Finding Sacred Space in Rwanda

Senior nursing students spend two weeks doing medical work overseas

Dec. 21, 2011 By Heather Tanji

Discovering sacred space in an unexpected place, 13 nursing students saw the work of God during an extended trip to Rwanda, Africa, this fall.

During their time in Rwanda, the students worked clinical hours in district hospitals, teaching local staff American health procedures such as washing hands before and after handling patients and being aware of germs spreading. The Rwandan hospital workers taught the students about diseases such as malaria and as well as its symptoms.

“It was mutual teaching and learning about patient care,” said senior Emily Williams, who had looked forward to the trip since high school. “We worked with babies, surgery, pediatrics and internal medicine.”

Williams and the other students encountered vast amounts of suffering. They met a pastor and his wife — both diagnosed HIV positive. The wife was also battling cancer and had the responsibility of raising 13 children. Other HIV cases were common in the country.

“Suffering happens all over the world, but in the U.S. it’s easy to compartmentalize,” Williams explained. “In Rwanda, suffering is everywhere, not just in the hospital. But in the suffering, I’m encountering God, and finding his presence here. It’s a sacred space.”

In addition to hospital work, Biola students worked with Saddleback Church’s PEACE Plan. The PEACE Plan focuses on local churches in Africa instead of helping independently. The students worked with the health aspect of the initiative, with a focus on HIV testing. Rwandans came to churches to get tested. If the results were positive, they were already surrounded by a community ready to care for them.

“The churches are incredibly healthy and gospel focused,” Williams said. “This ministry equips them to care for the other needs of the community and they are also meeting the spiritual side.”

For Williams, nursing revealed to her the ways God moves in different parts of the world.

“God is still the same God in both places,” she said. “He called me to heal. He ushered me into this sacred space as a door to teach the Gospel.”

Written by Heather Tanji, Media Relations Intern. For more information, contact Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coorinator, at 562.777.4061 or at jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.

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