ROCKVILLE, Va. (BP)–The International Mission Board’s Missionary Learning Center is sending out a desperate plea for registered nurses who are available to volunteer in the center’s semi-monthly clinics.
The center, located in Rockville, Va., provides three shot clinics for each group of Southern Baptist missionaries who come through for orientation — thousands of vaccinations a month. By using volunteers to administer the shots — instead of sending missionaries to outside clinics — the International Mission Board saves almost $300,000 a year.
But the need — created by burgeoning numbers of new missionaries — has outstripped the available help.
A minimum of four to six outside volunteers are needed for each clinic, said Pam Parker, a staff nurse at Missionary Learning Center. The vaccinations protect missionaries against serious tropical diseases.
“We have three clinics for every group [coming in for orientation],” Parker said. “In January alone, we will give 600 to 800 shots [in each clinic].”
Although requests have been issued for more volunteers from Richmond-area churches, Woman’s Missionary Union groups and other organizations, response has been slow. Volunteers and medically trained missionaries going through orientation help with the clinic, but more volunteers still are needed.
“It’s tough to give 600 shots in an afternoon with so few volunteers,” said Travis White, a staff medical consultant for the center. “I believe we’re seeing significant signs of burnout.”
But some volunteers believe so strongly in the ministry involved with giving shots to missionaries that they go the extra mile to be faithful to the clinics.
Katrina Otto, an emergency room nurse at Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., has flown in three times to volunteer in the clinics. She takes time off from work and pays her own way because “I believe in being supportive of our missionaries,” said Otto, who is a member of Fellowship Baptist Church, Olathe, Kan.
Otto’s parents were missionaries to Alaska. Now that she is a nurse, Otto said she wants to use the skills God has given her to help other missionaries.
“It’s a way [for people] to use God-given gifts to encourage missionaries as they prepare to go overseas,” Otto said.
On her last trip to the Missionary Learning Center, Otto convinced a fellow church member, Joe Thomas, to also volunteer. Thomas took time off from his job at Shawnee Missionary Medical Center in Kansas City to help give immunizations at the center’s clinics.
“If I’m able to do something to help, that’s what I do,” Thomas said. “I have these opportunities to do it, so I do.”
Thomas said the clinics also give him a chance to meet and talk with missionaries. “It broadens your view of what this whole [missionary] thing is about,” he said.
Meredith Peterson, from Richmond, brings her three children with her when she volunteers at the clinics.
Christopher, who is 5, and Hanna, 4, “love it,” Peterson said. “They help to give out Band-Aids.”
Peterson said she considers her service a form of ministry. She and her husband had considered going overseas as missionaries themselves, but were not able to do so. So Peterson, instead, serves the missionaries who are going overseas.
“It’s a great experience,” she said. “The fellowship of being with other Christians and using the gifts God has given me to use — it’s an amazing experience.”
The volunteers are quick to note that not just nurses are needed.
“We need people to hold [the patients’] hands, to talk to the people and scribes,” Otto said. “Just about anybody.”
“I get a lot out of meeting the missionaries,” said Brenda McAllister, another clinic volunteer. “I always get more than I give.”
For more information about opportunities to volunteer with the clinics, call Pam Parker at (804) 219-1893.
(BP) photo posted it the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SHOTS.