by Sharyn Kopf—Cedarville, Ohio
Take a girl. Loves the outdoors. Longs to pursue a medical career. Bears a heart that beats for humankind. Then add a passionate desire to serve the Lord and you have ... Michelle Boudreau.
This 22-year-old nursing student is currently finishing up her education at Cedarville after a semester away. A series of infections following a three-and-a-half-month missionary stint in Africa forced Boudreau to put her college pursuits on hold. But she didn’t spent that downtime watching American Idol and coloring her MySpace page. No, she turned the setback into an opportunity for service.
Returning to her hometown of Kodiak, Alaska, in January 2007, Boudreau began working with diabetics at a community clinic. She quickly discovered just how much this help was needed. The majority of her patients were immigrants, many coming from the Philippines and El Salvador. They work in fishing canneries 12 to 15 hours a day, standing in a cold, rainy, harsh environment, with very little to protect them from the elements. Add to that a poor diet (mainly consisting of tortillas and rice) and lack of exercise, and these people have little, if any, ability to fight diabetes.
“My goal was to start a program to educate them and make sure they get the supplies they need,” Boudreau says, “but I realized I needed to make it culturally appropriate.”
Toward that end, Boudreau went to work, teaching her patients the dangers of smoking and bad eating habits, encouraging them to exercise regularly, and helping them see the importance of taking insulin and testing their blood sugar.
In early March 2007, Boudreau attended the Pacific West Health Disparities Collaborative, held in San Diego. This provided her with an international network of health professionals who could answer her questions and guide her in establishing the diabetic program. Apparently, she’s succeeding.
“When I started, our clinic didn’t have a plan to work with diabetics, but in two months, ours became the most outstanding team of the year at the conference,” she notes. But this recognition by her peers is minor compared to the good God is allowing her to do. For much of that, she has Cedarville University to thank.
In particular, Boudreau appreciates the school’s emphasis on biblical science. Dr. Lois Baker’s constant reminder that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” had a great impact on Boudreau’s outlook.
“It’s like a worship service to study the human body,” she says. “When you study it from a secular perspective, you miss that. You’re blind to God’s amazing creation and that’s really sad. You miss the beauty of it all.”
Boudreau intends to miss nothing of God’s plan for her life. That is why she went to Africa in the first place. “I know how to survive outdoors but I didn’t know if I could survive in Africa because it’s so different,” says the senior. “I love adventure and doing things I’ve never done before ... and I wanted to make sure this was something God wanted me to do — not just another little adventure of mine.”
And so she went to Africa and served in a small village dispensary. And so she returned to Alaska and started a diabetic program.
She adds, “I just want to be authentic in the work I’m doing.”
After graduating, Boudreau will intern in advanced care at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Xenia, Ohio, remain active in her church, and minister to area youth. At the same time, she’ll pay off school loans and seek God’s will regarding graduate school. In addition, she has submitted her application to African Inland Missions and is looking into Serving in Missions — the organization she went through in Benin West Africa during summer 2006. But mostly, she is simply “waiting for God’s plan to unfold.”
At this rate, there’s no telling what Boudreau can — and will — do.