Africa MercyBethel-educated nurses Anita Thiessen ’09 and Elizabeth LeFeber ’10 have a shared passion and calling. Both felt led to serve in Africa early in their lives. Both pursued nursing as a career at Bethel College. And earlier this year, both volunteered to work on the Africa Mercy, a 78-bed floating surgical hospital, then docked in Madagascar, at the same time. The hospital ship provides free and lifesaving surgeries for people without access to medical care. It’s all part of Mercy Ships, a nonprofit organization, headquartered in Lindale, Texas, dedicated to bringing health and healing to the poor.

Anita ThiessenA missionary kid who grew up in South America, Anita Thiessen has always had a hunger to travel and share the Gospel with a world in need.

“As a 10-year-old, I just knew,” she says. “I thought, ‘I’m going to work in Africa when I grow up. I just need to figure out how.’”

Her mother was a missionary nurse, and Thiessen saw firsthand how being trained in the medical field can open doors to the mission field. So, she looked into nursing programs and decided on Bethel.

“I saw that 100 percent of nursing majors had passed their boards at Bethel, and my brother was a student [there],” she says.

Her Bethel education prepared her well to serve both domestically (as a traveling surgical nurse) and abroad, where she’s volunteered for three mission trips with Mercy Ships, and is planning her fourth — a six-month assignment as a team leader, beginning in December 2016.

On the Africa Mercy, Thiessen has served primarily as a surgical nurse, working with a diverse team of medical professionals from around the globe.

She has seen the hope and transformation that Mercy Ships brings to patients, especially those who feel alone in their suffering but find, on the ship, others like them.

“Strangers find common ground through suffering and they bring their own hope. They give us so much more than we give them. It’s humbling. Very humbling,” Thiessen says.
She encourages others, even those who aren’t in the medical profession, to look into volunteering with Mercy Ships.

“God can use anyone from anywhere as long as they are willing to be used!”

Read her full story at


Elizabeth LeFeberYou could say that Mercy Ships inspired Elizabeth LeFeber to pursue nursing as a career. It all started in middle school, when she read “The Dangerous Voyage” by Dave Gustaveson, published through YWAM. A chapter of the book describes life and work on the floating hospital.

“I found that idea [of working for Mercy Ships] to be inspiring and I wanted to be a part of it,” says LeFeber.

She came to Bethel with the goal of using nursing to go into missions and help people.

In December 2015, her dream was realized when she served a two-month assignment as an admissions nurse on the Africa Mercy. Her job involved working through an interpreter in the admission tent to do a basic health assessment, check patients in and go over a basic health history. Sometimes, she would get to walk patients onto the ship.

LeFeber recalls a baby named Priscilla who came to admissions with a cleft lip and palate in need of repair, but a respiratory infection prevented her from getting surgery.

“We prayed God would heal her so she could have her surgery,” LeFeber says. He did.

“I got to visit her and her mom after surgery. Her mom was so happy and smiling. I continue to pray for [them] – not just for physical healing, but for spiritual healing as well, because that’s eternal.”

Now, Priscilla will have a chance to not just survive, but thrive, like other patients who have received life-changing medical services on the Africa Mercy.
Whether abroad or at home, where she’s worked in a hospital and nursing home setting, LeFeber intends to continue partnering with God to bring healing through nursing.

Read the full story at


africa-mercyAbout the Ship

The Africa Mercy is a 16,572-ton rail ferry that was converted into a floating hospital. The ship includes five operating theatres, recovery, intensive care and low dependency wards – totaling 78 patient beds. The hospital offers CT scan, X-ray and laboratory services, with a Nikon Coolscope for remote diagnosis. It is the largest civilian hospital ship in the world, with the capacity to house a crew of 450. Volunteer medical teams bring state-of-the-art care to those in desperate need – free of charge. (


Learn more about Bethel’s undergraduate and graduate nursing programs at Find out about volunteer opportunities with Mercy Ships at