Religion

Former hospital head heeds new calling as missionary to east Africa

Nancy Peed provides children’s health screenings while on a trip to South Sudan.
Nancy Peed provides children’s health screenings while on a trip to South Sudan.

Nancy Peed has had two big dreams in the last 20 years.

The first was to see Peach County’s hospital survive — and thrive. That dream is now a reality.

The second is to go to East Africa as a missionary where she plans to help increase health care and services available to people in medically poor South Sudan and northern Uganda and to foster a better quality of life in any way she can.

And, she said, she’ll do it in Jesus’ name.

“I had a local dream for such a long time — a hospital dream,” she said. “It was just as much a faith journey for me as anything else in my life. I believed God spoke to my heart. We were supposed to build a new hospital in Peach County, even though odds were against it. Really, it was impossible.”

It’s not too strong to say we would have lost our hospital had it not been for Nancy. We not only kept it, but got a new one thanks to her work. It’s not far-fetched at all to think what she’ll do in Africa will involve the same love for people and willingness to work hard for their well being. It will take the same commitment to God, faith and prayer — it’s just God is putting her in a different environment.

Helen Rhea Stumbo

Until she resigned in 2015, Peed was the hospital’s administrator/CEO. She said odds against improvement weren’t just about its 60-plus-year-old facility. It was more the fact that rural hospitals are closing rather than improving, especially in the South.

Research from the North Carolina Rural Health Research program shows 77 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, an average of more than 10 a year.

But Peed believed better for Peach County and in 2013 a new, $27 million facility opened its doors just west of Interstate 75 on the Ga. 247 Connector.

Thomas Green was part of the first dream coming true. Green practices law in Macon, lives in Fort Valley and is chairman of the board of the hospital, which now has a new facility, a new affiliation and a new name ensuring quality healthcare for years to come: The Medical Center of Peach County, Navicent Health.

Green credits Peed with having the strategy to get the hospital built and for reaching out to Navicent Health to form the mutually beneficial partnership.

He called her a determined person with a strong Christian faith under-girding all she does.

“I’d describe Nancy as totally dedicated to our hospital, even to the point of letting aspects of her own life go,” he said. “I mean that in the most positive way. The hospital has really struggled at times during her career here and she didn’t seek raises and gave up lots of benefits she could have gotten elsewhere — like a good retirement. My biggest fear was someone would come take her away from us.”

Peed, 55, served the hospital for 19 years, about one-third of its existence.

She said after seeing the first dream come to pass, the next dream began taking shape — even though she was in a position to relax a bit and recoup some of the sacrifices she’d made.

“I sat in my new office and, I have to say, I was enjoying it,” Peed said. “But I began feeling something different. I began feeling God was letting me know my work there was finished and my time coming to an end. Believe me, it was hard to hear that and took a while to say ‘Yes, Lord.’ It’s hard to leave something you’ve known all your life and step out into something new. But, by trusting God, it’s become my heart’s desire and greatest passion to get to Africa and be with people there.”

Peed said she hopes to be on her way to the South Sudan/northern Uganda area before too many months pass in the New Year. Day-to-day, she’ll help medical mission teams do screenings and provide services and education in remote areas. She’ll also work with hospital personnel to provide staff leadership training and to assist in such things as developing and carrying out strategic planning.

Peed said her work will include aid to orphans and refugees displaced by turmoil in South Sudan. In fact, such turmoil is causing Peed to begin her work in northern Uganda rather than South Sudan as originally planned.

Many of the changes in preparing for her new life are difficult for Peed. She said instead of working hard for others to earn her own way, she’s having to work hard at asking others for their help by providing monthly support. She’s selling her home on the Flint River near Reynolds and she’s getting rid of long-loved personal items while starting to say her goodbyes — or at least see-you-laters — to loved ones.

But even in that, she said there are rewards.

“It is frightening at times, I admit it,” she said. “A lot has to happen before I can go and I’m facing deadlines. But when I’m most concerned, there’s always an encouragement from God that he’s the one doing this and it will happen, even though it seems impossible.”

Helen Rhea Stumbo is a friend who said she’s seen God use Peed to do the impossible in Peach County and expects he’ll do similar as she goes to Africa.

Stumbo was a successful Fort Valley businesswoman, the granddaughter of Bluebird Body Co. founder Albert Laurence Luce Sr. and the wife of former long-time Fort Valley Mayor John Stumbo.

The couple recently moved to Kentucky to be near grandchildren. She and her husband knew Peed as fellow members of Fort Valley United Methodist Church.

“It’s not too strong to say we would have lost our hospital had it not been for Nancy,” Stumbo said. “We not only kept it, but got a new one thanks to her work. It’s not far-fetched at all to think what she’ll do in Africa will involve the same love for people and willingness to work hard for their well being. It will take the same commitment to God, faith and prayer — it’s just God is putting her in a different environment. When she was at the hospital, you knew Nancy cared for people. It wasn’t a huge surprise when she told me God was calling her to be a missionary. Now she’s having to trust the Lord for her needs as she goes.”

In the past year, Peed has spent time training through the Mission Society, making short-term trips to South Sudan and spending countless hours writing support letters, making phone calls, speaking at churches, to civic groups and with individuals about her new cause.

“I guess I’m talking to everybody I can,” she said. “Yes, I have to ask for money. But I believe there’s more to it than that. I’m trying to encourage people with a word about what God’s doing. When I speak about my journey, there are always those who tell me they’re excited God can speak something new to someone who is older. Or they say they had a calling but got busy and shied away from it, but see God can still use them right where they are. Or that maybe it’s OK to leave the comfortable and step out into something new.”

Despite the unknowns — and without trying to make herself out to be a hero of faith — Peed said she considers the new calling simply a matter of following Jesus and going all-in with God.

“There are a lot of people who don’t understand what I’m doing or why,” she said. “ ‘Why not do something here?’ they ask. ‘Why not wait?’ All I can say is that we’re all called to love people like Jesus did and offer them his good news. I’m just not called to do that here any longer or to wait.”

Nancy Peed can be contacted at nancypeed1@gmail.com. She writes about her journey at nancy-in-africa.blogspot.com. Donations can be made through the Mission Society at themissionsociety.org/give.

Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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