When retired missionary Mary Hermiz was 4 years old, a World Gospel Mission (WGM) missionary nurse came to speak at her father’s church. Myra Martin was dressed in her nurse’s uniform and cap and told stories of her service. Mary realized then that she wanted to be a missionary nurse, and that desire never left her.
After high school, Mary went on to Bible college and then to two nursing schools to attain various nursing degrees before going on to take midwifery. Finally, her dream to be a missionary nurse was realized; Mary signed on to serve in Papua New Guinea (PNG) with Churches of Christ in Christian Union, a sister organization of WGM. From 1974 to 1983, Mary helped run a health center that served 10,000 people and was involved in training new nurses and serving in administration and evangelism in rural PNG.
Near the end of her second term in PNG, while doing her laundry, Mary clearly heard the words, “Mary, your work here is finished,” in her mind. Assuming that this surely wasn’t the Lord, she responded, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” But as time went on, Mary knew in her heart that it was God. After six months of struggle, Mary saw that her time in PNG had come to a close. She returned to the U.S. with a heavy heart.
“I never wanted to leave PNG,” Mary said. “I never wanted to go any other place, but I had to leave in obedience to Him.”
A few months before returning to the U.S., Mary received a letter from Dr. Ernie Steury, a missionary doctor, asking her to consider coming to Tenwek Hospital in Kenya to assist with starting their nursing school. She didn’t feel inclined to the position at the time but told Dr. Steury she would pray about it.
Not knowing what was next, Mary decided to do what she loved and returned to school to work on a master’s degree in nursing. One morning her devotional reading took her to John 10:27: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Later that day, when she was driving back from the university, God’s presence filled her car and those words came alive. Immediately she knew that God was saying, “I want you to go to Tenwek.”
“When I’ve been at crossroads, that verse has been a great reminder that I am His sheep and that I’m going to listen and hear His voice, and I don’t need to worry,” Mary said. “I’m going to hear because I’m listening.”
Mary graduated with a Master of Science in Nursing in May 1985 from Indiana University with a doctoral minor in nursing education. (She would later earn a doctorate in adult education from Ball State University in Indiana.) One year later, Mary left for Kenya.
When the nursing school at Tenwek started in 1987, there were many challenges. “In order to have a school of nursing in the hospital, you have to have qualified nurses working in the hospital,” Mary said. “In those early years, we didn’t have that.”
Initially, the nursing school hired national teachers from other schools but soon realized they needed to “grow their own” teachers if they were going to train nurses who reflected their school motto: Caring in Christ’s Name. “Having your own graduates teaching and running the school…those young people with the same hearts for spiritual things I had and seeing them take over—that was certainly a real thrill,” Mary said.
During Mary’s time at Tenwek, three missionary nursing teachers gave way to six Kenyan nursing teachers and four clinical instructors. When the school started, 10 qualified nurses ran the 300-bed hospital. The school has now graduated more than 350 nurses, and Tenwek Hospital employs more than 100 graduates.
Mary also taught spiritual care to the nursing students.
“To see week after week the many patients our students led to the Lord and the encouragement they provided to discouraged Christians was a joy difficult to put into words,” Mary shared. “They were doing what I could never do, since they spoke the language and knew the culture.”
Mary retired in 2012, but since then she has taken multiple trips to PNG and took other nurses with her. PNG still suffers from many preventable illnesses, and Mary hopes to improve the church’s medical clinics’ outreach into the surrounding communities by using Community Health Evangelism strategies.
Over her 38 years as a missionary, Mary learned to wait on God’s timing.
“The basic lesson that we keep learning over and over again in life is He is faithful and He can be trusted,” Mary said. “And yet it seems like in every cycle of our life, we have a tendency to forget how faithful He is. We have to be reminded over and over again that His faithfulness is new every morning, and He will meet our needs.”
We at Mobilizing Medical Missions are honored to work alongside Mary Hermiz. She has been an integral part of the M3 Conference since its inception. She has hosted the conference Nursing Resource Center each year, and created the resource booklet, Mission Opportunities for Nurses. Stay tuned until next Monday when we will post the video of her Breakout Session from the 2018 M3 Conference.
As you walked through the Exhibit Hall at the M3 Conference, you couldn’t miss Bridging the Gap’s exhibitor booth. Their booth contained a large bridge with freshly written names on it. David Soliman, a leader in the non-profit outreach, informed us that these were the names of Muslim people who visitors to the booth knew and took the time to write down.
Bridging the Gap aims to bridge the divide between Western Christians and those from Arab and Muslim regions. Their goal is to share the love of Christ with Muslims in several different ways. For example, they offer life groups that help and assist in understanding Muslim beliefs and culture, host community events in order to connect with Muslims, and also provide refugee programs that share the love of God while meeting the needs of the Muslims.
We are always blessed to hear about our attendees and exhibitors connecting with each other to make a positive difference, so we were delighted when David shared with us that they gained 30 new partners at the M3 Conference!
Thank you, David and Bridging the Gap, for being a part of the 2018 M3 Conference. We wish you and your new partners the very best!
To be a part of this global healthcare missions experience, be sure to save the date to join us next year on February 22-23, 2019!
Below is another inspiring testimony of the M3 Conference given by Amy Herman, RN. Her testimony was shared with us through Steve James, President and Founder of Kenya Relief. Amy tells of her experience beautifully and really captures the meaning of the conference.
“Going to the M3 conference gave me hope in not only the work that Kenya Relief does, but the work that ALL of us do collectively when it comes to helping people who are really in need. I am a firm believer that we are gifted with skills and talents that can be used to serve one another and being at the conference allowed me to meet people who do that every single day and they do it with great joy and great hope.
Sometimes mission work can feel overwhelming and family and friends don’t quite get your passion for wanting to reach out to those most in need, but virtually everyone at this conference understands. I met a nurse doing work in California in the Tenderloin neighborhood of which I had never heard of before. Her daily work, and the work of a ton of other people in her organization, is changing the lives of people that the general population doesn’t even want to look at, much less offer a helping hand to. She inspired me with her passion for people.
I met a nurse who served at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya who helped organize the training and education of local young women who wanted to become OR nurses. Her calm and confident outlook on the future of nurses at Tenwek filled me with hope and her work inspired me.
I heard Dr. Kent Brantley’s story first hand and then found him after his talk standing quietly in the background of booths, leaning against a counter all by himself. His humble nature, the incredible amount of hope he has and the way that he spoke of the people he served, with such tenderness and love, inspired me too.
I seemed to be surrounded by nurses, doctors and people who could not wait to serve!! They were fueled by passion and that passion was almost tangible everywhere I went during the conference and with each person I spoke to. It was exhilarating and inspiring!
If you’ve ever wondered…”Can it really be done?” If you’re ever thought…”But there’s so much need and so much to do!” Hear what the people who come to the M3 conference have to say about that. Share YOUR stories of hope and love and passion for the work you do with the people you will meet there. It’s an atmosphere of hope in the future and new ideas are exchanged with virtually every single person you encounter. You’ll be both grounded and forever changed.
Can. Not. Wait.
Steve James, President and Founder of Kenya Relief, shared the testimony below with us that was written by Jo-Ann Caron. It is an incredible testament of the way God works. We pray the 2018 M3 Conference brings many more stories like this!
The hustle and bustle of the holidays have ended and as I took some time this morning to plan out my coming week, I realized that I will soon be leaving on a medical mission to Kenya…and that’s when the panic set in. So I am typing this note to you to quell my inner anxiety and to tell you how you are partially responsible for my to trip to Migori.
This past February, I attended the M3 Mission Conference at Lakewood Church. To say that the hand of God led me there would be an understatement, because up until one month before, I was unaware that Lakewood Church or Joel and Paul Osteen even existed!! But that is a story for another time.
I didn’t go to the conference with an agenda, I just knew that God had sent me to Houston. I signed up for a breakout session titled, ‘No Boundaries to Love: The Perfect Place to Start Your Medical/Surgical Mission’, because it sounded interesting. When you began your presentation, I was immediately drawn in by your personality and the incredible story of how and why Kenya Relief began. That still small voice said pay attention. But as often happens, that other voice told me I was not what you were looking for. Yes, I’ve been a nurse for over 35 years but my expertise has been in OB. Plus I ‘retired’ from my hospital based position and have been conducting wellness and vaccine clinics. I have not been in an OR in 3 years. I left the session and thought, ‘I guess this is not for me’.
Over the course of the 2 and 1/2 days, I kept walking by the Kenya Relief Exhibition Booth but was too afraid to approach for fear ‘I wouldn’t be good enough’. At the close of the conference, Caleb, who was the emcee, addressed the conference attendees. He felt led to say that there were a few members of the audience who had been walking by a particular booth for several days but fear was keeping them from moving forward…fear of not being good enough, fear of the unknown, fear of stepping outside your comfort zone. His challenge was to get up and approach that booth and Just Say Yes!! At that moment in time, the message to me couldn’t have been more clear.
I left my seat and headed to the Kenya Relief booth. As I approached, you looked up and said the most incredible thing….’we’ve been waiting for you’. Wow!! I left Houston with a lot of information and went home and prayed.
On Jan. 19th I will arrive in Nairobi and meet the members of Team 2. All those fears I had in Houston have begun to dance in my brain and gut once again!!! But I go confident in the ‘One’ who has sent me there. See you soon…Jo-Ann Caron”