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...