Volunteering in the Nations

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted. It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in that action.”  Mother Teresa

My Journey

I want my life to make a difference in all that I do as both the nurse and nurse educator. I was motivated to get out of my comfort zone and volunteer by serving in Haiti with a medical mission team through our local church shortly after the big earthquake in 2010 that devastated much of this impoverished nation.

I was overwhelmed by the physical devastation and pressing physical, emotional, and spiritual needs as we cared for those living in tent cities whose homes had been destroyed.

I wondered if our team was making a difference with the small number of people we were able to minister and serve. But I left Haiti with peace knowing that our team did the best we could under difficult circumstances. We served well recognizing that every person we cared for has intrinsic value and worth.

This is the heartbeat of nursing wherever care is provided. Nursing is serving others with a heart filled with a love for humanity that recognizes the inherent value and worth of each person you care for, and that this person matters to you (Benner & Wrubel, 1989).

You Can Make a Difference

This spirit that a nurse needs to possess was captured concisely and beautifully by influential early American nurse educator Isabel Hampton Robb at the turn of the twentieth century who wrote in her textbook for nursing students Nursing Ethics (1900):

“The spirit in which she does her work makes all the difference. Invested as she should with the dignity of her profession and the cloak of love for suffering humanity, she can ennoble anything her hand may be called upon to do, and for work done in this spirit there will ever come to her a recompense far outweighing that of silver and gold.”

Caring for others has eternal significance. This is the spirit that Mother Teresa recognized as she served and cared for the poor in Calcutta, India.

To make a difference as a nurse, you do not need to go to another country to serve in medical missions but can do so right where you are by serving as a nurse with the right spirit. The founder of the modern era of nursing provides an example of what this looks like in practice.

Nursing, Service, and Calling

Florence Nightingale was motivated to transform health care and the nursing profession because of her faith and belief in God(3). At the age of 17, Nightingale felt that God had spoken to her and was calling her to service.

She viewed nursing as a search for truth and used God’s laws of healing in nursing practice (4). She willingly chose to sacrificially serve during the Crimean War caring for the wounded, making rounds as the “lady with the lamp,” and educating nurses.

She implemented numerous reforms to lower the 73 percent mortality rate from diseases alone and had a 1,000-page report of statistics she compiled during the war. Nightingale established her schools of nursing after the war based on her “evidence-based practice” that validated the importance of hygiene and the environment to promote health (5).

Nightingale’s life clearly demonstrates that faith, service, and nursing can and do complement one another in practice!

If you have a passion for caring for others with this spirit and would liking to minister and care for others in other parts of the world, this is what I have learned to help you take that next step.

Your Old Textbooks Needed!

If you are a student who has textbooks you know you will never open after graduation, or are an educator who has older editions of textbooks gathering dust that are less than ten years old, they can be put to good use in Liberia, an English-speaking African country whose nursing programs do not have enough textbooks for each student. It is not uncommon to have an entire nursing class of 80 students with just a few textbooks that are shared by all.

Ship your textbooks by Media Mail through the United States Postal Service to:

Liberian Health Initiative
PO Box 29628
Minneapolis, MN 55429

This ministry sends a shipping crate at least twice a year to Liberia that includes medical supplies as well as all textbooks that are received to this address. They are a 501(3)(c) nonprofit and can provide a tax-deductible receipt for your donation upon request.

100 Jetliners Crash Daily

To put the needs of the developing world in context, if 100 jetliners crashed today, killing 26,500 people, it would get my, your, and the world’s attention. But a tragedy of this scope occurs every day in the developing world: 26,500 children die of preventable causes related to their poverty every day. Over one year this equates to 10,000,000 lives lost every year.

If you would like to be aware of opportunities to serve in the developing world, please explore the resources that I have compiled in the links below.

Don’t Waste Your Life

One book that continually challenges me is Don’t Waste Your Life (free download eBook link) by John Piper. Each one of us has a finite amount of time to live our life regardless of what we do.

The greatest tragedy in our life would be to come to the end of our days realizing that we wasted the one life we have been given on this earth by living primarily for ourselves.

A life lived to serve others is a life that is NOT wasted. When you bring this perspective and spirit into all you do as you care for others, this is what makes nursing so much more than a job or even a profession.

Practical Preparation

The following documents are essential “nuts and bolts” that will give you direction to raise support, prepare practically and transition successfully after you return from your medical mission trip:

STARTING WELL: Raising financial support
PREPARING WELL-Preparing for international travel
ENDING WELL: Transitioning back home

Medications & Medical Supplies

I collaborated with experienced physicians who have served in the developing world and compiled a list of appx. 40 medications and supplies that are essential for meeting the vast majority of medical needs you will experience in a community clinic in the developing world. The types of illnesses best treated are also incorporated in this list and are an essential formulary to take with you on any medical mission trip!

The Clinic Record Documentation form provides needed documentation for each patient seen as well as all medications on the formulary on the back side for easy selection.

Essential Medications/supplies
Clinic Record Documentation form

I have found Blessings International to be a reliable, economical source of bulk medications. They also have medication baggies and icon driven med labels that do not require the ability to read to understand.

Ministry Resources

As Christians, we must recognize that in this world we are in the enemy-occupied territory and that our battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6: 10-20). All of our efforts to minister effectively must be grounded in persistent prayer and intercession. Operation World is a classic book that gives you essential demographic data on every nation in the world and topics of prayer for that country that will help you be more effective in your service.

  1. Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation is the definitive global prayer handbook that will help focus your heart and life towards God’s passion for His glory. With over 1 million copies of past versions sold, the all-new 7th edition has been completely updated and revised by Jason Mandryk and covers the entire populated world. Whether you are an intercessor praying behind the scenes for world change, a missionary reaping the benefits of intercession or merely curious about the world, Operation World will give you the information necessary to be a vital part in fulfilling God’s passion for the nations.

If your medical team is going to minister the love of Christ intentionally through your medical service, gospel tracts that are concise and grounded in scripture are essential. I have found the following essential to share God’s love practically through evangelism:

  1. A Father’s Love Letter: This one-page handout (both sides) can be downloaded and then printed on the brightest colors of paper possible. They are a series of scriptures starting with the Psalms and working through the entire Bible share God’s heart of love and desire to have a relationship with His creation. If you are going to a nation other than Haiti, you can download the English version and use Google translator can translate to the language you need
  1. World Missionary Press: This is an organization that exists to provide scripture booklets/tracts in most major languages for no cost. They will send one box of 500 tracts by request. You can donate to offset their costs. Some of my favorites include:
  • The Way to God: Written for children but suitable for adults as well. Its purpose is to share God’s love and plan of salvation and how to live for Jesus. Features illustrations and larger type size.
  • Who Am I That a King Would Die in My Place? Shows who we were made to be, what we became, where that leads us, our need for God’s rescue, and what we can become by accepting God’s grace.
  • How to Know God: Tells how to have a personal relationship with God. Designed for Muslims, but excellent as a general evangelistic tool.
  • The Power of God: Shows God’s creative, saving, sustaining, and overcoming power. For believers and non-believers.

References

1. O’Lynn, C. (2012) A man’s guide to a nursing career, New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company
2. Hampton Robb, E. (1900). Nursing ethics. Cleveland, OH: E.C. Koeckert.
3. McDonald, L. (1999). Nightingale’s spirituality: The faith of Florence nightingale. uoguelph.ca. Retrieved June 15, 2013 from http://www.uoguelph.ca/~cwfn/spirituality/spirituality.html.
4. Macrae, J. (1995). Nightingale’s spiritual philosophy and its significance for modern nursing, Image Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 27(8).
5. Lewis Coakley,  M. (1990). The faith behind the famous: Florence Nightingale: Christian history sampler. Christianitytoday.com. Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/1990/issue25/2537.html?start=1