To Africa with Love: Nursing students ‘brightest and best’
By Norm Miller
“The mission trip to Kenya with our nursing students allowed the Lord to work in and through us in ways never possible had we stayed at home,” said Dr. Van Sanders, Truett-McConnell College’s associate professor of missions and evangelism.
“Our CURE International experience was phenomenal,” added Deborah Alvater, the college’s assistant professor of nursing, who, along with Sanders, led the trip.
“We had unlimited access to hospital departments, the children’s ward, and the operating and recovery rooms. Such access and exposure is not possible in the US,” Alvater continued. “CURE’s surgeons, anesthesiologists and staff encouraged questions, and the students gained valuable insights. I believe they have a better awareness of the discipline to which they have been called,” Alvater said. “The CURE folks told me our students were the brightest and best they had ever hosted.”
Sanders said the “students interacted most with people of Somali or Turkana ethnicity, two of Kenya’s most un-reached people groups, with the Somalis being among the most violent and Gospel-resistant people groups in the world.”
The 16 students who sacrificed their spring break to employ their growing medical knowledge and share the love of Jesus partnered in ministry with personnel at CURE’s largest hospital, located in Kijabe, Kenya.
“Our students provided hands-on care and poured their hearts into the children, who responded with such joy,” Alvater said. “What gracious lessons we learned from the sickbeds of the Kenyan children.”
“We also visited slums and experienced the severely impoverished living conditions,” she said. “The students were most engaging, interacting with hundreds of children, teaching them the song, ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ and praying with them.”
The students were “significantly impressed with the Kenyan hospital staff who ministered lovingly to the Somali patients in spite of generalized Somali-Muslim hatred of Kenyan Christians,” said Sanders, a 10-year veteran missionary who served in Kenya with the International Mission Board.
Citing the September 2013 Somali-led terrorist attack on a Nairobi shopping mall that targeted Christians, Sanders said, “The Kenyans demonstrated with words and actions their love for the Lord and all people, even their enemies.”
“Perhaps the most life changing result was the Lord’s transformative work among us,” Sanders said. “It is not possible to adequately describe the impact. There were spiritual breakthroughs for some of the students regarding their call to nursing, missions and their personal walk with the Lord. One student already has made application to serve with Africa Inland Mission.”
Another nursing student, Katelyn Turner, is ready to go back: “I went to Kenya because I love missions. And I would go back in a heartbeat just to have another chance to share the talents God has given me and to share God with the Kenyan people I grew to love.”
“They were so nice -- so very humble,” she said. “I have never met anyone so welcoming, nor have I been invited into so many people’s homes. It was an amazing experience.”
“The trip made me want to get deeper, not only in my walk with Christ but also in nursing,” Turner added. “God helped me see that his love truly is everywhere. And since he gave all of himself for me, then I should give all of me for my patients and glorify him. If I can show love in the way I take care of my patients, then they can experience God because God is love.”
Nursing student Dallas Garrison said, “The trip flipped my world upside down, or rather right side up!”
For many of the students, “their understanding of the Great Commission” was both exercised and more deeply informed, Alvater said.
Sanders echoed: “Some students shared their faith with patients in the recovery ward and waiting room, and some shared while travelling to and from Kenya, as well as at hotels and during other activities. All of these were seed sowing events that helped our students gain experience and skills in cross-cultural witnessing.”
“We are grateful for the people of CURE International because they helped us lay the groundwork for future evangelism and church-planting-focused medical clinics among the Turkana, Pokot, and Somali peoples, and in the slum areas of Kenya,” Sanders said.
“We plan to return to Kenya and work in the CURE hospital, as well as in other locations with medical clinics that include indigenous evangelism and discipleship partnerships,” he added.
“I believe that we will see many come to Christ in the days ahead in Kenya through our CURE International partnership, which helped open the students’ eyes to some Great Commission realities in a cross-cultural setting,” Sanders said. “Now we are working on applying these experiences to our everyday lives here in the States so we may live out our obedience to the Great Commission for the sake of the lost all around us.”