JACKSON, Tenn. – March 20, 2014 – Working in the MedFest medical clinic in Las Conchitas, Nicaragua, is more than an opportunity for Hannah McKnight to practice her nursing skills.
A senior nursing major at Union University, Hannah said the annual week-long mission trip in January also gives her a chance to talk about the gospel with hundreds of Nicaraguans.
“Free medical care draws in huge crowds of people, providing an exciting chance to share why we are really there, which is to share the love of God with the Nicaraguan people,” Hannah said.
MedFest began in 1996 when a group of dentists, pharmacists and physicians joined with Way of the Cross Ministries in Texas to provide free health evaluations and treatments in Mexico, said David McKnight, Hannah’s father. A doctor in Murfreesboro, Tenn., David had participated in a mission trip with Way of the Cross earlier that year to distribute food and spread the gospel across the border. After learning about the need for medical care among the villages, David gathered a group of mission-minded doctors that summer to help launch MedFest. The team continued to return to Mexico each year, treating as many patients as they could see in a week.
As parts of Mexico grew dangerous, David said God provided an opportunity in 2010 for the team to relocate their annual mission trip to Nicaragua. The team’s goal, however, remains the same – to tend to the physical and spiritual needs of thousands of people in poverty.
“We go as a medical team, but the point of it all is evangelism,” said David, as nearly 5,000 Nicaraguans became Christians during the most recent MedFest trip Jan. 15-21. “All we do is geared to reaching the lost people in the context of serving medical needs.”
The medical team treats variety of health problems each year, including hypertension, parasites and skin infections, Hannah said. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 10, Hannah acts as a consultant for the clinic’s diabetic patients as well.
“Going on trips like this gives me a great opportunity to apply what I have learned in school and practice my nursing skills in real-life settings,” Hannah said. “Medical missions are very important to me, and it is absolutely something that I hope to continue after graduation.”
While Hannah has taken 10 MedFest trips, Union student Michael Avery completed his first in January as a translator and assistant to the MedFest dental and eye clinics.
A sophomore biblical studies major, Avery said he embraced the opportunity to share the love of Christ with a world he had never before seen, using his Spanish minor to engage in conversations with locals inside the clinic and around Las Conchitas. Despite the cultural differences, he also learned how similar Nicaraguans are to Americans, as all people are in need of the gospel message.
“Overseas is not the place to begin to treat people with a mission mindset,” Avery added. “The time and place to live like Christ is here and now.”
Students interested in serving with MedFest in 2015 can contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Way of the Cross Ministries, visit wotc.org.
Union students, faculty and staff also will be traveling to nine locations across the world during spring break as part of Union’s annual Global Opportunities trips. For more information, visit uu.edu/events/go/.
By Beth Knoll