Part of Concordia’s mission is to prepare students for service to Christ in both the Church and the world. But that mission isn’t just for students— it’s one that faculty and staff also grapple with for themselves. For Dr. Sharon Chappy, dean of the School of Nursing, it’s been a decades-long journey of seeking out ways to serve Christ through her unique gifts and talents.

Dr. Chappy is no stranger to foreign soil. She’s been to Hungary, the Czech Republic, England, Austria, Germany, Mexico, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and, her all-time favorite, Italy. So when Ellen Murphy, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, asked her to participate in a 24-month grant project consulting with schools of nursing in Mwanza, Tanzania, saying yes seemed like an easy choice.

But it wasn’t the first time such a request had come across her desk.

A Service Proposal

Almost 20 years ago, while Dr. Chappy was working at the University of Wisconsin—Oshkosh, an orthopedic surgeon approached her with a similar offer to work alongside him for a few weeks performing surgeries in Africa. At the time, with two young kids and a busy teaching schedule, accepting the offer seemed impossible. Dr. Chappy passed on the opportunity and suggested Ellen Murphy as a possible replacement—the same Ellen Murphy who would later return to pitch the 24-month grant project in Tanzania.

This time, with a few decades of thought given to meaningful service, her kids grown up, and a little more flexibility, Dr. Chappy considered the invitation. Eventually, the sustainability of the project won her over.

“It really sounded appealing to me knowing it was working with schools of nursing,” Dr. Chappy said. “It wasn’t going over there and providing care for a week. The whole focus of this project was on sustainability and training the trainer, and that was very appealing to me. That’s what drew me to it originally—this is something that we can maintain. We can make an impact in another part of the world where we really have no connections otherwise.”

An Unexpected, Impactful Moment

The project initially began with the grant team training faculty in two schools of nursing in Mwanza, but Dr. Chappy and her colleagues eventually expanded their work to the local hospitals. There they invested in the nurses, providing strategies on how they could better train nursing students during their clinical rotations at the hospital.

On her last visit, Dr. Chappy and her colleague Cathy Cero-Jaeger conducted a three-day training seminar with those nurses to solidify their readiness as nurse preceptors for the students. To award them for completing the course, professor Cero-Jaeger handed out little gold pins inscribed with “nurse preceptor.”

When they announced the pins, Dr. Chappy recalls that there was an audible gasp from the 30 nurses in the room before they rose to their feet and started clapping and hugging each other.

“That was the most memorable moment for me,” Dr. Chappy said. “They were so excited to be recognized and it was confirmation that the three days of training were worthwhile. We knew they were learning; we were getting feedback and they were really involved, but that moment when they all stood up and cheered was really, really impactful.”

Passing on the Service Mindset

Over the course of two years, Dr. Chappy and her colleagues spent a total of seven months in Tanzania, visiting every few months in pairs of two. As the two-year commitment wraps up, the group is working on final deliverables like training manuals to further extend the sustainability of the project.

Now back on campus with the Tanzanian experience at her back, Dr. Chappy looks to pass on the passion for meaningful and sustainable service to both her students and her colleagues.

No one-time thing is ever going to be sustainable, but there are a lot of organizations and churches that have long-standing relationships with organizations in other countries with long-term goals. - Dr. Sharon Chappy

“It truly was so life-changing, and it would be amazing to have everyone experience something like this so that they truly appreciate what they have.” Dr. Chappy said.

Your Next Step

Regardless of your age or your connection to Concordia, you too can engage in service to Christ in the Church and the world. Whether it’s plugging into your local community, finding a mission group to join, or traveling abroad like Dr. Chappy, you have gifts and talents that can be used to make a difference.

As you consider where to get involved, Dr. Chappy has a few guiding questions for you:

  • What are your intentions and what do you hope to get out of the project? Do you really want to make a difference or are you simply curious about a specific group of people or type of need?
  • What do you have to offer? Do you have a skill or talent that you can share to impact a particular need?
  • Lastly, what is the sustainability of the project?

The most important thing you can do as you build a life of service is to ensure that the work you start or join is sustainable. Whether it’s you, another individual, or an organization, ensure that the project you give toward or volunteer for will be maintained.

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