Rosetta Swinton Jannie Harriot

God�s Call - That�s what Rosetta Swinton calls her life-changing events.

Rosetta Swinton feels that throughout her life, God has been preparing her to go on a mission like no other. In March 2008, Rosetta, mother of two adult children and grandmother of one, is going on a two-year mission trip to Malawi in southeast Africa.

Rosetta, a nurse at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), has spent her whole life helping people. She was inspired to become a nurse after helping four of her eleven siblings who suffered with sickle cell anemia. �I watched my brothers and sisters suffer with swollen feet, not being able to walk, always in pain,� Swinton said. � My desire was to be a nurse so I could help them.�

Originally from Mount Pleasant, Rosetta moved to New York as a child. She worked as a nurse�s aide at Yaphank Infirmary before attending and graduating from Stony Brook University. Her first job out of nursing school was working for a sickle cell program as a health educator. One day her boss asked her to conduct a class for 50 people. She thought �No way, I am scared of my own shadow . . . I told him I would die before I could speak to 50 people.� Rosetta went home ready to quit, but she had a child to raise, so she prayed for guidance. She went back to work the next day, found the courage to do it and continued to do it.

The Path

In 1990, when Rosetta returned to Mount Pleasant she worked as an emergency room nurse and then moved to MUSC�s Intensive Care Unit. The seeds of outreach that were planted within her in New York, began to grow at MUSC. She has been involved with MUSC�s Office of Special Initiatives and many other departments working with projects such as the Stroke Belt Elimination Initiative, The Hypertension Initiative, and South Carolina Excellence Initiative for Eliminating Disparities in Healthcare (EXCEED).

These experiences led to the next event that changed the course of Swinton�s life. A patient died because the woman could not afford the medicine. Rosetta thought to herself, �Where�s the prevention? When are we teaching people how not to have a stroke? When are we teaching people how to eat healthy? When are we teaching people to exercise? People go to the doctor, get a prescription and that�s it. There�s no education, no counseling unless they are diabetic. We need to counsel people who have high blood pressure too and talk about sodium, exercise and eating healthfully.�

In response, Rosetta organized a health fair at her AME church in Huger. In Huger there are few health resources. People must travel to other towns for care. The fair was very successful with about 100 people attending. Health screenings revealed people with high blood pressure, abnormal blood sugar levels and high levels of cholesterol. Rosetta and her volunteers began teaching them how to eat healthfully and how to exercise. Bishop Henry Allen Belin, Jr., presiding Bishop of the AME Church�s District 7, noticed and asked her to start a health ministry. He then appointed her to the new position of AME Director of Health for the 7th District.

�The basic ministry is that of preventive health services and education,� Rosetta explains. �We organized more church health fairs with the focus being to provide services to people who weren�t being seen by a doctor, many of whom lacked insurance. It was another way to get their (test) results.�

Since Rosetta�s appointment, the AME church has partnered with several agencies to address health issues such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, exercise, cancer, depression and immunization. The programs have received recognition from the State and the National Association of Governors.

The Road to Malawi

The road to Malawi began in August 2007. Rosetta was leading a healing and deliverance session for her church. She describes her experience when she asked everyone to meditate and �invite God into the room of their lives.�

�This time He (God) comes into the room and He�s got this brilliant white on and I can see from the neck down. I�m standing there in awe of this brightness and He takes his right hand and reaches inside of Himself and pulls out this great big heart. And then the other thing that is going on is I actually have a hole in my chest. I can actually see right through me. And in an instant, He took that great big heart and just put it right in the hole inside of me.�

A few weeks later, Rosetta was invited to attend a church service where Rev. Michael Howard was preaching. He was visiting from Malawi, a small country in southeastern Africa. Afterwards she was invited to attend a workshop Rev. Howard was conducting. She says the Holy Spirit told her to go.

�So I went to the workshop and Rev. Howard talked about how God was looking for interceptors.� She kept asking herself, �What am I doing here? I�m not an interceptor.� Then she heard the Holy Spirit speaking to her, �You have been an interceptor for your mother, your father, your sisters, your brothers and every patient you�ve taken care of.� She began weeping so badly she could hardly catch her breath.

When the workshop was finished, one of the pastors took her by the hand and led her to Rev. Howard and told him how she had cried. Rev. Howard looked at her and asked, �What do you do?� She answered, �I�m a nurse.� He then simply stated �My school needs a nurse,� and he turned away. At the time, the words meant nothing to Rosetta.

God Prepares the Way

Soon after that experience, Rosetta attended a women�s retreat in North Carolina. She did not know that Pastor Roz Heyns, who led the retreat, was Rev. Howard�s sister. During a period of private prayer, Rosetta went to a pew and knelt down to pray. The Holy Spirit spoke to her again, saying, �Remember when I gave you my great big heart?� Rosetta replied �Sure! How could I ever forget that?� He said, �Well, you�re going to need my great big heart to go where I�m sending you . . . to Malawi� and she thought �Oh my God�that�s where Rev. Howard is from!� As she was leaving, Rosetta saw Pastor Heyns and asked her, �You knew, didn�t you?� The pastor responded with a wise smile.

The Plan

Rosetta joins the Kalibu Academy in Blantrye, Malawi in March of 2008. The academy is a Christian high school, with 600 students from all over the country. They expect to expand to 1,000 students. She will be their school nurse and health teacher. She will also be providing preventive health services in the community, including traveling to Mozambique to work with one of their satellite churches.

Yes, Rosetta believes she has been called. She feels this trip has been God�s plan all along. She says she is overwhelmed, but grateful that she has been asked to serve the people of Malawi. �I�m just honored,� she says. �I�ve been praying for them. I�ve been praying for their healing, their deliverance, that they have everything they need . . . and I would be whatever God wants me to be over there and that they will be protected.�

To learn more:

Rosetta on a Mission
Read Rosetta’s blog.
Kalibu Academy
Learn about the school Rosetta is working with in Malawi.
(7th Episcopal District of the AME Church and the Medical University of South Carolina)
This site is being developed to respond to the health needs of AME members. "The Web site contains a cookbook with lower fat versions of our favorite recipes, fact sheets that explain health conditions, chat rooms on a variety of health-related topics led by Church members and MUSC faculty, local health and education resources, links to other sites on the web with information on health, and a special program for children and adolescents."

Last Modified: Monday August 25, 2008 1:40 PM