are interested, please visit:

This was posted on 20 February 2024 in Compassionate ministries and Medical Mission and Ministry stories.

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