Tag Archives: missionary nurse

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I confess I am much like the Israelites delivered from Egyptian slavery. A few days in the wilderness with Moses, and they seemed to forget the mountains of water between which they walked across the Red Sea on dry land, and instead began whining about where their next meal might come from. Here I am, a new graduate from nursing school, draped in honor cords, after repeatedly begging for deliverance from what seemed like countless narrow brushes with disastrous failure. My feet are dry and the fish are watching my onward march from the confines of their heaping habitat. No sooner have I heard the crashing of the waves behind me before I’ve turned my eyes to peer past the pillar of fire and smoke to what lies ahead.

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced... (1 Chronicles 16:12, NIV)

How will I pass the nursing boards? Where will I work? Who will hire a middle-aged man when there are so many young kids graduating with me? Why did my first-choice hospital pass me over? Why haven’t I heard back from the other recruiters? How did s/he land a job ahead of me?

What is this manna? Did you lead us out here to die? When will we get some meat? Surely we were better off as Egypt’s slaves than being stuck in this wilderness!

“…remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability…” (Deuteronomy 8:18a, NIV)

As it turns out, God is already doing new and wonderful things. Allow me to share a miraculous demonstration of His undeserved goodness:

I was invited to apply for a nursing job about which I was eager but mysteriously uneasy. It seemed perfectly tailored to me with elements of corrections, addiction, and youth all rolled into a low-stress environment which was even conducive to continuing education. It tempted me with its apparent answer to my ongoing question: “Why would God make a nurse out of a retired police officer?” The drawbacks were that it would not give me much clinical nursing experience and it seemed like a step back toward law enforcement rather than forward into nursing. I prayed with friends at church about it, that God would make the right decision obvious, and that a clear “Gideon’s fleece” would be if the nurse I would be replacing decided not to submit his notice as anticipated. The next day, I woke up horribly dizzy (a condition that passed in about 6 hours and was likely related to a recent sinus surgery). When I contacted my friend to postpone our meeting about the job, she informed me that there was no rush to meet because the nurse I would be replacing decided not to submit his notice as anticipated. Soaked fleece identified! The job is not for me. Out of respect for my friend and her invitation, I proceeded a few days later to meet at the rehabilitation facility where she affirmed in several ways that, while this was a good paying job and a wonderful ministry, it was not a place to build the experiential nursing skills I will need to be a productive missionary nurse.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

(Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV)

The very next day, at precisely 3:06pm, my friend and pastor sent me a text inquiring about my health. I shared with him the details of my progress and the soaked fleece story. He responded prayerfully, “Ok God, send Todd the next test on your agenda.”

At 3:24, only eighteen minutes later, I received a call from a recruiter who represents my first-choice hospital, one I had been informed had passed me over. She informed me that, if I was still interested and not turned off by the prospect of night shift, she had a spot open for me. We scheduled an interview for later this week, and I am over the moon with excitement about the prospect. Other options continue to become available, and I am reminded that, whether I get the whole picture of the destination on the horizon or am blinded by the blazing cloud in front of me, the One in the pillar is directing my steps and I have nothing to fear.

I do believe, Lord Jesus! Help me overcome my unbelief. *

"And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing.”  - Florence Nightingale

I have been collecting letters of reference and crafting my scholarship application. Below is the essay I wrote to describe my career and education goals, work experience, community involvement, and current predicament. If you're new to this blog, I hope it's a good way to catch up.


In the late nineteen-eighties, there was no college requirement to become a police officer. I was drawn to public service, and so gave up my job pumping aviation fuel at the local municipal airport and went to work protecting and serving for our county Sheriff. That our security was directly dependent on our physical mobility was a fact most of my peers avoided considering. The truth was that without any post-secondary education or training outside our specific field, should any one of us lose a trigger finger or the ability to jump and run, we would be up a very narrow financial creek without a proverbial paddle. Twenty-five years later, only as I have come to the end of that particular creek have I ventured out into greater waters, frantically scrambling for headway with my police pension serving as makeshift oars as I have returned to college pursuing a nursing degree.

When the idea of switching professions was new, I discovered I was entering a field that was undergoing drastic changes. The American medical field rumbled from Presidential mandates and newly enacted laws that shook many doctors into retirement or relocation and shifted emphasis toward nurses. Nursing was responding to changes with advancing education requirements. Associate degreed registered nurses with decades of experience were expected to quickly advance to Baccalaureate degrees. I knew I needed a bachelor’s degree in nursing in order to serve in this changing climate.

At the same time, I was confronted with a grievous need on the other side of the globe. While westerners gulp seven-dollar espressos and drive luxury sport sedans, our brothers and sisters in the East walk six miles a day to heft barrels of filthy water onto their heads and shoulders to present it as the only means of hydration and sanitation for their families, many of whom die from preventable diseases such as malaria and diarrhea. The reality of this inequity weighed on my heart, and my wife and I began to consider serving as missionaries. As our love for the hurting would not be silenced in our hearts, we committed to move to Uganda to serve where an estimated 2.6 million children are orphaned by war and disease.

Just after I retired my gun and badge, my bride and I set out to meet the land and people to which we had devoted our futures – Uganda. We introduced ourselves to over a dozen missionaries from nearly as many different missions as we made a circuit around the country. We discovered a people eager to smile, content with their labor, and dependent on a beautiful land filled with want, disease, corruption, and difficulty. Twice we found ourselves in police stations where a newly abandoned child needed attention. The desperation for food, water, and clothing outweighs the human connection of family, and the stigma of AIDS still looms like a death sentence on this uneducated population, thrusting need into despair. The Lemmons fell in love with Uganda, their some-day home.

Our lofty plans and higher ideals screeched and burned like landing gear tread on the runway as our feet again touched U.S. soil. Our burden now is bridging from here to there, building a retired police officer into a useful missionary nurse. The first step is education. I need a degree. The obstacle is finances. A police pension and a wife’s wage keep the roof patched and the lights on, but tuition, books, uniforms, skills kits, and testing all takes money our budget does not allow. The demand for excellence precludes working while in school unless absolutely necessary, and so I am compelled to petition for scholarships, loans, and external support.

My extra-curricular involvement centers around my church, as I am a section leader in the church choir, serve in the nursery, and enjoy contributing to children’s and youth events several times throughout the year. I was recently inducted into the Emmaus community, a religious organization outside my church. At school, I have involved myself in the ASL (American Sign Language) Club and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. I have supported my peers by forming a study group to which as many as five Anatomy and Physiology students have flocked, several of which have become great friends which I mentor even now. I look forward not only to what I will receive from applying myself to my scholastic endeavors, but to what I can leave in the relationships I make on the way. Every one of us is on a mission field of sorts, sharing what we are with those we contact. I may have a grand destination, but the journey itself is the mission at hand.

I received a very simple email the other day, and it reminded me that, while I may not know the details of my future, God has not stopped knitting my circumstances to propel me toward His purposes for my life. While preparing for missions deployment, a lot of logistical concerns can plague the mind if we let it. This little picture reminded me that the first missionaries took no spare sandals, no spare money, no change of clothes. Paul worked as a tent-maker, a term now used to describe any missionary who works to pay his/her way. Suddenly, with the receipt of this little collection of digital code and lit pixels, a thousand "What next?" questions were washed away with one very possible godly "What if?"

CURE jobs

There is a CURE hospital in Mbale, Uganda, which we did not get to see on our tour a year ago. They specialize in diseases of the brain, mostly hydrocephalus, a disfiguring and lethal disease, often a consequence of malnutrition and poor fetal development. As I considered the possibilities that open up as a result of emigrating as a "worker" rather than a "missionary" I am amused at how things change with Uganda's Ministry of Immigration. Missionaries need permission to enter; workers apparently just need opportunity.

I need to emphasize this is not a decision that was a made, but merely a suggestion that opened possibilities.

I haven't written since our trip for several reasons. First, I had so much to say while we were in Uganda, I feel as though I should either come up with something profound to say or keep quiet. Second, school is in full swing and I've been busier than I could have imagined I would be during a Summer semester. Last is the least valid reason of all but probably the weightiest, and that is because we still just don't know where our piece will fit into the whole Uganda puzzle.

From where I am, isolated in my prerequisite studies, a nursing mission in Uganda appears small in my window. It is no less a priority, no less real, and no less the path I am following at God's direction; I just feel so far removed from Uganda and her children. I remain connected to my friends I made in country by way of Internet, prayer, and a common love for the same people, and that helps me keep focused on the mission rather than the baby steps toward it I am making, but progress feels slow and our deployment to the mission field far removed. Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." I like "tree of life" references - maybe it's the Lemmon in me - but I'm somewhere in that deferral that makes for heart-sickness right now. It's not a condition of being lost, afraid, or doubtful; it's just that 2021 is so many pages ahead in the calendar.

I'm in good company. Jacob (aka Israel) had to work seven extra years to earn his bride, Rachel. Noah, wasn't told to go sailing; he was told to build an ark. With the world mocking him, he stacked gopher wood until he had the resources to begin scraping, planing, boring, and fitting the logs together into a floating fortress that would be seventy-five years on dry land before the first drop of rain fell on it.

I, too, have received a share of mocking, of condescending interrogations, missiles of doubt fired from people, some nurses themselves, who may mean well but tend to emphasize obstacles rather than successful experiences, strength, or hope. The shock of disbelief that is typical of most people who hear our plans for relocation and service overseas is so staggering that I tend to keep the long-term plans to myself in casual conversation and just say, "I am studying to become a missionary nurse," to which responses are usually more positive. Leaving off the word "missionary" saves me even more interrogations, and usually evokes a response about a relative who is, was, or wants to become a nurse, but removes me even farther from the end goal of treating and educating Ugandans in abundant living in Christ Jesus.

I took a practice nursing school entrance exam, the HESI A2, this morning to see what kind of things I can expect and to feel closer to the process. I was encouraged with my results but received valuable feedback concerning what needs attention. I visited the websites and Facebook pages of my missionary friends, and rejoiced in their successes, praying for their ministries and the people they serve. In my bedroom, a handmade Ugandan souvenir hangs on my wall, reminding me to "Always remember Uganda." I cannot forget her! She's in my heart, which is torn to be this far removed.

Noah did everything just as God commanded him. (Genesis 6:22 NIV)

It was not for Noah to pump water up the hill or perform test-trials on his workmanship. He was not required to study meteorology or predict weather patterns. His job was to build an ark. Mine is to become a nurse. For now, I don't get to know the end-game, and I am not yet responsible to guess it. Trivial though daily assignments may seem, they are steps along the path of obedience. While I have no child in my arms, and no soul to heal just yet, I do have homework, and no task is irrelevant when I am doing it in obedience to the Lord. I will look to Noah's example as I continue on, as removed from Ugandan souls as a ship on a dry hill, and do what comes next, contenting myself in the knowledge that I am doing my Master's will.