Denise Howard
Assignment: North Africa
Call to Missions

My senior year of high school my childhood home church, Mountain Christian Church, sent me and another student to the Global Missions Health Conference.  The Great Commission to GO became a direct call on my life and I couldn't deny that. I verbalized this to my youth pastor, and he helped me find opportunities to explore what the call might look like in my life. This weekend at the GMHC was a turning point where I decided to pursue nursing as a career in order to serve. I'm so thankful I had that opportunity. I made the decision to attend Milligan College and I had more opportunities there to attend the GMHC and continue to make relationships with missionaries and organizations like Christian Missionary Fellowship. I met my husband  and he had separately felt the call to serve overseas previously as well. This was a natural connection for us and we never doubted that we would serve together in the future.We were married our senior year of college and encouraged at the GMHC to find experience in our fields of medicine here in the US for a while before committing to serve overseas. One evening I saw an online need for a Labor and Delivery nurse and Researcher in Africa and it was something I couldn't ignore. I felt that light in my heart ignite again and never realized how dim it had become in the chaos of life. It took another five years from our initial visit to Africa before we committed to serving there long term. God has made this so clear to us that this is the direction we are being called to go. It's exciting but incredibly intimidating as well. I'm thrilled that He's allowed our kids to experience this with us and learn to trust Him from the beginning of this entire process. He never promised that it would be comfortable or easy to live according to His will, but it's a calling and we've experienced such peace following Him through this journey.

How do you hope to integrate healthcare & evangelism?

The clinic I work in serves over 3,000 HIV+ patients in the city. It is a city of 250,000 people and the primary religious beliefs are Muslim and Tribal/Animistic. The clinic was started about 20 years ago to offer HIV and general healthcare to the people of the community. The maternity was then opened two years ago to provide prenatal care and a clean delivery for mothers with HIV. The goal was to stop transmission at delivery since they had rates over 50%. The part of my job that I love as an OB nurse is the instant bond I have with a mother as she trusts me with her life and the life of her unborn baby. This is also the ideal time to share the hope and love of Christ as I have the opportunity to serve her and her family. After delivery, there is great follow-up care and interaction with the family which gives the opportunity for a continued trusting relationship.

Anticipated Impact
  1. Educate nurses and midwives on neonatal recitation, maternal hemorrhage care, preventative care and critical thinking skills. These aren't culturally taught and healthcare workers have a difficult time anticipating problems and knowing how to timely and critically intervene.
  2. Educate women on the importance of early prenatal care and intervention for their HIV to lower the transmission risk to baby. It is culturally uncommon for a woman to seek any prenatal care prior to the 8th month of pregnancy on average, It is a superstitious part of their animistic beliefs that they don't want to "draw attention" of the spirits to their baby until the very end of pregnancy. They also are so accustomed to loss that they don't acknowledge their pregnancy as viable until the very end.
  3. The name of Jesus will be made known in an area that many have never heard. It is a primarily Muslim and tribal/animistic religious affiliation in Abengourou. Many have not heard the name of Jesus or come to know His love for them and their own significance in Him.
Help send nurses like Hannah to places where they are needed most!