Katie Roukes, 2016 graduate serving in Tanzania
I don’t know when my fascination with Africa started. Maybe it was the Born Free re-runs that my grandparents recorded on VHS tapes or the colorful missionary presentations at church. Maybe God put it in my heart long before then.
Regardless, ever since I can remember, I’ve felt drawn to Africa. I hesitated to label it “a call” because I was so young – and I’d never stepped foot on the continent – but I wondered how God would use that desire in the future. Coming to Bob Jones as a nursing student in 2012, I investigated the summer missions teams. There it was! The Africa team. This was my chance! Interview with Dr. Olinger? Check. Draft of support letter? Check.
To my chagrin, however, God closed the door on Africa that summer. Instead, He sent me to Arequipa, Peru on a whirlwind medical missions trip that sparked my love for medical work in the international arena.
Skipping ahead to the following summer, I remember praying for an opportunity to spend the summer in Africa, preferably in some type of medical work. Through a series of details that included everything from a poster in my dorm to my roommate’s fiancé, God paved the way to Cameroon, West Africa, where I shadowed veteran missionary nurse Ellen Doyle for three whole months.
With stunning tropical scenery, flamboyant styles of dress, intriguing languages, and vibrant people, I was enthralled with all the delights of a brief exposure trip. Below the superficial fascination, however, a peace flooded my soul saying, “This is exactly where you’re supposed to be.”
Over and over again in those three months, through conversations and experiences, God confirmed in my heart that (a) I wanted to work in medical missions, and (b) Africa was where I wanted to serve in the future. When? How? In what capacity? I had no idea. But I knew I would come back someday.
After completing my nursing degree at Bob Jones University in 2016, I worked on a Medical/Surgical floor in Greenville for a year, gaining experience and intending to pursue graduate school before once again exploring international options. But, in late July 2017, a text from a dear friend changed everything: “What do you think about going to Africa on a short-term trip?” An orphanage had a need for a temporary position that was undefined in length and needed to be filled ASAP.
Although I initially hesitated because it was not a nursing position, the more I prayed about it, the more I realized how perfectly timed it was. Everything fell into place. The leases on my apartment and car were ending in the next two months. I was finishing my first year at my current job and wondering what was best to pursue next. There was nothing holding me back. I could literally pick up and go. A couple weeks, some phone calls, and multiple emails later, I was preparing to leave the country to work at Tumaini Children’s Home in Tanzania, East Africa for up to a year.
And that’s the story of how God brought me here to Tumaini! Here I am, five months later, living with fifty-five rough-and-tumble kiddos/teenagers aged six to twenty and the wonderful staff that cares for them. My role is generally defined as a volunteer (because Assistant-to-the-Assistant Director, Self-appointed Librarian/Book-Binder, Bandager of Boo-boos, and Professional Child Wrangler sounds too pretentious).
Daily life includes everything from housework and office projects during the day to helping with homework and reprimanding hooligans in the evening. No, I’m not working as a nurse. But I’m learning to speak Swahili, to assimilate into a completely different culture, to build relationships across cultural barriers, and to live day-to-day village life in Africa. I’m learning about the diseases/health challenges faced on a daily basis as well as the medical tactics and resources available in third world settings. I don’t know exactly how God will use all of those skills in the future, but I am confident that He will.
So, what about you? Maybe you’re praying about short-term opportunities over the summer. Maybe you’re about to graduate and are wondering what’s next. Maybe you’re heading into a full-time job and haven’t really given missions much thought before. Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to step out in faith.
Has God given you a burden for a specific place? People? Work? Pursue opportunities to act on it! Whether teaching missionary kids in Cambodia, managing a preschool in Iraq, or volunteering at a medical clinic in Togo, the opportunities to serve are as diverse as the people who pursue them.
Ask God where He wants you, explore all the possibilities, and follow Him as He opens the doors for you to serve – wherever in the world that may be.
Katie Roukes is a 2016 graduate of Bob Jones University with a nursing degree. She currently serves at Tumaini Children's Home outside Mwanza, Tanzania.
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.