Nursing is a demanding profession even in the best of times. Those demands have skyrocketed over the past year as nurses and other health care workers have selflessly served on the front lines in the war on COVID.
Where do they turn for relief, renewal and encouragement?
Among the many organizations seeking to respond to nurses’ personal and professional needs, one strikes especially close to home for many Baptist nurses — Baptist Nursing Fellowship.
Baptist Nursing Fellowship provides missions opportunities, continuing education and fellowship for Christian nurses and allied health professionals in the U.S. and on missions fields around the world.
A longtime ministry partner with national Woman’s Missionary Union, BNF’s official mission is to “empower, educate and encourage nurses to fulfill Christ’s mission through healing skills.”
As National Nurses Week was observed May 6–12, BNF focused on its two-year theme of “Touch Twice in Jesus’ Name.” Highlighting both the physical and spiritual impact that Christian nurses can make, that theme has become especially meaningful amid the global pandemic.
The virus took a deeply personal toll on BNF members with the loss of BNF Executive Director Lori Spikes to COVID last fall.
A longtime Southern Baptist missionary to Chile, Spikes was a registered nurse with more than 40 years of experience. She was elected as BNF’s executive director in 2018, just two years before her death.
“We miss her greatly,” said BNF President Debby Akerman. “But we know that she’s not saying, ‘Gee, I wish I were back there doing BNF.’ She’s with the Lord.”
That lifelong commitment to serving Christ by serving others is evident in the lives of nurses who have been involved in BNF over the years.
For charter member Melba Wilkerson, the opportunities to participate in missions trips and serve alongside fellow Christian nurses are key benefits of her BNF involvement over the years.
Never the same
“When you go on a missions trip, you can’t ever be the same again because you see different cultures and meet different people,” Wilkerson said. “I’ve got friends from everywhere, and I consider that a blessing that BNF has given me.”
Missions is at the heart of the organization, Akerman said. Her goal is that “when people think BNF, they think missions.”
BNF president-elect Deborah Bolian, assistant professor of nursing at Mississippi College, agreed.
“My vision for BNF is to continue to empower nurses to be missionaries for Christ,” she said. “God gave us that as a directive, and He has given us the tools” to accomplish that goal.
“Once you [go on a missions trip], you cannot dampen the fire that lights.”
BNF membership ranges from current and retired nurses and medical missionaries to allied medical professionals, student members and honorary members. Akerman said physical therapists, pharmacists, emergency medical technicians and other health care workers also are welcome to join BNF and share their expertise with the group.
And while the pandemic has impacted travel and missions opportunities, Akerman said she is encouraging members to “identify the places you will go so that when this is done, you’re ready. You have put the teams together in your heart and in your mind and they’re ready to go.”
This year’s BNF Summit will be held Nov. 4–7 at the WMU Building in Birmingham, Alabama. For more information about BNF, visit baptistnursingfellowship.com.