Saturday, February 28, 2015

Why do I matter? What is my worth? A Nurse on the Mission Field

I started working and making money at 15 1/2 years old - the earliest you could obtain a work permit in the state of California.  Fast food, cashier, U.S. Army, secretary, waitress, and nurse.  The only time I didn't work was the 3 months after Madison was born.  I was successful at what I did.  I felt accomplished.  I made great money.  Then we went to the mission field.  I no longer made ANY money. 

Being a mom, wife, and missionary has always been a challenge.  I came to the field as a "professional" woman - having had a full-time career (working nights) so I could be a full-time mom as well.  I homeschooled my daughter, never missed an activity or event she was in.  It was the best of both worlds!  My mom taught me to be an independent woman, so I would be able to "survive" if something were ever to happen to my husband.  She taught me what it was to be strong, yet to be a good wife and mother.  And I felt all of these things.

Then the mission field...women live in this terrible dichotomy.  Our culture tells us to be accomplished...our women peers who have jobs look at us and judge us based on what we do for a living.  On the other hand, our friends who are stay-at-home moms look at us and shake their heads - that we are taking away the precious time we have from our children and working instead.  It is a hard place to be - this place of mom/wife/career woman.  We are never fully accepted by those whom are fully one or the other.

Then the mission field...the working mom comes to the field and is torn.  Do you commit yourself to your family?  Do you commit yourself to being a missionary?  Or are you able to do a little of both?  And what happens to those around you who chose to do one or the other?  Will you be judged by those moms who are choosing to be at home with the family?  What about those that are working full time as a missionary?  And then there is the feeling of worth...

The mission field...the weird place to be as a woman.  I chose to be both.  I was a full-time missionary nurse, and a full-time mom.  It came easily to me.  It's what I did before the mission field, so being able to work and be a wife and mom at the same time was very natural.  But now I did it for "free".  As a volunteer, I worked full-time as a nurse but made no money.  I felt like I was not contributing to my family.  Keep in mind, I had been working since 15 1/2.  For that entire time I brought money to the table.  I contributed.  I mattered.  Now I didn't.

I didn't realize I felt any of this until we returned to the States during furlough and I got a job as a nurse at a children's hospital.  I once again made really good money!  I was contributing to the family!  I felt accomplished!  Was able to pay cash to get Madison to Europe this summer for overseas study for her college!  We paid off our bills, was able to go out to eat whenever we wanted, date nights, and live a little freely with the extra money I am making.  I didn't find myself having to transfer money from Mike's account to mine - I had my own money :-)  It felt great!  It FEELS great! I won't deny it.  But this brought to mind the internal feelings I didn't even realize I had.  What is it that gives me a sense of purpose?  What is it that makes me feel accomplished?  Where do I find my satisfaction?

Now I am NOT talking about satisfaction of who I am in Christ!  I have always felt that whatever I do I do for the glory of God!  That if I follow where He leads, there is no wrong!  That He can use weak vessels, like me, to accomplish what He wants.  So what is it?  It's my culture...that's what it is.  It is the culture I grew up in that placed this need in me.  This need that showed me the only way I was successful was to be accomplished in a career.  When I applied for my position at the children's hospital, do you know they didn't even contact our mission agency?  They didn't view that as "work" at all.  They wanted to know the last hospital I worked at - because that was actual work, and mission work wasn't work.  Don't get me wrong - as an agency that cares for sick children in a hospital setting, they wanted to see how I was when I worked at a hospital.  I get it - but it also highlighted the fact that our own culture doesn't value what we do as missionaries, that when seeking a professional job, they didn't look at what I had been doing for the last 7 years - to them - I had been without a job in their eyes.

So here is my confession.  I do struggle with this.  I struggle when some visiting nurses and doctors come down to work in my clinic and they see where I "work" and I see in some of their eyes that what I do is not "real" nursing.  The medical profession is a tough field.  More often than not nurses can eat their young.  We want titles and initials behind our names.  When I am told, "oh we don't do it like that anymore" in hospitals in the U.S. - it stings.  I feel like I'm so behind the curve and lesser as a nurse.  That I maybe don't matter anymore.  I know...I know...pride is such an evil thing!  The root of most of our sin. 

Bottom line...why does it matter what I look like in other people's eyes?  I am following God's calling for us - and His is the only one I matter to.  The thing that speaks to my heart, when I stand before Him in my final days, and He looks to me, the ONLY thing I long to hear is, "Well good and faithful servant," because I followed Him.     

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  Matthew 25:40

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”   Isaiah 6:8

Thursday, February 12, 2015

I am not responsible FOR you, I am responsible TO you

The words were spoken by Alice Hatch, who, I believe, had heard them from a professor early on in her training.  Alice Hatch is the kind sweet counselor who works for Mission to the World and serves our organization in many capacities.

These words I have taken to heart. 

The first day we even stepped foot into the country of Honduras, and Mike and I walked into the community of Armenia Bonito, a small 3,000 person community in the jungles of Honduras, we were overwhelmed with the immensity of what we were encountering.  The despair, the poverty, substandard living situations, and health conditions.  And it was easy to succumb to the immensity of it.  But her words haunted me. 

There are more than 2,000 references in the bible related to children and poverty.

Psalm 82:3-4 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

1 John 3:17-18 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Interesting, as I have returned to work in the hospital while on furlough, and am working once again on the pediatric oncology floor, I find that these words speak to me just as deeply.  Every room I walk into is a child inflicted with cells that are growing out of control - that are taking over their little bodies, and I am either desperately trying to save them from a severe infection by giving them life-saving antibiotics, or pumping poison into their veins with chemotherapy to try and stop the spread of those out of control cells.  I walk into rooms of children who have no hair on their heads, throwing up into buckets, their parents sitting helpless holding their frail little bodies as they groan in agony.  I rally myself each and every room I walk into - to put the face on that I need to put on - the one of compassion, yet the one of efficiency.  The face of kindness, yet the mindset of getting my job done.  I must continue in my endeavors to try and care for this little one who has been entrusted to me, and yet not lose it when the little 5 year old girl with just a whisp of hair looks at me with her big eyes and asks if she is going to be okay.  Because the truth is - I just don't know. 

To find that oh so very narrow road - and walk it with integrity, mercy, and efficiency is a narrow road indeed.  Having enough compassion to not be exhausted or frustrated when you have given all the  medications you can possibly give, and yet still have a sweet child who is suffering, and somehow be "okay" and know that you have done the best that you can do.

Because to go down the wide road, to take on all the burdens that have been laid before you means you will not be able to walk down that road again and again and after day after day.

Working on an oncology floor...working on the mission field...there are so many similarities - I guess I never made the connection before I went to Honduras - but the despair, loneliness, hopelessness can seem much of the same. 

To give a sliver of hope - a light in the darkness - a smile and some compassion and a hug to those who are suffering - is what gives me the ability to go from day to day.  The job of a hospital nurse, the role of a missionary nurse in a third world country - how much they overlap, I never realized before.

But to maintain myself to go on from day to day - I can't take that last step into the depth of despair with that child, with that family, with that diagnosis or station in life - because I wouldn't be able to climb back out to be able to look after the next family, the next child, the next situation.  After all, I am not responsible FOR that person, I am only responsible TO that person.  And that I promise - you have me 100% - each and every time.

Just some musings as I work these
last few months in the hospital, and as I am looking at my return to Honduras and back to the overwhelming poverty and despair in the country - words to rally myself, and to remind myself.  My job is this...

  • to be obedient to God (Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Matthew 28:19). 

  • He has led me here (Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" - Isaiah 6:8)

  • He will not fail me (The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged - Deuteronomy 31:8) 

  • He will equip me (Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  Hebrews 13:20-21)

Monday, February 2, 2015


Things are going well - busy, but well.  Life of the Pettengills is never an idol one.  We just returned from a 2-day Mission to the World missions conference.  Mike and Roger both had an opportunity to speak.

While Roger (our Honduran doctor) is here we wanted to give him a taste of the American life.  So, we've taken him to an IMAX movie, purchased girl scout cookies, In-N-Out burgers, a store that offered more than 400 types of craft beer, and shown him the landscape of Arizona.  We went over to some friends who were in town and watched the Super Bowl, ate pizza and chicken wings.  Great game to be able to show Roger a little taste of what sports here is all about.

This weekend Mike and Roger will be traveling to Utah for the Northern California Presbytery which will give them a chance to talk about our ministry, be a part of what's going on, and to see the countryside along the way, and I will be working.

Busy, busy, busy...I keep wondering when that "down time" is going to hit...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Clinic Stays open and Dr. Roger comes to visit

What a reminder...that what God sees fit to continue will - regardless of what I do, because I can't do it on my own.  The clinic was in danger of closing due to lack of funds - I put the plea out, and watched God do all the work.  He already knew whose heart  He was going to touch to pray and to financial give to enable to clinic to remain open.  And there you have it - within a few weeks of my plea to God's people, the deed was done.  So here is my thank you - to all of you who felt the call to pray and give to the clinic.  I feel blessed and in awe of all of you!  Thank you SO SO much!  All funds came in to keep the clinic running for a full year.  I sit humbly on the sidelines and watch Him work.  Seven years ago when we arrived in La Ceiba, a far off distant dream of mine was to plant a permanent clinic to serve the people in the community we were working in.  A dream is one thing, but to see the reality is a totally different thing.  It is a humbling thing to watch medicine being delivered out of a box from the back of a truck and a few years later seeing medicine being delivered from a pharmacy by a Honduran physician out of a permanent facility.  I leave La Ceiba feeling a sense of completeness and contentment.  I leave La Ceiba knowing I have done what I came to do.  I am excited that this far off dream became a reality, and now I look forward to seeing what God has planned for me next.

Speaking of Dr. Roger (our Honduran physician), he will be visiting us here in the States.  Next week he will arrive into Phoenix, and we will host him in our house.  He then will be traveling with us to Southern California where he will speak at a missions conference, and then he will be traveling with Mike up to Utah to meet with many folks at Presbytery.  This will be Dr. Roger's second visit to the States - the first on the East Coast, and now here on the West.  He has an unusual love of the desert, although he has never been to the desert, so we will have an opportunity to tour him around, take him to the Grand Canyon, and through the Salt Flats up to Utah.  I am excited to have this opportunity to let other missionaries hear from a national partner.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Don't let the clinic close...

For more than 4 1/2 years I ran a mobile clinic serving the poorest of the poor.  In that time we hosted lots of medical brigades to serve these communities as well.  Then God saw fit to have us open a permanent clinic and have an incredible Honduran physician - Dr. Roger - work alongside us.  In the first year alone we saw more than 3,800 patients - and turned so many away because we simply didn't have the ability to see them.

Each year I support raise for Dr. Roger's salary.  The nominal fee we charge for people to come to the clinic in no way can pay for his salary. 

At this point I am still in major need of funds for his salary.  We in no way have enough to even cover him for the first two months of next year.  If we are unable to raise enough funds to cover his salary, we will have to close the clinic and all the other medical related ministries (mobile clinics in the communities of La Fe and Las Delicias) until such time the funds are raised.  This is the reality of living by faith.  God will make happen exactly what He wants to happen.  If no further funds come in, then this is God's way of letting us know that He doesn't want the clinic open.  If funds do come in, then we know the opposite is true.  I truly am not in anguish over this - I have turned the clinic over to Him completely. When we return from furlough, I will no longer be running the clinic, Dr. Roger and John Clow will be overseeing the clinic.  My job will now take me elsewhere to start medical / mercy ministries in other parts of the country and other parts of Central America.  However, I want to leave the clinic in a good way, and hopefully this means fully funded.

So if you have those end of the year funds and you need a GREAT place to send them for tax purposes - this link will get you to the MTW (Mission to the World) site that funds the clinic.  Please then let me know you have sent funds in so I can be looking for them.  This is also the account where other funds go to so we need to ensure that the funds get to the proper place.


You can easily send in a one-time (or better) a monthly contribution by clicking

Monday, December 1, 2014



Speaking at churches


1/2 Marathon

California visit


Getting Sick

Marathon on Sunday


Our lives right now have been all about transition - sharing what God is doing in Honduras, speaking at different churches, and I've been working.  We have finally had a chance to take a week and catch our breath.  Still speaking at churches, but a few days to hang with friends and family.  It is a much needed break.

Our sweet Madison comes home in three weeks and then we get to spend some time as a family.  It will be the first time we've seen her since we dropped her off at college in August.  Way past due.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Funding the clinic


 You may have already read the blog or letter from Mike announcing our promotion with MTW. If not, I have included it in the bottom portion of this blog. Basically, Mike has been promoted as the country director of Honduras, and the Regional Director for Central America. Because of these exciting job promotions, our personal ministry focus will change dramatically.

I will use the experience I have gained as a nurse and clinic director to help other MTW missionaries throughout Central America to expand a medical/mercy program in their country. Therefore, I will not be able to continue in my current position as director of medical/mercy ministry of La Ceiba, Team Honduras. I am looking at turning all the medical/mercy activities in La Ceiba to Dr. Roger Guillen. In the almost 7 years we have been in La Ceiba, we have hosted well over 500 mobile medical clinics, hosted more than 25 medical brigades and have seen more than 12,000 patients. I want to see the ministry in La Ceiba thrive and grow through the continuation of hosting medical brigades, mobile clinics, and seeing patients at our permanent clinic. As a matter of fact, we are hoping to open a second permanent clinic in downtown La Ceiba within the next year.
In order to continue giving quality health care at an affordable price to the poorest of the poor, Dr. Roger’s salary cannot be supported with the revenue generated from the clinic alone. For almost three years, I have relied upon one-time donations to provide a salary for Dr. Roger. I am hoping to fund Dr. Roger’s salary through monthly contributions to the Armenia Bonito clinic. The salary will be overseen by John Clow, the new MTW Team Leader in La Ceiba.
This letter is to ask you to support Dr. Roger. You can easily send in a one-time (or better) a monthly contribution by clicking I would love to turn over this ministry with Dr. Roger’s salary fully-funded.
What do I need: to continue having Roger work in a part-time capacity, I need an annual salary of $18,200, which equates to a monthly need of $1,517. My desire would be for him to work full-time in order to oversee all our medical/mercy ministries in La Ceiba. This would obviously require additional funds.
Please let me know if you have any questions or need clarification. If you would like to support Dr. Roger, you can click on the link above and then let me know of your contribution. In this way I will be able to keep track of the funds that come in for Dr. Roger’s salary. In addition, if you know of any other person who would be interested in supporting this ministry, please feel free to forward this e-mail on to them.
In Christ,
Erin Pettengill, RN
Director Medical/Mercy Ministries, Central America

Dear Friends and Supporters:
We have some wonderful news. Mike has taken a new job with MTW. In fact, Mike has taken two new jobs with MTW. Starting January 1st, 2015, Mike will be the Country Director for Honduras and the Regional Director for Central America.
We pray the information bellow answers some of the questions you may have:
Where will you live?
We will continue to live in Honduras, but we will be moving closer to the city of Tegucigalpa to be nearer to an international airport.
Are you still missionaries?
Yes. We will remain missionaries by any definition of the word. We will continue to live in Honduras and bring God’s glory in a cross-cultural setting to Latinos living throughout Central America.
Are you still with

Yes. We appreciate and value the support given to us over the past seven years from Mission To the World (MTW). Our new work is within the leadership team of MTW.
What exactly will Mike do?
Mike will continue to work with our two mission teams in Honduras, the existing team La Ceiba and our new team in Tegucigalpa. Mike will work with the existing MTW missionary teams in Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Mike will also work toward starting new MTW mission teams where there are currently none: El Salvador and Guatemala.
What exactly will Erin do?
Erin will take the vast knowledge she has acquired as a Registered Nurse for 19 years and as a missionary nurse for seven years and use that to create and expand medical and mercy ministries throughout Central America. She will serve and counsel the missionary wives and mothers in the region. Erin will also have an expanded role in
evaluating new missionaries for their readiness to serve on the field.
What happens to the other missionaries in Honduras?
John Clow will be the new Team Leader of the missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras. John and Kathy Clow have labored in Honduras for four years and as missionaries in Latin America for over 10 years. We are thrilled to place God’s work into their capable hands. Under our guidance, the Halbert and Marlowe families are starting a new church planting team in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
What about the ministries in La Ceiba?
The 12 other adults missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras are beyond capable of running all the ministries we started together. There are no plans to do anything other than watch God grow the work he has started under us.
Why the

When we arrived in Honduras almost seven years ago there was no MTW/Presbyterian presence in Honduras. Since then we have added a high school, medical clinic, four churches, a StreetKids ministry and a home of single teenage moms. Our team has hosted 758 short-term missionaries and 25 interns. We have discipled pastors, educated children, fed the hungry, clothed the naked and loved the unlovable. We want to bring that same vision and experience to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala and expand it in Honduras.
Do you still need financial support?
Yes. Now, more than ever we need the financial partnership of our individual and church supporters. In fact, we need more finances to cover our increased travel expenses. If you are not a current financial supporter, please prayerfully consider partnering with us to impact Central America by making a tax-deductible, credit/debit card contribution
How can we pray for you?
This new work is exciting and very scary. Please pray for the following:
  1. Mike and Erin have the boldness found only in Christ to do all that is set before them.
  2. The new missionaries we work with throughout Central America embrace our leadership.
  3. The team and ministries we are leaving in La Ceiba flourish under the new leadership of John and Kathy Clow.
  4. Our marriage is strengthened and we grow closer to the Lord as we step into the stress and uncertainty of the future.
We pray you are as excited about this new chapter in our missions journey together as we are. Our blogs, twitter, Facebook, YouTube and monthly e-mails will continue as they have. You will continue to be informed on how you can be a part of what God is doing through us. If you have any additional questions please e-mail Mike directly by clicking HERE.
It is exhilarating to imagine how God will use us throughout Central America.
In Christ,
Mike & Erin Pettengill
Missionaries to Central America

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