Lessons from Volunteering with Kingdom Workers
My name is Elizabeth Zank. I’m a 2016 graduate from Wisconsin Lutheran College with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I have been a practicing Registered Nurse for the past three years in the hospital setting—in both medical surgical and intensive care. I have had multiple opportunities to volunteer with Kingdom Workers since starting my nursing career. I traveled to Malawi for an immersion experience, Panama City Beach, Fla., to help rebuild a church with Builders for Christ, and I have recently gotten involved with the foster family support program. I also traveled to Thailand with Christians Forward Southeast Asia to run a medical clinic for a local village this past April. Volunteering with Kingdom Workers has helped me to broaden my perspective, gain valuable experiences, learn new skills, and meet many different people from different backgrounds.
Simply by becoming a nurse I have learned so much about the human experience and have had the opportunity to help patients and families at some of the most vulnerable moments in their life. Going into these various different volunteer opportunities, my nursing experience has been extremely helpful. As a nurse, you have to be ready for the unexpected and roll with it. It is important to pay attention to the small details, but also keep the bigger picture in mind with constant multi-tasking, prioritization, and time-management.
In March of 2018, I traveled to Malawi with Kingdom Workers. We were mainly led by local Kingdom Workers employees (Allena, Davie, and Tendai) and assisted by the Tyrrell family. As a group we visited local villages where trained volunteers assisted disabled children with physical therapy. This was my second time experiencing a third world country. In nursing school I had the opportunity to travel to Zambia with my nursing class. In that environment, you always have to be ready for the unexpected. You gain that awareness from the moment you arrive in the country. Driving down the road to the guest house, we saw many people walking along the road—children in uniforms walking back from school, mothers carrying a child on their back and carrying a basket on their head, small makeshift roadside markets, packed minibuses, and various types of buildings and housing that you don’t see every day in America. The roads were also very different. There were a few that were paved, but most of the other side roads were unpaved and very rough. Houses like the one we stayed in are protected by a wall and have hired security. Unless they are very wealthy, many people in Malawi don’t have running water or electricity. Often power outages happened during the day or night.
Visiting local children benefiting from Kingdom Workers volunteers was very eye opening and heart wrenching. Disabled children often are outcast by society in Malawi. It was amazing to hear stories on the progress children made through the program and see the work the volunteers do. We had the opportunity to visit families at their houses and see how they live day to day. We learned our presence and encouragement is very uplifting for the people and volunteers in the program.
Going into the trip the group prepared by reading a book called “When Helping Hurts.” We focused on the purpose for a short-term mission trip and what our perspective of poverty is. Our main goal was to learn and bring fellowship, empowerment, and encouragement to the people. Big changes in developing countries don’t happen in a few days, but they are built over a long time. One of my big takeaways from the trip was the incredible faith, resilience, and positivity of the Malawian people despite the daily struggles and hardships they face. Also, despite the barriers and obstacles that exist, they continue forward doing the best they can with what they have.
The change in perspective I gained also was extremely helpful on returning to my role as a registered nurse here in the U.S. In medicine we are obsessed with getting the latest technology and the latest new treatments, and sometimes that technology is the very thing that is hindering us from caring for and knowing our patients. We can only anticipate further advancements in technology in the years to come, but it was really helpful for me to see and consider first-hand how sometimes more is not always better. This trip also really helped me to take a step back and acknowledge my bias when it came to understanding poverty. Material poverty is just one aspect of poverty. This trip helped me to gain the perspective that we are all living in some form of poverty or brokenness. In my role as a nurse, acknowledging this bias has helped me realize the importance of taking more time with my patients and families to ask questions, listen, and connect with them. Everyone is dealt their own challenges and struggles in life. I can do my best to understand their situation and show them that no matter what they are going through they are not alone.
My experience volunteering with Kingdom Workers has impacted my personal life and career in a very positive way. From Malawi to right here in Wisconsin, I have learned how to keep striving to be an ambassador for Christ whatever the environment or circumstance. This is something that I want to prioritize in my life and career wherever I may be for years to come.
By Elizabeth Zank, BSN, RN
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