Student missionary shares what she learned from challenging mission projects.
Published on: 01-22-2020
The clinical team watched over the mother-to-be during 16 hours of hard labor. The team members felt exhausted, but the mother’s vitals needed to be checked every half hour. The team included student missionary Melanie Ramirez. She was excited to assist in the labor process, but it seemed the baby girl would never arrive.
Finally, the moment came, and Ramirez helped deliver her first baby, thousands of miles away from home, in the country of Zambia.
Ramirez has been traveling for the majority of her life. She was born in California, United States, but lived in Michigan, Texas, and Arizona before finally settling at Southern Adventist University (SAU) in Tennessee for her freshman year. While growing up, she was influenced by her father, who was a pastor in many places throughout the United States. Comfortable with people and public speaking, Ramirez felt a strong sense of leadership at a young age.
On arriving at SAU, Ramirez declared biology as her major and began developing a love for the medical field. During her freshman year, she went on her first uQuest Mission trip, to Cairo, Egypt. The summer following her sophomore year, Ramirez decided to spend time again as a missionary — this time in Palau.
Tina Smith, SAU’s project planner for marketing and university relations, reflected on her time with Ramirez and other students in Palau.
“All of the college students on the trip were strangers to my husband, Bo, and me,” she said. “It amazed both of us how quickly we became a team and a family. I remember Ramirez asking me if it was OK for the students to call me ‘Mama T,’ which I absolutely loved.”
Both of those mission trips were enjoyable to Ramirez, but it was not until her third trip that her outlook on life began to change. In her junior year, uQuest Missions coordinator Melissa Moore approached Ramirez about becoming a student leader on a new mission trip.
Months later, Ramirez was drifting down a river in Brazil, hopping from village to village to provide medical care for those in need. She fell in love with the fulfillment she received from smiling faces; most of all, though, she fell in love with the plan God had for her life.
She also started seriously considering mission work and was soon presented with an opportunity to spend 11 months in Zambia. She took it. When Ramirez’s mother heard of her next adventure, she responded by saying, “Oh, here she goes again.” Her parents were nervous about the possible dangers, but they supported her every step of the way.
As Ramirez embarked on her new mission, she felt overwhelmed. “It was all really nerve-wracking,” she said. “I was being thrown into a new culture thousands of miles away with only one friend, Carolina Lopez.” Lopez went with her to Zambia at the same time.
However, Ramirez’s fear did not stop her. In Zambia, she worked as a clinical nurse, a lifeguard, and a Sabbath School teacher.
When asked about the most challenging part of her trip, Ramirez responded, “The cultural divide. Only a small percentage of Zambians speak fluent English, and there were four main dialects of the language I had to learn during my time there.”
During her first month of working at the clinic, Ramirez saw a variety of field injuries. However, the most memorable moment came when she helped deliver the beautiful baby girl. “Although I didn’t have any medical experience or qualifications, I was presented with opportunities as a student missionary that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else,” Ramirez said. Later on, when she helped deliver another girl, the parents named the new baby after her.
During her fourth month in Zambia, a Bible worker asked Ramirez and Lopez to share their testimonies with future Bible workers. Although shocked by the request, the pair spoke in front of a room full of men for seven hours. Though intimidated by the experience, they shared their relationship with Jesus. After they finished speaking, several men came up to Ramirez, saying that her story had inspired them profoundly. She remained in contact with some of them.
Today, Ramirez is a senior at SAU, finishing up a biology degree. Her experiences around the world have affirmed her passion for the medical field, and she now wants to work as a medical missionary.
“God calls all passions,” she said. “Each person has a specific skill set that can be used by Him. The beauty of service is witnessing the impact you can make.”