Nurse plans mission in Alaska

January 03, 1995|By Karen Zeiler | Karen Zeiler,Contributing Writer

The blue parka Kellie Mendenhall purchased 30 years ago for a medical mission to Alaska will finally make the 3,300-mile journey Jan. 19 -- only without Mrs. Mendenhall.

Last month she donated the coat to Shirley Hughes, an Eldersburg nurse who will spend a year working at the Cross Road Medical Center in Glennallen, a town of about 900 in the Copper River Basin, 200 miles northwest of Anchorage.

The 53-year-old Taneytown resident decided to part with the coat after reading about Ms. Hughes' mission.

"It's been hanging in my closet for years," said Mrs. Mendenhall, who was recruited out of nursing school to help set up a first-aid station in Alaska in 1964.

She had to call off the trip at the last minute when her husband received a promotion.

The opportunity to do missionary work in Alaska never came again for Mrs. Mendenhall, but she is glad that the parka will finally be put to good use.

"I used it a little off and on, but it was getting a little snug. I haven't had much chance to wear it recently," she said. "But now it's going to Alaska, which is what it was meant for in the first place."

Since deciding to make the trip, Ms. Hughes, 30, has been inspired by a wealth of benefactors -- family members, friends and strangers -- who have donated money and lent support.

"Everyone has been so generous," she said. "It's really amazing how people rally around you."

A graduate of Lansdowne High School, Ms. Hughes worked for Columbia Medical Plan as a health assistant, then entered the nursing program at Catonsville Community College. She graduated in 1993 and last January began working at the Westminster Nursing and Convalescent Center.

She left the center after only nine months to focus on fund-raising for her mission.

Ms. Hughes says she has raised 60 percent of the $10,560 she will need for travel and living expenses.

A member of Westminster Bible Church for nine years, Ms. Hughes says she decided to become a missionary to help people and to spread the word of God.

"There is a definite evangelical aspect to my mission," she said. "God has changed my life, and I want to show people that he can do the same for [them]. His love is so great, there are no bounds."

Ms. Hughes, who ministers to youngsters at Westminster Bible Church, plans to continue her work in children's ministry in Alaska.

A leader in the church's Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed program, she introduces children to the Gospel through songs, games and other activities. The outreach program is aimed at preschoolers through 12th-graders.

This trip will mark the fourth time Ms. Hughes has combined her nursing and missionary callings.

She took two short-term missionary trips to the Dominican Republic, in 1989 and 1991, and in November 1993 she flew to Rwanda to work at Kibogora Hospital for two weeks.

All three trips were organized through the Christian Medical Dental Society, a mission board based in Richardson, Texas.

Those experiences have helped prepare her for her extended stay at Cross Road Medical Center.

Established in 1950 by the Rev. Vincent Joy, the mission hospital is an independent, nonprofit Christian organization that offers outpatient services; 24-hour emergency and ob

servation care; laboratory, pharmacy and X-ray facilities; and a critical care ambulance service.

"We are the only medical center in an area about the size of the state of Ohio," said Millie Ressler, director of nursing at the center. "We serve a crucial purpose for medical needs in this area."

Though Ms. Hughes is short of her fund-raising goal, she is not worried.

She recently spoke about her mission to the congregation of New Windsor Presbyterian Church, where she said she was well-received.

"The Lord always provides what you need," she said.

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