Editor's note: This story first appeared in the spring 2018 issue of the Concordian, the official magazine of Concordia University Wisconsin.
When Anaisa Nagy and Elida White graduated from Concordia University Wisconsin in 2016 with their degrees in nursing, their professional licensure completed, and job offers from Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, they did the unexpected: They put their careers on pause; packed their bags; and flew to Ensenada, Mexico—again.
It may seem surprising that with a good job opportunity under their belts they would choose to forego it for a short-term service endeavor. But for these passionate caretakers, they couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
“Elida and I talked, and we decided that we may never get this chance again,” Nagy says. “Our mindset was: Let’s do this—let’s go and give back.”
The classmates’ desire to give back had started many months earlier when they signed up for a global education course at CUW. Although they initially joined the class so that they could travel, the two nursing students were surprised to leave with much more. The class changed their perspective on holistic nursing care, gave them friendships that extended beyond their time at Concordia, and helped them grow in their faith. The experience was so moving that Nagy and White couldn’t stay away.
“I loved seeing the way God was working there,” Nagy recalls. “You benefit from the trip in ways you never thought you would. When people say I must have impacted them, I tell them it’s the opposite. They’ve impacted me.”
Concordia began offering the global trip to nursing students nearly two decades ago, working with Agua Viva Ministries in Ensenada, Mexico. In recent years, the trip has been run by nursing professors and CUW alumnae Jill Krell (’94, ’10, ’14) and Giannina Vernon (’07, ’10, ’14). For a week each year, the duo takes undergraduate and graduate students to Mexico to set up free clinics. Once there, students provide wellness checkups; take vital signs; provide diagnoses; and hand out donations of hygiene items, clothing, and childcare items. Students then connect patients to a local physician for follow-up care.
For Krell, the trip is about much more than nursing education. “I not only gain knowledge about nursing and working with a different culture, but also realize the impact that others have on them,” states Krell.
Countless students have experienced exactly that while on Krell’s trip. Some, like Brett Rasmussen (’17), have even gone back to Mexico—though it isn’t always the case that someone would sacrifice time and effort to do so after graduation. Yet, that’s precisely what Nagy and White did.
After returning from the global education course, it didn’t take long for them to know they wanted to go back to Mexico. After obtaining end of the summer, they accepted a six-week internship with Agua Viva Ministries. Once there, they worked with church groups to begin construction projects, open clinics, lead vacation Bible school, and provide much-needed supplies and services to the local community.
“It’s crazy how the Lord worked out things for Anaisa and me,” White recalls. “He wanted us in Mexico, and now I know why. The whole experience helped me to more easily proclaim my faith, and I feel like I brought a little of that back with me.”
Not only did time in Mexico help strengthen their faith, it also introduced them to lifelong friendships. More than a year after they completed their internship there, Nagy and White returned to Ensenada—this time, to reconnect with the workers of Agua Viva Ministries and the people in the community with whom they had forged relationships.
Nagy’s and White’s experience is exactly what their professor had hoped for when she began leading the trip five years ago. “It doesn’t always happen that students return to Ensenada after graduation, but I’m not surprised,” Krell comments. “The trip impacted them in so many ways, and I’ve seen them grow from it. It’s why I love leading this trip, and why I can’t help but go back every year.”
The spring Concordian hit mailboxes the week of April 23. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, call 734-995-7317.
— Kali Thiel is director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-243-2149.
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