MARSHALL—Two student groups from East Texas Baptist University who traveled to Africa served 1,800 miles apart, but they shared a common purpose—to learn about cross-cultural missions and servant leadership.
Six ETBU nursing students spent three weeks in Zambia, where they participated in a combined nursing course and mission trip, led by Rebekah Grigsby, dean of the School of Professional Studies.
Another student group served in Ethiopia, ministering to residents of Bantu and Tullo Bolo. ETBU Great Commission Center Director Lisa Seeley, Baptist Student Ministry Director Mark Yates and BSM Intern Clint Salmon led the mission team.
“Our students in Ethiopia taught English, volleyball and soccer drills at local schools and churches,” Seeley said. “Our prayer was to open doors for local church planters to build relationships with the people of these villages, many of which were closed to church planters.”
In Bantu, the ETBU group served in two schools and three churches, and the students helped with a building project. In each location, the students focused on interacting with children.
“Every one of the ETBU students spent time getting to know these children, playing games with them and loving on them,” Seeley said. “The personal relationships built with the Bantu community, Bantu Church and our translators had a life-changing impact on all involved.”
On their last full day in Bantu, the church where the students helped with a building project held a dinner in their honor. As the main course, the church served goat—slaughtered that afternoon, which one of the ETBU students helped prepare for cooking.
During their time in Tullu Bolo, the group served in two rural schools and three churches.
The first two weeks in Zambia, ETBU nursing students stayed in the home of missionaries Sherrie and Jerry Avery in Mkushi. She is a nurse practitioner, and he works in construction.
Holiday Bible Club
In Mkushi, the students planned, organized and conducted a Holiday Bible Club—a contextualized version of Vacation Bible School. More than 200 children attended, and 46 made professions of faith in Christ.
The local hospital allowed the ETBU nursing students to serve and rotate through the labor and delivery ward, children’s ward, outpatient department, and the male and female medical and surgical wards.
“The students also had the experience of community health nursing and made home visits to patients out in the bush or remote areas of the village,” Grigsby said. “During the second weekend in Mkushi, we held a health fair in a neighboring village and saw 204 patients.”
The ETBU nursing students experienced firsthand the differences between health care in East Texas and in a third-world country.
“There is a national health insurance plan, but basically that means that health care professionals are government employees, and as a patient, you will receive health care when you go to the hospital or see a physician,” Grigsby said.
“However, you must bring everything with you when you come to the hospital—like linens for your bed, food if you want to eat and medications if you need medications.”
Bus accident victims
The nursing students put into practice what they had learned in the classroom when the Mkushi District Hospital received 23 people who were hurt in a bus accident on a highway.
“ETBU nursing students took care of many of the patients the next morning after the crash,” Grigsby said. “The students prepared three for transport who had multiple extensive fractures requiring surgical repair at another hospital that could perform the surgeries. We made our own dressings and splints to stabilize these patients for transport.”
The experience made a lasting impact on junior nursing student Hannah Beggs of Hawkins.
“I definitely view my home and hospital environments differently having been to Zambia,” Beggs said. “Just experiencing the lack of supplies was eye opening and gave me a new perspective.”
That included cultural differences about the willingness to show pain.
“They’re taught not to show pain or complain, even with multiple fractures or an amputated leg,” she said. “I realized that I take so many things for granted, such as electricity, a bottle of Tylenol just for me to use or even the allowance of demonstrating pain.”
She also learned “how little actions can lead to make a big impact, and that God can bless people through simple obedience.”
“I got to glimpse this concept in effect when four villages volunteered to help the Averys, the missionaries we stayed with, build a clinic just because we nursing students had done a one-day health fair,” Beggs recalled. “Because of my participation in that, I have impacted multiple communities and indirectly helped more people that I can imagine.”
Classes at Chitambo Nursing School
The third week in Zambia, the ETBU group attended classes at Chitambo Nursing School.
“We lived in their dorms and immersed ourselves into their culture and nursing program,” Grigsby said.
“Each of our students was partnered with a Zambian nursing student and attended clinical experiences with them in labor and delivery, medical ward, maternal child health clinic and outpatient clinic.”
Mission team leaders agreed the experience in Africa was a positive life-changing experience for the students.
“I am so proud of our ETBU students and the mission service that they did while in Ethiopia,” Seeley said. “They saw things that they had heard about in missions class lived out before their eyes. Each of them was flexible, displaying great Christian compassion and service to everyone they came in contact with.”
Educational and spiritual benefits
Nursing students benefited both educationally and spiritually from their time in Zambia, Grigsby noted.
“This was truly a great experience for our nursing students to learn about health care in a third-world county and experience the differences and similarities in nursing schools,” she said. “Attending a Zambian church to experience worship in a different way than they were accustomed to was phenomenal and I believe contributed to spiritual growth as well.
“One of the greatest things gained by my students from this experience is that they confirmed their calling by God to be nurses.”