NNU on a Mission: Ghana

July 10, 2013, 3:15 pm
Elisa Rau treats a patient

The end of the semester does not mean the end of education for Northwest Nazarene students. Summer break means summer session, study abroad experiences and mission trips. This summer, NNU students traveled the globe on four different NNU-sponsored mission trips: Australia, Ghana, Jamaica and Sri Lanka.

The Ghana team consisted of eight students (five nursing majors, two pre-med majors and one education major) and two faculty leaders. They traveled in northern Ghana working with local Nazarene churches to host free health clinics. These clinics were held predominately in rural areas where the people don’t have regular access to or can’t afford healthcare.

They planned and packed supplies for wound treatment, de-worming treatments for children and some vision treatment. Although helpful, these preparations were not enough to prepare for the spectrum of needs represented by the 2,000 people they saw and the issues they faced in providing medical care and education in a vastly different culture. The students rose to the challenge, learning more than they could have imagined about the physical and spiritual condition of the Ghanaian people.

NNU biology professor Dr. Jennifer Chase explained, “I was amazed by the creativity of the Christian leaders we encountered in northern Ghana in coping with the challenges of leading Christ-like lives in the midst of culture that is modern but at the same time still superstitious.” Cell phones and other technologies are common, even in remote areas, but many other practices are still very primitive. These were the same challenges that the team faced in providing care.

One example Dr. Chase shared was of a woman with leprosy who came to a clinic. She knew she had leprosy and was not seeking care for that condition but rather for eye pain. She didn’t ask for treatment for the leprosy because it is commonly considered a curse on women who had extra-marital affairs. Even though the treatment for leprosy is relatively simple, it is difficult for churches to assist those with the disease without appearing to condone sinful behavior.

Despite the cultural tightrope they had to walk, the team worked extremely hard and served every person who came to the clinics. Junior nursing student Elisa Rau (Portland, Ore.) describes the experience: “We nursing students were amazed at what we were able to do when put to the test. We worked well as a team, combining our knowledge in an attempt to best help our patients. The way NNU educates the whole person was evident in the way we approached each patient and each situation.” They successfully provided health assessments and referrals, diagnoses for some conditions and administered basic medications, including treating intestinal worms for 400 children. They also gave out 50 pairs of glasses.

Traveling to Ghana proved an invaluable hands-on training experience for students seeking to work in medical and educational professions. “This trip was uncomfortable, exciting, full of adventures and laughter, challenging and stretching,” said Elisa Rau. Facing challenges that no classroom or lab could ever replicate, these NNU students gained from the Ghanaians as much as they shared.

Photo caption: Elisa Rau treats a patient

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