The Voice: Fall 2002

The Voice

Pausma spends summer in Nigerian hospital

Nicole Bruxvoort (ex'02) and Andrea Pausma take patients' vital signs in a village outreach health clinic. Andrea Pausma has big plans for the future. As a senior biology major at Dordt, one of those plans is to attend medical school after she graduates. Now, thanks to a summer spent overseas, a future in missions may factor into her plans as well.

Pausma recently participated in a Christian Reformed World Missions summer program, which sent fifty students across the globe to learn about different opportunities in the mission field. Pausma spent her summer in Jos, Nigeria, observing health care practices at Evangel, a large missions hospital.

“I was merely observing,” Pausma stresses, “but I did get a chance to help out now and then.” Occasionally, she and a team of health care professionals would leave the hospital to treat the city’s disabled population, who were confined to certain areas of the city. These times were rare, however, since the program wasn’t designed to train health care professionals, but to raise awareness.

“This is mainly a program that helps students realize the needs that are out there,” says Pausma. For her, the program did exactly that. While in Nigeria, she saw a lot of poverty and also many common illnesses like malaria, AIDS, and even tetanus, a disease that has all but disappeared in the United States.

The program opened her eyes to a new culture as well. When asked if she had trouble adjusting, she quickly responds, “No, in fact, I had more trouble adjusting to America when I came back.”

In Nigeria, Pausma experienced a poverty-stricken but community-based culture.

“Their hospitality, the way they welcomed new people, their simplicity—it was all so inspiring,” she says. “There’s so much pressure in our society for the individual to rise, but theirs is community-based.”

Coming home, she was struck by the individualism, arrogance, and especially the waste of American culture. “We’ve been blessed,” she admits, “but the fifty dollars that we spend on a pair of shoes could easily pay someone’s doctor bill in Nigeria.”

The experience may have been an eye-opener, but it was also frustrating at times, Pausma admits. Many of the diseases she observed, like tetanus, could have easily been prevented with a vaccination. Also frustrating were the large number of women who had become casualties of the dominant Muslim culture. According to Pausma, Muslim women are expected to marry at a very early age, and they often suffer complications during or after pregnancy as a result.

“It’s very sad,” says Pausma, “because I know that many of those problems could have been easily prevented.”

Although the conditions are often bleak, they can provide the perfect opportunity for evangelism, Pausma observed. Doctors, nurses, and patients would often pray together before surgery, or celebrate when a patient was healed.

“Their faith definitely affected their medicine,” observes Pausma. “Patients would see the love their doctors had for them, and many of them became Christians.”

Pausma doesn’t see missions work in her near future; she’s still got graduation and years of medical school ahead of her. Even so, she says, the possibility of a career in missions is one that remains at the back of her mind.