Rachel Boeve never expected to end up working as a nurse in Cameroon, West Africa.
"All I knew was that the Lord said 'Follow me,' and I trusted Him to lead me where He wanted me,” the 2000 graduate of the Calvin/Hope nursing program says. “It’s not easy, by any means, but God provides in ways I could never have imagined.”
Rachel gained experience as a nurse in a variety of settings before ending up in Cameroon. Her first position after Calvin was working as the Health Officer at a Christian summer camp. She ended up staying at the camp and living there year-round and working on the weekends with the groups that came in all year. Rachel also found a job at a family doctor’s office, in the next town, that was affiliated with the local hospital. The area was quite rural and so this office was more of a “walk-in clinic” in some respects. After working there for three years, Rachel then worked at Prime Care, a medi-center for non-emergent services.
Towards the end of her time at Prime Care, Rachel’s aunt recruited her for Hospice of Holland. She joined the staff there in 2006 as an RN Case manager and visited patients in their homes, care facilities, and the hospital. The work was challenging and rewarding, but Rachel soon felt a tug on her heart toward missions work.
"I had thought about doing some sort of missions work after graduating from Calvin, but with my debt and lack of nursing experience it wasn’t a viable option at that time,” says Rachel. “However, at this time in my life, I was now debt free, had over seven years of nursing experience and thought it wouldn’t hurt to look into doing a short-term trip somewhere.”
Many people encouraged Rachel to talk with the Wycliffe Bible Translator recruiters, after she had looked into several different medical mission organizations and the door kept getting slammed shut with each one. After meeting the Wycliffe recruiters, Rachel decided it would be helpful to go overseas and experience life on the mission field first-hand. She ended up going to Papua New Guinea for one month with Wycliffe Associates.
"I lived with a teacher and shadowed a nurse who worked at the medical clinic there. It was a good experience and I took time to debrief, pray, and process my trip before deciding that God was leading me to apply to Wycliffe Bible Translators,” Rachel explains.
She applied to Wycliffe in November of 2007 and became an official member in the early spring of 2008. After raising financial support and completing some training requirements, Rachel spent 18 months in Neuchatel, Switzerland, learning French, and then flew to Cameroon, West Africa to begin her assignment there in June 2010.
In Rachel’s work, there is no such thing as a “typical day.”
“My main role in the Health Office is to act as a liaison between the missionaries and the medical system here,” she says. “I advise people on what doctor or hospital to use, dispense anti-malaria medications, administer vaccines (especially the rabies series), telephone triage at times, accompany people to appointments if they need help with French translation, and answer emails with medical and medication questions for new missionaries that are thinking of coming here to work. So, some days are busier than others and I never really know exactly what I will be doing.”
For nursing students who are considering going into missions work, Rachel offers some advice: “I would encourage you to gain experience in a setting where you deal with 'everyday' problems and issues and gain a little bit of knowledge in a lot of areas. Also, you need to be a life-long learner and willing to ask questions and learn about a variety of things. Look around at many different organizations, ask lots of questions, gain some solid nursing experience at home, and go on a short-term trip or two to check things out. If God has put the burden for missions on your heart and you just have no idea where to start the process…..I would recommend just going anywhere with a reputable organization for a couple of weeks to a month. This will give you a better taste of life on the mission field.”
Written by Meredith Segur, posted March 2011