a guest post from Abbie B.
Super excited to be sharing from a friend today! Abbie is much (much!) younger than I, and yet, I am slightly jealous of her adventures. I asked her to share a bit of her story after seeing a photo from her Jamaican trip. Ya’ll know I love a good photo — and this one struck something within me — there is compassion and hope embodied in it, and yet sorrow and despair. So I knew there must be a story behind it. I have asked Abbie to share the story. Enjoy!
Growing up knowing that both my Nana and my Grandma were overseas missionary nurses had always been an inspiration, and created a question of whether or not that might be God’s calling on my own life. When I began my nursing journey, I had many people ask me if I was going to follow in my Grandma and Nana’s footsteps. I always replied: “If that’s what God wants.” I never wanted to say “I don’t know”.
So, when the opportunity of doing an International placement in Jamaica came up, I jumped at the opportunity. Being a hands on person, I knew that I needed to experience being an international nurse to know if that was where God was leading me.
I didn’t know what I was going to be walking into when I landed in Jamaica, I didn’t know how I would feel! There was a part of me that was scared to walk into a new culture that I’d never experienced, the other part of me was excited for the challenge that was waiting. My time was split between an orphanage and a small primary school. Both places were completely different. Walking into the orphanage, my heart felt heavy, it was so hard knowing that some of these children didn’t have a permanent place to call home and to feel safe. We spent a majority of our time with the babies. Some who were premature, some toddlers, some who were not able to walk because of varying mobility impairments. It was so hard to see the needs of the children, whether it was just to hold premature babies or to take a toddler out of their crib and help them walk. It was even harder when a new baby would come in and try to settle. My heart broke at their cries for comfort and security. Working at the orphanage really affirmed in me that my heart is for people who are displaced and broken. Really breaking my heart for what breaks God’s. Our days there were spent doing Head to Toe Assessments (checking all the major body’s systems to make sure that there isn’t anything abnormal), bathing, changing clothes and diapers, playing games, reading, feeding, giving medications when needed to the babies and toddlers, as well as teaching the care givers at the orphanage about the misconceptions of asthma or hygiene. Which at times was difficult for me because I never wanted to feel like a “know it all”, or that I was stepping on toes. I really learned how to be collaborative with those around me.
Working at the primary school was a good break from the emotional roller coaster (not that I didn’t love the orphanage) because I got to use a different side of my brain and skills while at the school. It was more of “health teaching” with the children there. We brought down nurse and doctor costumes and I got to explain what the different instruments were and played games with them. It wasn’t a large school by any means, but it felt like a family there — which was such a different feel than the orphanage. I took the teachers’ blood pressures daily, to see patterns of increase and decrease, answered their questions about what diabetes, heart failure, asthma etc. all are, and how some can be avoided, and that some is just up to genetics. So many amazing conversations about what health is and what it means to people either physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. It amazes me how we can be from different parts of the world and find a common ground — and from there — relationships are built.
I loved my international placement, and in a lot of ways I’m still decompressing and sorting through the lessons I learned. The one thing that I will always hold with me is when I was leaving, the woman that we were staying with, said to me “You have a beautiful heart, don’t ever lose it.” God’s given me passions, He’s created a heart in me for people to feel safe and secure, to have a place where they feel like they belong. By the end of my placement, I had a whole new appreciation for my grandma and Nana. Their faith, their consistency, and their commitment to serve God in the unknown. The whole time I was there I was asking God: “Is this what you want me to do? Is this where you are leading me?” By the end I realized that being a long term missionary isn’t something that God is calling me to. I think short term trips are still an open door that God isn’t going to be closing anytime soon. I know that community is where God is calling me and I’ve really seen that in Toronto. There are so many who are broken and displaced for varying reasons. My heart breaks for them, and all I want to do is step beside them and walk with them through the hard times. I’m excited to see where God leads me, as scary as that is, I trust that He knows best and He will be faithful in giving me the strength to follow through.
Indeed He will, Abbie. I wish you much joy in the adventure!