Interview by TJ McCloud, Lipscomb University Missions Coordinator This past summer, senior Nursing student Meleia Fisher did a three month internship with HEAL Ministries, based in Jinja, Uganda. HEAL, a Lipscomb Missions host partner, specializes in ministry to abandoned women and children. Small business start-up, skills training, health and parenting classes, child care, children's ministry and spiritual mentoring are all part of the three-year program that women enter at HEAL's outreach center, which is focused on empowering women in poverty to keep and provide for their children. A few weeks after Meleia returned from her internship, I sat down with her to hear more about what her summer was like.
TJ: Where are you originally from? Have you ever been involved in mission work before?
Meleia: I am from Colorado Springs, originally, and have been involved in mission work since I was twelve. That's when I first went to Juarez, Mexico with my church. It was a life-changing experience! I think God really opened my heart with that initial trip; seeing people who lived so differently than me, people who were so wonderful and kind, in spite of the poverty they lived in... it made me want to see more of God's world. Since then, I have been involved in mission work in the Dominican Republic, Uganda, and serving medically with the immigrant/service community of Destin, FL.
TJ: So, what did this internship consist of? How did you spend your summer?
Meleia: As an intern, I got to be part of the team that helps make the summer season for HEAL ministries run smoothly. We helped with mission groups that would come in, helped staff the child care ministry that they have on site, and coordinated some of the ministry logistics for certain activities. But the thing that I was most excited about was the ability to teach some basic health classes to the women; classes about hygiene, nutrition, hydration. Its all simple stuff, but it's really important and makes a big difference to the women's lives; and the lives of their children.
TJ: How did you get involved in HEAL ministries?
Meleia: I originally got involved with HEAL as part of a summer mission trip with Lipscomb Missions in 2013. I helped facilitate the painting part of an arts ministry workshop for about ten days or so. It was a blast, and during the trip, I got to know Tina Weir, HEAL's Director. She just really poured into me and invited me to come back as an intern, and specifically use my health/nursing training. She also had a vision for having a clinic on site one day, and I wanted to help lay whatever groundwork I could toward that goal.
TJ: What about this summer do you think will make you a better nurse in the future?
Meleia: I think it was just the excitement of learning how to teach and educate people about health. The process of simplifying concepts, applying them to the circumstances of the women's lives, that was just really great. Also, the opportunity to learn more about a different medical system taught me a lot- watching talented doctors and nurses deal with lack of resources, think critically and innovatively. There's a doctor in Jinja who helps with HEAL's ministry, Dr. Charles, he's just wonderful, and I learned so much from him and his staff, just by watching and listening every chance I could.
TJ: What would you say the biggest challenges were for you this summer?
Meleia: I think it was probably just choosing to go and do this, rather than some other more specific nursing internship. Friends were getting jobs all over with clinics and hospitals, and I wondered if working in Uganda this summer would hold me back in some ways. But at every step, I felt carried along by God. He provided the money and a great ministry to work with and I ended up learning so much more than I ever thought that I would have. I have no doubt that I spent many more hours in patient care than I might have in an internship in the U.S.. For me, this training is exactly what I wanted - I want to go into nursing in order to have direct contact and impact on the lives of those who need it most. That is what this was. All summer, for better or worse, people looked to me medically, and I had to continually use my skills and build up my knowledge in order to meet that need.
TJ: What were the highpoints of your time in Uganda?
Meleia: Getting to know the HEAL staff and kids was such a blessing. They just really loved and accepted me as part of the team- family, even. A summer can feel so short, but I felt like I really got to live real life alongside my Ugandan friends while I was there. Other than that, seeing that women were actually learning and implementing and passing on some of the things that I was teaching... I mean, wow. That was just really humbling.
TJ: What do you think that God taught you, or is teaching, through your work this summer?
Meleia: I think it's so easy to question what good we are doing, when we try to make a difference in the name of Jesus. But realizing that God is so much bigger than anything we do- that he can take whatever little we offer and multiply it a hundred times over... that's what I came away with. That, and the power and value of relationships. Every new friend is such a beautiful gift, and a chance to see God in new ways.
TJ: What do you see in the future? Will you continue to be involved in HEAL? Medical Missions?
Meleia: Absolutely. I have no idea what the future holds, but I really want to continue to help HEAL move toward the reality of a full-scale medical clinic in Uganda, whether I'm working there or here, or where ever. And yes, medical missions continues to be my passion and goal. I guess we'll just have to see where the Lord takes me!