Nurse embarks on mission to spend the holidays serving in West Africa

In this season of giving thanks, we remember to pause from our busy lives, take a breath and count our blessings. But one nurse is taking the spirit of thanksgiving even further — all the way to West Africa.

Instead of spending the holiday season surrounded by family and the comforts of home, Jackie Gallegos, a registered nurse at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple, is embarking on a medical mission trip aboard Africa Mercy, a hospital ship docked in Conakry, the capital of Guinea.

Jackie will spend the next five weeks living out what she believes is her purpose: To bless others as she herself has been blessed.

This is her story.

“Have faith, pray about it and go after it.”

I was born in Panama. As a child, I spent almost every summer in Panama until I graduated from high school. Unfortunately, my family was extremely poor. I remember always thinking how unfair it was that I could end the summer going back home to safety and good living conditions while the rest of my family and friends lived trapped in the unforgiving life of true third-world poverty.

But the one memory I will never forget is that of my mom spending every last cent she had to give back to her family and friends.

But the one memory I will never forget is that of my mom spending every last cent she had to give back to her family and friends. She would always say with a smile on her face, “God has truly blessed me. He blesses us so that we can bless others.”

That stuck with me. Since then, I vowed to live and give my life just as it says in 1 Peter 4:10: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I eventually found my gift: nursing.

I first heard about Mercy Ships when I was in nursing school as a member of Nursing Christian Fellowship. One meeting, they brought in guest speakers from different organizations to speak about medical mission trips. At the time, I was close to graduation and I had no idea what I wanted to do or be as a nurse. I just knew I wanted to help, especially those in need.

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When I heard a classmate’s personal experience serving for Mercy Ships, I was absolutely inspired. A Christian organization and hospital boat that offers free lifesaving medical care to nations in Africa where healthcare is pretty much non-existent — I was in awe of the idea. At that moment I remember thinking, “God, I will do this one day.” I researched it for hours and hours. I found that if I wanted to serve as a nurse, I needed two years of experience. For the time being, I put the idea on hold.

So when I say that when God opens doors that are meant for you, I mean he takes the door off the hinges and leaves it wide open with no way to close that door.

Last summer, I was going on a mission trip to Haiti and my director Melissa heard about it. She directed me to Baylor Scott & White Faith in Action Initiatives because they give scholarships to employees going on mission trips. She even said, “You know if you go on one of those missions where you stay on the boat, they’ll help you with the whole trip.” Ha! I know she didn’t even realize it at the time, but those words were meant just for me.

So when I say that when God opens doors that are meant for you, I mean he takes the door off the hinges and leaves it wide open with no way to close that door. The day of my two-year mark, I applied and I got accepted.

It feels absolutely surreal that I’m leaving to serve for Mercy Ships.

Related: Nurse shares joyful memories from medical mission trip

It’s been a long journey getting to this point but I feel completely honored, thankful and beyond grateful to work for an organization who has not only helped me in my career, but has guided me step by step to live out my dream to serve as a nurse aboard the Africa Mercy in Guinea, Africa. I’ve never done something like this before. I know it’s going to be a really deep and spiritual thing — I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but I know it’s going to be something incredible.

I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but I know it’s going to be something incredible.

And I hope that my experience can help anyone who maybe has the same dream as me.

Shortly put: Have faith, pray about it and go after it.

From Temple, Texas, to Guinea, West Africa, Jackie is living out her calling to care for others. You, too, can find your calling — join the Baylor Scott & White team today.

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  1. Pingback: Reflections on the medical mission trip that changed my life and nursing career | Scrubbing In

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Nurse embarks on mission to spend the holidays serving in West Africa