The four-year partnership between MOST and Concordia University Ann Arbor (CUAA) School of Nursing flourishes as it continues to support nursing students to “Give Globally”. Through grace and grit, MOST and CUAA Nursing accomplished a journey to Alaska in July, 2021. Grace, evident in the pathways that amazingly opened before us during this tricky time of planning and scheduling; grit, apparent in the many life-changing experiences that tripgoers encountered.
Long before the trip took flight, MOST and CUAA Nursing leaders worked closely to plan each day’s schedule and coordinate with local partners in Alaska. On the part of CUAA Nursing, 27 students decided to complete their Community Health and Pediatrics Clinical hours in Alaska. Weekly pre-departure meetings covered topics ranging from safety to local customs to packing tips. Everyone arrived at the airport a bit more knowledgeable and very ready for an enriching adventure in the land of peripatetic wildlife, blue-tinged glaciers, and welcoming communities!
The group was treated to an Alaska welcome with worship at Anchorage Lutheran Church, followed by lunch in the church fellowship hall. Alaska Missions for Christ (AMC), our partner organization in Alaska, quenched our curiosity by sharing tales about what to look out for while out and about on trails and in the field. At the end of the day, the group felt much more prepared to navigate unannounced meetings with flora and fauna of all shapes and sizes.
From the outset of their clinical experiences, students hit the ground running. Daily bus trips took the team to destinations in and around Anchorage. A few of our most memorable locations were the Downtown Soup Kitchen and Hope Center, the Grow North Farm, Lutheran Social Services of Alaska (LSSA) and a local school.
The Hope Center served homeless and abused women at night, but all genders during the day. The Hope Center provided people with not only food, shelter, warm showers, and clothing, but also lessons and classes to prepare them for future employment opportunities. The students helped to wash feet and educate homeless on foot care. The future nurses not only cared for the clients physically, but also listened and heard the stories of these men and women. It was eye opening and truly life changing for many of the students. The students collected and came with donations from friends, family and our school fundraising. They then created blessing bags full of necessities that they were able to hand out throughout our time in Alaska.
Grow North Farm serves refugees by allowing them to grow produce from their cultures and prepares them to turn their produce into a business for income. Our team helped with refurbishments and cleaned, repaired, painted and created new signage. This farm feels even closer to our hearts as they are now preparing to welcome our Afghan brothers and sisters as they seek a new and safe place to live. The students got their hands dirty and loved having the opportunity to serve this way in the hopes of providing a better life for those in need.
The nursing students were able to assess children’s health and developmental stages at a primary school. They played outdoors with students and got to participate in health promotion activities. At LSSA the students helped to prepare 5,000 backpacks to make sure the local girls and boys were prepared for school. A valuable and ongoing lesson was how to provide care for body and spirit in a somewhat unfamiliar cultural context. The students were challenged physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
There were nightly meetings to debrief our days. The students had so much to say, they would often go double our expected time slot! Students shared what they had encountered, and their take-aways from the day. Nightly devotions were led by team leaders and students as we related our service and time in Alaska to the Bible and Jesus’ teachings. There was often joyous laughter, and heartfelt tears as the students shared the events of the day and their life changing experiences.
At the end of our journey, the team got to relax and enjoy an Alaskan boat tour of the beautiful glaciers and wildlife. They got up close to otters, whales, and sea lions which was a wonderful way to end our trip. Jesus’ love showed through the students actions all the way through the trip!