Healing Bodies— and Souls — for Christ

by Sharyn Kopf— Cedarville, Ohio

Sure, Cedarville University has one of the strongest nursing programs around. And yes, you can earn your bachelor of science in nursing and go on to a great job at one of the many hospitals and clinics actively recruiting Cedarville grads. All of which is very impressive and reason enough to attend Cedarville.

But the faculty who teach in the Cedarville nursing program believe the profession goes beyond knowledge and opportunity and leads directly into ministry. For this reason, efforts are made to send the students on short-term missions trips. So passionate are they about this that in 1991 Dr. Irene Alyn, who served as chair of the nursing department until she retired in 2007, followed her vision to “educate nursing students to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives in local communities and throughout the world” by establishing a cross-cultural studies minor for nursing students. Since then, dozens of teams have traveled the globe, ministering in Zimbabwe, Brazil, Thailand, Mexico, Swaziland, and Togo.

This summer’s trip to Togo — led by Alyn, Dr. Lois Baker (professor of nursing), and Jana Glessner ’00 — lasted three weeks, offering the team time to develop relationships with area missionaries and many of their patients.

“I wanted a career that would enable me to minister into the lives of others, and nursing is perfect,” Baker says. “We’re not only ministering for Christ, but we’re also role-modeling Him to others.”

This was Baker’s 16th trip; she and Alyn spent much of their time teaching at the Karolyn Kempton Memorial Hospital nursing program in Tsiko, Togo. Their efforts did not go unrecognized. Alyn, Baker, and Dr. Carolyn Carlson, who serves as a professor emeritus at Cedarville, each received the 2008 Raphael C. Thomas Award for Outstanding Short-term Missionary Service from ABWE International Healthcare Ministries.

Of course, the six students joining the 2008 endeavors came home as changed individuals. Going under the name ANCHORS — Aspiring Nurses Committed to Helping Others Receive Salvation — the women arrived at the Hôpital Baptiste Biblique on May 14 and within five minutes had been put to work utilizing the bilirubin test kits they had transported from Cedarville to Togo.

Over the next two weeks, they dealt with snake bites, children with AIDS, and toilets that had been clogged by tree roots. They watched as a former fetish priest came to church to burn the instruments he had used to call evil spirits. They participated in a women’s Bible study and cleaned a neighborhood schoolhouse. And they saw men, women, and children come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

“I learned to slow down and really see people, not their problems,” says Laura Parker ’09 from Mount Airy, Maryland. “I have also fallen in love with nursing as a result of caring for the Togolese.” She especially appreciated how challenged and inspired she was by the missionary doctor’s passion for evangelism and church planting.

Baker considers ministry an opportunity to learn more about different aspects of nursing by practicing in a cross-cultural setting. Still, she adds, “Never forget that in the United States we’re supposed to use nursing as a ministry for Christ as well, not just when we’re in a foreign country.”

One day particularly stands out for Alison Hatch ’09 of Goffstown, New Hampshire. For more than an hour, she and teammate Carianna McCay ’09 of Calhoun, Tennessee, traveled across rough roads and through remote villages to help a mobile medical clinic in the jungles of Togo. Once there, they obtained permission from the village chief to set up a blood pressure clinic. They gathered the people into the middle of town where a chaplain presented the Gospel; then a physician’s assistant explained how to prevent and treat hypertension. Finally, they and the other nurses who had joined the group began testing each resident’s blood pressure. If it was high, they provided a month’s supply of medication.

“It was an amazing experience,” Hatch says. “Over 30 people got saved that day, and over 200 had their blood pressure taken.” She adds, “I was able to do things I have never done before such as start IVs and place an NG tube. The trip also showed me my areas of strengths and weaknesses. And it helped me become more flexible and more dependent on the plans of God.”

Just as this trip to Togo is not the department’s first such adventure, it is also far from the last. Teams of students wanting to use their skills in a manner above and beyond the norm will continue to travel around the world with healing, medicine, and Good News.

As Baker says, “God never equips with any ability that He doesn’t intend us to use for the kingdom of God.”