Fostering Peace, Healing Wounds, Embodying Christ
When Alyssa Stoltzfus, currently a first-year Bethel nursing student, heard about the desperate needs of those trapped in the war-ravaged Middle East, her heart was moved – but she balked.
“There’s no way I’m going to the front lines,” she said to herself. “I’m not that courageous.”
Still, she followed a cousin’s advice and contacted Frontier Alliance International, a missionary organization dedicated to manifesting the gospel through direct humanitarian service in some of the world’s most dangerous circumstances.
In Stoltzfus’ case, she traveled to western Syria to look into FAI’s work and decided to stay. “I really felt called, I felt peace,” she says.
“People said I was being rash and too extreme, but I’m used to people not seeing things the way I do.”
While Stoltzfus had previous experience as a medical assistant and nurses’ aide, she obtained additional training in emergency first aid and rudimentary medicine from FAI staff. Then, she spent the next year working in a rural Syrian village, caring for civilians and combatants alike.
“Our guards were confused when we insisted on treating Syrian government soldiers,” Stoltzfus recalls. “They’d say, ‘They’re bombing us, and you tend to their wounds.’”
Stoltzfus’ reply was simple: “’We love Jesus, and we’re called to care for everyone.’” It was an object lesson that stuck. “The guards told us they’d never seen people who lived their religion the way we do.”
Because of Muslim reservations about gender roles, the male doctor in her group was not allowed to care for village women. So, Stoltzfus studied up on maternity medicine in her spare time and became the de facto perinatal specialist in her village, assisting at many births.
Eventually, due to deteriorating conditions, Stoltzfus and her FAI companions were forced to leave Syria and return home. “It was hard – I felt like I was abandoning them,” she says.
Stoltzfus entered Bethel University’s nursing program last year to prepare for returning to Syria someday, but she knows that what she’s learning can be put to use anywhere.
“We are called to sacrifice for Christ, to leave our comfort zones,” Stoltzfus says. “Even here at home.”