Following her heart

Following her heart

Nursing student aims to work as missionary in Africa

By Elizabeth Behrman

Lisa Strickland was a medical missionary in Africa before becoming a nursing student. She and he husband plan to move back to Africa after she finishes nursing school./Photo by Maria Belen Farias

It all started with a Swahili class she took on a whim.

When Lisa Strickland came to UF as a freshman in 2005, she didn’t know what she wanted to do or what she wanted to major in. She just took some classes she thought would be interesting.

Now, almost six years and multiple mission trips later, Strickland is enrolled in her first year of nursing school after graduating from UF with a degree in African studies, and is planning her life as a missionary in Africa.

A newlywed, Strickland said she and her husband both plan to become missionaries in Africa after she graduates from nursing school. He works for the health department in Levy County.

“Part of what brought us together was that we both wanted to do that,” Strickland said.

It was after a summer in Tanzania working at a health clinic that she knew she wanted to become a medical missionary.

“I realized I wanted to not only help them spiritually, but physically,” she said.

Nursing school wasn’t something she planned. She decided she wanted to go into the field after returning from a mission trip in Tanzania, where she helped administer immunizations and HIV tests and record growth charts.

Strickland spent about eight weeks in a mobile health clinic where she saw a woman give birth and met a little girl who had to have her leg amputated because of a snakebite.

Strickland helped a friend found the club HOPE during their undergraduate days at UF, which is dedicated to fundraising to support clinics in Africa.

The club helped pay for the little girl’s prosthetic leg and therapy after losing her leg to the snakebite.

Strickland will graduate next December from UF’s accelerated nursing program. But before she goes back to Africa, she said she wants to stay and get some firsthand nursing experience. She’s even planning on taking courses in tropical medicine and emergency response.

“I knew I wanted to do missions, but now I know I can bring a tangible skill,” she said.

She never predicted she would earn degrees in African studies and nursing. She said it took a few years for her mom to come around to the idea of her as a missionary in Africa, but her family has been more than supportive.

“Even though nursing school is difficult, exhausting and intense, I love what I’m learning and can’t wait to see where it will take me in the future,” Strickland said.

She doesn’t know what specifically she and her husband will do when they move to Africa, and they don’t have a set time frame, yet.

“Honestly, we’re just like ‘OK God, what do you want us to do?’”