Three Messiah alumnae serve African communities on a hospital ship
Hotel ships with dream-class services and sea-view bedrooms have captured the minds of many. But have you ever wondered how a hospital ship may look? To nurses Caitlyn Williams ‘11, Deborah Mascia ‘11 and Anne McClary ’11—Messiah alums who volunteer their time and talents with Mercy Ships—it is a safe and convenient mobile environment where underserved patients receive free healthcare from experienced, friendly nurses and doctors. The three alumnae have saved the lives of thousands and will inspire future generations of Messiah students.
Mercy Ships is an international charity providing free health care, community development projects, community health education, mental health programs and other services. Functioning as a hospital, the ships are state-of-the-art facilities that offer clean water, reliable electricity and care centers (Source: Mercy Ships). Mercy Ships travels to various places with a focus on African countries to welcome those in need of medical care. With the same goal of living out their faith and supporting under-resourced populations in Madagascar, Williams and Mascia came to serve on Mercy Ships’ Africa Mercy in August 2015, and were joined by McClary in January 2016.
“Mercy Ships perfectly incorporates my passion for nursing, serving other people, and traveling all while working alongside people from many different countries,” said Mascia. “It truly is a unique community to serve in and be a part of.”
All nursing graduates from Messiah College’s Class of 2011, Williams, Mascia and McClary have transferred what they learned into serving communities in need. A nursing education at Messiah instilled in them a great desire to care for others not only with knowledge and skills, but also with a loving and compassionate heart.
“I have no doubt that my nursing education at Messiah prepared me for any job I might have,” said McClary. “It was a hard four years of study, but it has paid off. I felt prepared going into my first job as an emergency department nurse, and I feel prepared now as I use the critical thinking I worked so hard to develop in school in this new environment.”
Serving in a foreign country, the three women have encountered several difficulties in adjusting to a new lifestyle, culture and environment. However, what came as the most shocking experience to them is to witness how poor and insufficient the standard of living in Madagascar is, yet how emotionally and physically strong the people are in fighting against their conditions.
“The patients that we treat are often the survivors,” said Mascia. “They travel for days with just a glimmer of hope that they can receive their life-changing surgery. Their strength, hope and perseverance are incredible.”
Living in the United States, where the standard of living is among the highest in the world, many Americans find it easy to access quality healthcare services and rarely observe such destitution. Therefore, serving in a developing country like Madagascar, the Messiah alums wanted to not only help with immediate needs, but also to come “in His name”—to support and equip the people.
“Here on Africa Mercy, everyone is welcomed, accepted as they are and loved with the same love Christ showed us,” said Williams. “Loving, praying and caring for them in the name of Jesus: this is what brings about the heart transformation and renews their spirit.”
As Christ followers, service is inherently crucial to every Christian. But is service merely spending one’s time and helping others? For these women, the opportunity to serve in Madagascar has changed the way they think about service into one of a more profound level. McClary said service is not just giving some time to help someone else. “It is meeting people where they are, knowing them and finding a way to care for them in the way that will help them the most,” she added. “In my life right now, service means giving my time and finances to be here in Madagascar. It means giving medical care and most of all hope to people who don’t have much. It means sacrificing and being challenged, but it also means so much joy and satisfaction.”
Mascia has completed her service time with Mercy Ships while Williams and McClary will continue serving on Africa Mercy in Madagascar. Whether with Mercy Ships or not, their time spent in Madagascar will always be an inspiring story and lesson on career pursuit for all Messiah students.
“Pursuing your dream career probably won’t be easy, but nothing great or worthwhile is ever easy,” said Mascia. “Put God first, seek His wisdom and direction, and He won’t fail to do abundantly more than you can hope or dream.”
—My Nguyen ’17