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Nursing is a Calling

Stephanie Pankratz is a member of Wisconsin Lutheran College’s Nursing class of 2013.  She writes about the class’s trip to Zambia to learn more about nursing and the work of medical missions.

I recently visited Lusaka, Zambia as part of a group of 17 Wisconsin Lutheran College Nursing students under the direction of Professor Rebekah Carey. The trip served as the culminating experience of our Global Health class, a requirement for WLC’s nursing program. I went into this with the mindset that nursing would be the major component in this trip.  While that was the case as we did learn and experience so many wonderful nursing fields, there was always an additional underlying theme.  That theme was faith in God’s love.  Christianity has been Zambia’s primary religion since 1996 (International Religious Freedom Report, 2010); but I was amazed at the extent to which people praised their Lord and Savior.  I did not expect to come back from the trip spiritually strengthened, at least not to the extent that I was.

For me, one of the strongest and fondest memories from the trip was having the chance to attend a call service for the graduating Lutheran Seminary students.  This service was significantly different from those we were used to. There was dancing and singing, and people joining the service up to an hour after it began.  There was no judgment, only joy in worshiping together.  The hymns were similar to those which are sung at my home church but they had such a different meaning when sung with fellow believers halfway across the world. God is present everywhere and truly working in people’s hearts.

The service message was simple yet powerful.  The sermon was a reminder to be prepared to witness in day to day situations.  The more I thought about this the more applicable it became, especially within the context of nursing.  As nurses, there are countless opportunities to be servants for Christ.  No matter where life takes me after graduation, I will be a Christian nurse. Nursing is a calling and opportunity to help others, to improve their health, to be a resource in some of the greatest times of need.  As a Christian nurse, there is an additional calling, to be God’s tool.  There are countless opportunities to witness to those who do not yet know Jesus and to help strengthen the faith of those that do.  The message of that sermon will stay with me for a very long time, and it is my hope that when the time comes I will act on it.  To be a Christian nurse is a blessing.  It allows us to help people not only with their physical and social needs, but their spiritual needs as well.

There were so many more instances on the trip where faith came into play.  The people we met  lived their faith.  They were not afraid to give the reason for the hope they had.  They were thankful to God.  The caregivers we met took every opportunity to wish God’s blessings on us, and their patients.  They held devotions before surgery, I saw children yelling “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of their lungs. Our new dear friend Mrs. Nyrinda (the seminary grounds service provider) was always willing to help with a smile and encourage us in day to day situations.  Looking back I am so thankful for these amazing examples of faith.  They were not concerned with what others may think or whether or not it was appropriate.  They simply lived their life of faith, and encouraged others through it.

We taught at some of the area schools, focusing on the Millennium Development Goals. It was amazing to see the student’s excitement and eagerness to learn. In many ways, I am sure we learned at least as much from them. We also visited a hospice center where we witnessed the progression of Tuberculosis and HIV.  Beit Cure, a private, voluntary, internationally, run pediatric center was a favorite of many on the trip. Here we saw advanced brain surgeries, infants with hydrocephalus, spina bifida, and patients recovering after surgery from orthopedic complications. We also visited the Mwembezhi clinic run by WELS Central Africa Medical Mission in order to better understand healthcare in the rural communities of Zambia. Visiting those rural communities offered us a very different perspective. In every situation we saw good nursing care promoting creativity, resourcefulness, persistence, and true servant Christian leadership.   This trip was the experience of a lifetime and has blessed me with so many wonderful memories and life lessons. I know that I have grown from this experience and we all will apply these values in practice now as students, and in our future professional nursing careers. As students we are so thankful to the college and to Professor Carey, as well as our new friends in Zambia for allowing us to have had this amazing opportunity.


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