I went to Colombia on a medical missions trip
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 14:09
A week before school started, most students were taking advantage of the warm weather, moving into their dorm room, sleeping in or lounging at the lake. Andrea Steele, a senior majoring in nursing, did take advantage of the warm weather, however, she wasn’t simply lounging around or sleeping in.
Instead, Andrea spent an entire week in Bogotá, Colombia for an annual medical missions trip organized by Christ Church in Apple Valley, Minn. While she and her medical missions team were there, they were able to minister and help provide medical treatment to roughly 350-400 Colombians.
“I have always had a huge heart for missions, especially medical missions … it is such an open door that we have to reach people with the love of God through providing for their physical needs,” Andrea said.
She was able to take the things she has learned so far in the nursing program at NDSU and use them toward helping others that desperately need medical attention. NDSU’s nursing program helped Andrea and her team on this medical missions trip not only assist with their health and wellbeing at the time but also the future.
“One thing that NDSU instills in [nursing students] really well is the importance of education, and that is the majority of what were doing down there was patient education,” she notes.
While she was there, she spent the entire week “patient triaging,” which means she helped admit Colombian patients to visit with their doctor or nurse based on the seriousness of their condition.
“It was quite the experience because I don’t speak any Spanish and they don’t speak any English,” she giggled. “So we had interpreters there to help us out.”
Even though the Andrea learned a lot about what it takes to be a nurse, what she learned the most while in Colombia was how to effectively communicate with a language barrier.
“It was hard and really complicated the first day but it got easier as time went on,” Andrea recalled. “You want to connect with [the patients] and you want to reach them and show that you care, but I don’t speak Spanish so it’s hard to convey that.”
Andrea also gained experience working with the pharmaceutical end of things that included organizing loads of medications needed during the week. Andrea was also given the opportunity to share the news of God with those in the local community who were receiving medical help from Andrea’s team.
“It just kind of opened my eyes to how much people need love. We found that the people didn’t necessarily have something wrong with them physically, but they just wanted someone to care about them, to listen to them and to pray with them,” Andrea said.
Her team worked with three churches in the Bogotá community as well as another church in a smaller town that is in the process of being built.
Medical professions seem to run in Andrea’s family; her aunt is a nurse and is the one who told her about this opportunity in Colombia to minister to not only people’s physical but also spiritual needs.
Andrea remembers the exact moment she wanted to become a nurse. “When I was at a summer camp, I really felt God calling me into the ministry and into nursing, so I’ve just pursued that my whole life,” she said.
This opportunity to serve on a medical missions trip in Colombia seemed to be the perfect combination for what she knew she had to do with her life.
“This trip definitely radiated the fact that I will definitely be doing medical missions long term. I want to do that no matter what,” Andrea said. “It’s just remembering that this is what God has called me to do and this is what I’m going for.”
Even though Andrea wants to get a job after she graduates with her nursing degree, she doesn’t want to work in a hospital long term.
“I really want to work overseas, and this experience really helped to reiterate that,” Andrea said. “It has given me the push that I need to finish school because nursing’s hard and demanding, and I sometimes lack that drive on my own.”
Andrea realized through her experience in Colombia that even though a person needs their physical needs met, the other needs go deeper than that.
“The people that we were ministering to were completely blown away by the fact that foreigners would reach out to them and provide them with the medical care that they can’t afford,” she mentioned. “But honestly, you come back more changed than the people you went to reach out to.”