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Nursing was my entry ticket

By Kate Azumah

Nuura* needed to get this woman to the hospital fast. Her baby had defecated inside the womb, was not breathing properly, and was coming out legs first. She called an ambulance, but violent attacks and a curfew in nearby Garissa prevented the van from making its way to their remote location. It was midnight and Nuura was stuck. She explained to Ayaan* the complications – baby or mother could die. “No!” Ayaan protested amid labour pains and tears. “You people pray! You have prayed for people and we have seen them get well. Pray to your God. Ask Him for a miracle. Please!”

A line of nurses

Nuura had entered the nursing profession as a matter of convenience; her mum had been a good nurse, and her grades had secured her a nursing school admission too. She knew about missions—it was for white people, not Africans. After her training, Nuura started work at a government hospital until one message from a friend changed everything.

She recounts, “Kenya Assemblies of God had a mission base with a school and a small clinic among Somali refugees in northern Kenya. Someone had recruited my friend to replace the nurse who had worked there 10 years, but was leaving the field due to ill-health. Now my friend was also leaving to get married, and I was one of those she contacted to take her place.”

Nuura couldn’t believe the location her friend was describing. Out of curiosity, she decided to go and look.

“The village was remote and needy. On my first day, a long line of patients kept us busy from 8am to 5pm, most of them with preventable diseases.”

On her return to the city, Nuura called her friend: “I’ll come, but I’ll stay two years. Please don’t stop the search for someone who’ll stay longer.”

With zero training in missions, Nuura followed and observed the missionary teachers in order to learn. By the end of the two years, God had worked in her heart a deep love for the people. Now, she wanted to spend her life living among them, learning their language, and sharing Christ’s love. Half a year later, she left for mission training with CAPRO and was re-assigned to a more interior village to found a new health post among nomadic Somali refugees.

A way in

Nuura’s village had no electricity, and the only vehicle commuted once daily. Water was a thirty-minute walk, and once there, you did all your washing and bathing. Water carried home was strictly for cooking and drinking. This inconvenience turned out a blessing though.

“It afforded me time to interact with the women as we walked and worked together. These opportunities were restricted back in the village. As a close-knit and fully Islamic community, they did not welcome foreigners. You needed a justifiable reason to be there. Being a nurse was my way in.”

Nuura did her nursing work diligently, but advises against a “saviour” mentality. “It’s easy to notice all the things they are doing wrong, but remember that they’ve been getting along over the years without you.”

On my first day, a long line of patients kept us busy from 8am to 5pm.

Initially, the local women wouldn’t patronize her services. They still went to Traditional Birth Attendants or TBAs, who would only consult Nuura after they encountered problems that could have been avoided had they called earlier. Rather than contend with them, Nuura stepped back to observe their unique way of caring for the pregnant women, and offered her expertise when required.

Nuura worked at the health post on weekdays and made home visits on weekends. She memorized Gospel stories in the local language and told them to her patients when she visited. They loved the stories and discussions.

“Unlike the city where one can preach the Gospel and get instant responses, here, it requires prayer and patience. It’s slow fruit.”

Boycott and attack

Soon, the community leaders became suspicious. At a meeting in the mosque, they warned, “These people are here to convert us. Don’t let them come to your homes, and don’t go to their homes.” Nuura reports that they stopped coming. Some took their children out of the school, and when they saw any missionaries approaching, they passed the other way.

“During this boycott, a family abandoned their sick mother in a wheelbarrow at the clinic. We took the woman home and cared for her. Her family had been watching. The community realized we were not their enemies. Gradually, they returned.”

The only source of water for Nuura’s village

Another crisis came when one man accused Nuura of stealing a phone he had left charging unattended with the clinic’s solar power. He struck Nuura with a herder’s stick, and she fell to the floor unable to move. The community elders ordered the culprit to take her to the hospital. Nuura was admitted for two days. Later at a hearing, she opted to forgive the man and absolve him of paying the required fine. The elders were not pleased; “If you have declined our decision, then you’re now on your own. Don’t come to us when you encounter another confrontation.”

Visible fruit

Nuura prayed for Ayaan as she requested. The baby came out not breathing. She handed him to a TBA with instructions as she attended to the mother. After a while, the baby started breathing and crying, and turned out  healthy-pink! His overjoyed mother said, “I give this baby to the Lord. There was no hope, but the Lord brought him back to us.” She gave him a Christian name. Although Ayaan remained a Muslim herself, she didn’t mind her son learning about the Lord. The community knows he belongs to the God of the Christians, and no one bothers him.

The man who attacked Nuura fled the village after the incident. Nuura thought about him one day and gave him a call. He had become a Christian.

Five to six believers now meet for fellowship in Nuura’s village. The community alienates them, but their passion to see their people won for Christ is unwavering. The laws in Kenya allow religious freedom, so the community cannot keep them from practising their new faith.

The government recognized Nuura’s work, and with the help of an NGO, built a bigger health facility for the village.

Health workers in missions

Nuura shares, “African health workers have abundant opportunities for serving among many UPGs who need health care desperately. A westerner may not accomplish as much as an African worker because of different expectations. For Africans, they know we are like them; our resources are limited so we’d have to make it work together.”

She advises health workers who are new to missions: “Several mission organizations exist now. Connect with them and find out what they are doing. Be willing to learn, even if you’re an experienced professional. Let God be your reason for serving. Sometimes the people may not appreciate you, and you’ll wonder if it’s worth it. After I left Kenya, they were now asking me to come back— ‘You were doing so much!’ they said. But they never told me this while I was there.”

A missionary couple moved in to take Nuura’s place as she left for her new assignment. She now serves in one of the world’s most hostile and least-reached countries. Her nursing profession has given her another ticket.

Pray for:

–More open doors for the Gospel in Nuura’s new country.

–Unity and synergy among the team she serves with.

–More African workers to be sent into the harvest.

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