I left my comfy job as an ICU nurse in America to spend 6 months in South Africa working as a volunteer nurse in a longterm HIV/AIDS care center. I have no idea what God has planned for me but this is me sharing my stories and adventures along the way.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Today I found this old journal entry from my time in Africa.  I would like to share it if you're interested in reading it.  Reminds me exactly of why I'm going back.......

My time at Living Hope

What makes someone decide to give up their life as they know it and move to a foreign country, to care for patients you've never cared for before and throw yourself into an entirely new culture?  Jesus.  Plain and simple.
I came to South Africa with my church in November 2009 and felt my heart was home.  I stood at the entrance of the female ward and told my pastor "I could do this.  I could move here and work here".  I filled out my application and one year God brought me "home".
My six months here have gone by like 6 weeks.  I have learned so much since being here.  I've had my heart broken more than I cared to but God sometimes has to rough us up to grow us up (as my devotional told me this morning).
I believe in Living Hope and all it stands for.  I've gotten to see first hand all the good work LH does, at the Health Care Center and in all 5 of our communities.  I've seen sick patients lying in their beds dying and still praising Jesus.
I am thankful that we are able to spread the word of God to our patients and to see them receive their salvation before they die.  I am grateful that I will see them whole again one day in Heaven.
I have had the chance to do Home Base Care in several of our communities.  To be able to work along side our carers and see the hard physical and emotional work they do..........

For some reason I just stopped there and didn't finish my thoughts.  Why?  I'm not sure.  But I will tell you this.....

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Getting back on track

So tonight I'm bored and goofing around on the iPad when I came across some of my old blogs from South Africa. Wow that seems so much longer ago than 8 months since I've been back. I remember last Christmas spending the day with missionaries from all over the world and thinking how God has the coolest way of bringing His people together. I cried thinking of all the memories I have because of my experience. Good tears, but sad that I'm not there now. All in good time. God has a plan for each of us and next time you pray how bout asking Him what his plan is for you and maybe throw in something about me!:). I pray for each and every missionary out there changing the world in Jesus's sweet holy name. I am proud to know some really great ones. To all of you keep on keeping on and remember; God lives in us always. Do we always live for Him? Something I need to work on myself. One of the last things I wrote in my Africa blog was a prayer that God would send me home with the same servant's heart. He did but I let that slip away. Here's to praying we will all let God restore who we are supposed to be for Him. God bless each and everyone of you. Have the merriest Christmas ever. Thank you God for the birth of our Saviour and the real reason for the season. God bless, Tracy

Friday, April 22, 2011


It's customary when a long(er) term volunteer leaves for Living Hope to give them a "farewell lunch".  I hate that it's my turn for that farewell but I wanted to share a few pictures.  It's amazing just to share a room with these folks let alone get to share your life and work with them.  I couldn't have asked for a better send off and I felt such love from everyone.  We shared laughter and a few tears (thanks Amy) but we shared more than that, the love we all have for Jesus Christ.  I am grateful for Living Hope and my time here and everyone who dedicates their lives to helping others in Jesus' sweet name.  Amen.

Ok not my best picture but I'm trying to hod it together.

still trying not to cry and I know John and Avril are looking at me.

this brought me to tears.  amazing.

Now that's a sendoff.

okay so I was able to laugh a bit.

so they made me cry then left me.  haha

I got an awesome cookbook with some SA dishes in it.

Mzo giving advice, or maybe getting advice.

Rock on my friends!  Happy trails...until we meet again...........

Andrea, Nazeema and I.
Sandra blessing me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


  A year and a half ago I stood at the door of the health care center of Living Hope and told my pastor I felt called to come back there and work one day.  6 months ago that blessing was fulfilled.
  Last night I walked out the door of the health care center after finishing my last shift.  I hugged everyone, told the patients goodbye as well as the staff and went to my car.  It wasn't till I looked back at the center and thought of all the gifts God has given me there that I lost control of my heart and the water works started.  Happy tears, sad tears, bittersweet memories.
  6 months seemed like an eternity when I was leaving my job and family in America but it flew by in an instant once I was here.  I have never once regretted being here.  I think this was a true calling from God and I pray that Him willing I will be back here again soon.  I thank everyone who was a part of making this dream become a reality, wether financially, emotionally, or by prayer.  I wish you could share the feelings I have had while I've been here, just one minute to feel my joy.  But don't worry I will have plenty of stories to share when I get back
  Living Hope will always have my heart and the people who are part of it are nothing short of amazing.  I encourage anyone who ever wants to do a short or long term mission trip to check them out.  It will be an amazing journey I promise you.  Those of you who are staying put where you are just check out the website at livinghope.co.za and see how God is blessing us.
  God has given me many great experiences in my life but this is the best gift I've received so far.  I feel if God calls me back here to this great place then I will be back.  But I know if he wants me somewhere else then it must be even greater if it can top South Africa!
  To my friends here I will miss you.  I thank everyone for treating me so well and making this such a great time.   To my friends, family, and supporters at home I am so blessed to have you and I love you and will see you soon.
  God bless.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

One day of nursing in Africa

I've had alot of different and interesting experiences since I've been here in Africa.  No two days are ever alike.  Today was one of those days you just have to write about.......
0730 started with an sms (text) from a friend asking me to give a ride to one of the volunteers to the Living Hope campus.  Of course I grumbled because I didn't have to be at work until 0930 but I did the right thing and got up and took her.

0818 came another sms about a young child who may have been abused and could I take the child and have her looked at.  What the?  What do I do with that?  Well praise the Lord it turned out to be nothing and the child is fine.

1100 my team and I finally make it to a township called Capricorn where we are going to start doing 20 pediatric assessments which consists of about 13 different pieces of paper each.  Luckily the number turned out to be just 8 (which is bad enough to have that many sick children but still better than 20).  Amy (another American nurse volunteer) and I thought we may be able to get 5 of these done today. Haha.  4 hours later we are struggling to get 2 completed.  Our second assessment was the dysfunctional dream come true!  I didn't think it was possible to feel physical pain from listening to someone go on and on and not say anything but now I know it's true.  Friends please pray for this family.  I don't mean to make light of the situation and I won't go into it but they have major issues going on and I don't see anything but Jesus fixing it.

1500 and we are finally having lunch.  We go to the local Pic n Pay to try to get something somewhat healthy to eat (we are surrounded by fast, fattening food) and sit outside just to inhale our food.

1530 we stop in Fish Hoek (a local neighboorhood) to see a possible patient referral.  Leigh says "it shouldn't take too long, it's just to see if she' appropriate admission to the health care center".  You know when you say that you are asking for it.  And boy did we.  I was so stunned by the state of this woman I couldn't even say anything. This poor gal is a straight up psychiatric case which I think her doctor was so desperate to get her help she was willing to send her anywhere and decided to try and put her on us at the health care center (which unfortunately happens to us alot).  Leigh was amazing and calm and finally got us out of there.  It was a very quiet walk to the car but we all agreed we couldn't help this lady.

1630 Amy and I in true nursing fashion had to sit and do a little debrief and have a laugh with our coordinators.  It's that or go crazy....Oh wait I've already tried that.  Okay so maybe to keep us from going legally crazy.  I'm very grateful to have these people in my life and don't know what I would do without them.

1948 So by this point I have settled in for the night.  I ate (healthy) and am watching my American TV shows (thanks to Danielle helping me figure out how to) and have decided against the gym today when I get a call to help a 4 year old who has hurt his arm and the parents are concerned it might be infected and can I come and look at it.  I did a little patch up job on the cutest little kid with dirty blue eyeglasses. 

I laughed on the way home how it seems when you are a nurse you never stop being a nurse.  You are on call all the time.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  I am grateful that God called me to this career path and to here in Africa.  I have got to do things I never thought I was capable of but He knew I was.  As my time draws to a close hereI just pray the I will bring home my servant's heart and do God's will back home.  God bless all you nurses out there.  You may not be able to always see your reward but believe me God does.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Nezi's* journey

Imagine being 31 years old, never married, no children and having AIDS.  Add to that being from a culture where none of these things are acceptable.   Nezi is a beautiful young lady who spent some time in our health care center trying to get healthy from her illness and being treated for a pretty serious bedsore.  She did it though with help from the staff and she was able to go home and follow up in the clinic in her community.

Many months passed and for whatever reason(s) she got sick again and her wounds became so horrible and her health just toileted.  She came to us again from one of our local hospitals.  All everyone could say was how sick she looked now compared to the way she did when she left Living Hope.  I watched her go through various states since December and at one point she was taking a turn for the better.  However it changed again, as HIV often does, and she steadily declined.  To try to imagine how it felt for this young lady to have this massive wound in a very private place and still feel like a woman and deal with just simple things like the smells that were coming from her body.  I could do nothing but feel sorry and just pray for her silently.

Our doctor finally had to have the conversation with her that medically there was nothing more we could do for her and that this wound turned out to be a pretty serious cancer and her body could no longer fight it.  She took it the best way I can imagine any young person could.  Our chaplain recognized a need to discuss with her about her eternity.  She laid it out about where she was headed and where did she want to go when she dies.  Nezi decided she wanted to give her life to Jesus and got saved that day.  She dicided a week later she wanted to be baptized and on March 28th she was baptized in the bathtub, the very place where she had to soak to keep her wound clean, at the health care center.  I'm not sure that's ever happened at the HCC but I'm forever grateful that I got to be there. 

God has a way of putting us in the right place at the right time and that day was one of those days.  I wasn't working but stopped by the center and asked if I could watch.  I didn't just watch but was able to help carry her to the tub and help with the baptism itself.  She and I had never really bonded but that day I kissed her and felt so close to her.  It was such a special moment and I will never forget it as long as I live.  Thank you Jesus.

Nezi passed away this past weekend.  I was sad to hear this but rejoice in knowing that beautiful young lady is free from what bound her here and she is whole again and her body is new in Christ. 

Life is short and uncertain.  I am grateful for my health and to be able to walk with Jesus in my heart.  I pray that you all as well.  God bless you Nezi and all my family/friends who are sharing this.


(*name changed for privacy)

Saturday, December 25, 2010


When I first became a Christian I didn't share it with anyone and I kept it to myself.  Before I knew it I was back to my old life again and God was put off out of mind.  Two years ago I gave my life back to God.  I always think that's funny to say because I have life because of Him.  Who am I to be so kind to give it back to Him.  But you get the point.
This time I was again shy about sharing it and worried what everyone would think.  Sounds ridiculous now.  I am sharing this because recently one of my patients "Bob" came to us because of cancer that was rotting through the floor of his mouth.  We all knew his prognosis was poor but expected him to be able to live a while longer and be able to go home at some point.  Bob had been talked to about his beliefs and we found how he didn't know Jesus.  He said he believed in a "higher power" but not in Jesus.  We thought he had time to find out the truth.  Bob died Sunday.  My heart broke.  I didn't do my part in helping him find the Lord.  I will live with that forever. 
So in sharing that with you all I want to say this loud and clear for all to hear.  There is a higher power and His name is Jesus Christ.  He is my saviour and He rules my life.  I have accepted Him and He has promised me salvation, an eternal life in Heaven with Him one day.  Without Jesus there is eternal life but in eternal pain and darkness in Hell.  I want to share this with anyone listening so that there may be a chance for you as well .  I don't want anymore "Bob's" out there to slip away because I didn't stand  up and tell the "Good News" of Jesus.
Those of you who knew me when know what a crazy messed up person I was.  I drank all I wanted whenever I wanted.  I had relations with men whenever I chose to and without apology.  My life got so crazy I even found myself spending a night in jail.  I knew about Jesus then but I wasn't ready to change my life.  I was too busy being "cool".  Well how cool is it in jail, worried about losing your nursing license which is your livelihood , not knowing what you did the night before and wondering why people are mad at you, waking up the next day wondering who this person is beside you.  Wondering most of all what would happen to me if I died in my sleep.  Where would I spend my eternity.  I knew the answer to that.  Finally through the prayers of my sister who is a believer I went to church with her one night and realized this life wasn't working for me.  I remember saying "okay Lord you win, I can't do this anymore". 
I know that's a bit personal to share but if it helps just one of you then it's worth it.  I built this testimony so I have to share it.  Life doesn't become perfect the second you become a Christian and neither do you.  It still takes work but it's truly the best job I've ever had.  And it comes with instructions: that big book that says "Holy Bible". 
This holiday season take a moment to think about why we really celebrate Christmas.  Can you imagine having a son that you loved so much and knew he would die for a world of people most of whom were full of sin and badness?  Could you let your son die for people like this?  "For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only son (John 3:16).  Jesus knew of me.  He knew what bad things I would do and could be capable of doing but He still loved me anyway and died for me.  And for you as well.  He is not far from you.  He's standing right beside of you just waiting for you to accept Him and to ask him to be the saviour over your life. I pray for all of you who don't know the Lord.  I pray that you will let him into your life.  My life is changed in ways I can't do justice to in describing.  The thing I feel most of all is peace.  I can close my eyes at night and know if God grants me another day on Earth then that's great.  But should I not wake up again on this side I will awaken in Paradise.

So that's my gift to all.  I am declaring to all who read this that yes I am a big fat Christian, a Jesus Freak if you will.  I'm proud to say it out loud and am sorry I wasn't before.  I ask that God may continue to bless you all and hope that you find your peace. Have a very Merry Christmas and an amazing new year to come.
Blessings and love from South Africa,
P.s: all it takes is a simple prayer to receive Christ.  It goes like this: Lord I give you my sins and I ask you to become Lord and Saviour of my life.  I believed you died for me.  Please be with me and guide my life. 
It's that easy!  Then find yourself a good Bible based church and follow His word.   I'll be praying for you

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'm dreaming..of a Red Christmas....

There's a line in a song from the 80's called "Do they know it's Christmas?" asking if the children in Africa really know about Christmas.  Well yes they sure do.  And like us it's a time when you get treats only from Father Christmas instead of Santa.                                                                                                       Tuesday I got  to be a part of a Christmas party for the kids in Red Hill township.   Some of my favorite children I might add.  I thought I was just going to go and play but I found my Living Hope friends putting me to work!  It was worth every minute of it.  
 I got to help pass out the Christmas treats to the preschool kids and if you could have see their faces as we gave each of them 3 different gift bags.  Words don't do it justice.  They were so grateful for simple gifts.  One bag contained candy (1lollipop, 5 small pieces of toffee, 2 pieces of taffy like candy, one chocolate, one packet of some candy I don't know and one small pack of Nik Naks(our version of cheetos). The second bag had a wash cloth, a visor, a toothbrush and toothpaste and I think some soap and the third bag was either a Barbie themed toy for girls and a super hero for the boys.  Sounds simple huh?  I thought to myself what an American kid would say if they got that as a gift.These kids acted as if you gave them a Playstation or a Wii.  It was very sweet but sad at the same time.

I liked Christmas as a kid but was sad at times because I knew the stress it put on my mom to have to buy us presents.  I loved Christmas as I got older because I had plenty of money to buy presents for my friends and family.  I dreaded Christmas the last few years as I realized how much it's gotten away from what it's supposed to be about.  I've been guilty of that many times.  This year I realize my greatest gift is the promise of eternal life.  You can't get it on Ebay, you can't get it at the mall, you can't even buy it at Walmart!  But I can tell you where to get it................................

Merry Christmas to you and may God bless you every day of the year and especially on Christmas.  Jesus truly is "the reason for the season".  
"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" Matthew 1:21.


Friday, December 3, 2010


It's 5 pm and I have not done a word of charting on a single patient.  In my old work life this would make me stressed and probably stay way past my shift.  Then I remember I left that life for a place like this.

I am sitting outside at 5pm with my feet up on a bench and beginning to chart my patient assessments.  The breeze is blowing and in the background the ladies (carers) I work with are singing to the patients.  Very loudly I might add.  But it is truly one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard. For just a moment nothing else matters.  I'm sitting there with a big goofy grin on my face and thinking, I'm in Africa.  God has granted me another day on this earth, I am very happy, I am not stressed and I am working for an amazing organization and feel I am doing some good here.

Today I answered the phone to find the founder of Living Hope, John Thomas, on the other end of the line.  I wish all of you could have the chance to meet him once.  Or actually you better not because he has a way of making you fall in love with Living Hope and you end up a missionary!  He spent the whole conversation thanking me for giving up my life at home and coming here to help them in the Health Care Center.  The thanks actually goes to him because if he had not been given a calling from God this place, this wonderful place and organization would never have happened.  I encourage any of you who haven't read their story please in your spare time go to livinghope.co.za.  It really is an amazing story.  And if you are ever looking for somewhere to donate your funds I can't think of a better place for you to do it.

Today Father Christmas came to visit the patients and gave them goodies.  It was very sweet.  Not matter what age you are, what color you are (you'll see why I say this if the picture downloads) or where you live, Santa Claus or whatever you call him can still bring a smile to your face.
Thank you Lord for this day and thanks to all my supporters out there for helping to make this possible.  I wish you could all experience this with me but for now I'm glad to do it for you!    Luke 1:49 He who is mighty had done great things for me, holy is His name.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I had no problem meeting these two almost immediately.
T.I.A.- it means "this is Africa".  It's used to justify the way things are done here.  It's not wrong by any means, it just is.  Like all the folks I see walking barefoot in public places; TIA.  It's like showing up at 5pm for a meeting that started at 3pm; TIA.  I think I like Africa time!  For me working in the Healtcare center it's making it work with what you got!  Cleaning out medicine cups to reuse later, washing out disposable straws, using the drugs you have on hand because that's all there is, and generally wasting nothing.  Wow is this ever Africa.  It has really opened my eyes to what we have for healthcare in the states.  That I will never complain of again. 
To all my very smart, crafty nursing friends I need advice for pressure ulcers.  We have limited resources for dressings and creams.  I'm trying to McGyver my way to make a wound vac.  Or does anyone know companies who would like to donate such creatures?  Pray for me as I'm going to try and write and plead to any medical companies I can think of  to donate some very much needed supplies.

T.I.N.A.- It stands for "this is not America".  I wish I could take credit for that but I have to give props to my friend Al who qouted this to me after I tried to burn down the Healthcare center this weekend doing a very American thing.  No need for details here people move along. 

I do have to remind myself frequently "I'm not in Kansas anymore".  I do remember why I am here.  God has a plan for me wether I know what it is or not.  I came here to  honor Him and be His servant and have no regrets about the choice I made to leave my comfort zone. 

God is still trying to work in me.Sometimes I get it and sometimes I don't. I think He gets a good chuckle once in awhile.  I do too!

Prayer list:  Living Hope will have all the financial help they need to keep the program running, financial support for all the volunteers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Forgive me I know not what I write

Hello Everyone and welcome to my first blog.  I figure it's mine so it doesn't matter if it's not perfect.  I have so much to say but want to keep it short so I can keep what little audience I may attract!
Africa is absolutely AMAZING!  I have no regrets about being here and have not been homesick yet.  I was so happy to be back in the township of Red Hill with the Low Country team when they were here.  I was so sad to see my "family" leave me but realize I am beginning a whole new family here.

I started work at the Health Care Center on Monday.  It was like the first day of school all over again with the feelings of "Can I do this?".  Well can I?  I figure God brought me here for a purpose so I AM gonna do it.  This is definately not American medical practice but it works for them here.  I wish you could see all the services and care that these patients get because Living Hope was started.  They don't have to get HIV and die.  They are very sick don't get me wrong but they have promise of continued life and a chance to know Jesus while they are with us.  It's very cool to be able to speak freely about God/Jesus without getting "in trouble" like I would back home.

I've had my heart broken several times in the two days I've worked just seeing how sick people can get due to poor healthcare and lack of education.  Trying to give care and not cry at the same time is proving to be difficult.  If only we could all just see the blessings we have and not always be looking for something "better". 

I do miss parts of my life back home but can see that this is me doing God's work instead of doing what I want for a change.  With Jesus's guidance I am a change in the making.

Blessings and love to all.