Believe it or not, I am leaving San Jose on my twenty-fifth birthday for Ethiopia!! I am going to work in a health clinic in a rural area for one year. I am thrilled to embark on this adventure of faith. My goals are ultimately to glorify God by allowing His will to be done most completely in my life, and to help people by offering to God the skills I know but even more the willingness to learn new things, and hoping He can use them in His plan to redeem the nations.

How this all got started anyway
I met Claire Meckler, a missionary nurse, several years ago while I was in nursing school. We originally connected because she was an old high school acquaintance of my dad, and several strange coincidences brought her, with her photo album and stories, to my breakfast table in 2001. Her stories and pictures of missionary nursing, along with her genuine love for the people she served, fascinated me.

She returned to her clinic in Ethiopia shortly after our visit, but we continued to keep in contact. Last summer, after having been out of school for a year, I wrote her and asked if she could use me in the clinic, as I was interested in a relatively short-term assignment for about one year. She said she could use help in the fall of 2004. This winter I began the application process with her organization, SIM (Serving in Missions), was accepted, and my time in Ethiopia begins on September 9!


Who is SIM?
SIM is an international, interdenominational mission whose purpose is to glorify God by planting, strengthening, and partnering with churches around the world by evangelizing the unreached, ministering to human need, disciple believers into churches, and equip churches to fulfill Christ's commision.[1] More information is available at

Exactly where again? And why there?
Ethiopia is a landlocked country, but it is close to the ocean- the Red Sea, actually. It is bordered by Sudan on the west, Eritrea on the northeast, Somalia on the East, and Kenya to the south. The health statistics in this very poor country are staggering. Overall life expectancy is 48 years (versus 77.3 in the US). For children, 185 out of 1000 die before they are 5. To put this in perspective, in the US the figure is 9 out of 1000 children.[2] While a woman in the US has a lifetime risk of 1 in 2,800 of dying from a pregnancy or delivery related complication, in sub-saharan Africa (which includes Ethiopia), a woman has a lifetime risk of 1 in 16.[3] Obviously, the health care needs are tremendous in this poor country, and I want to try to make a difference in the daily well being of these people.
The clinic is in a small farming village called Awanno, which is off the road to Jimma. Awanno is about a 7-hour drive from the capital, Addis Ababa (see map). The area is rural farmland surrounded by mountains.

The people
The ethnic group served by the SIM team based in Awanno is called Oromo. They number about 20 million, live in West and South Ethiopia and parts of Kenya, and are primarily pastoral.[4] Besides their own language, Oromo, many also speak the national language of Ethiopia, Amharic, and some speak English. Their religion is predominately Islam, but this belief system is often mixed with folk or animistic beliefs. A small representation of Christians exist in Awanno.

Our work
I'll be joining a health care team of about eight members (no, no doctor!). Nationals and missionaries work together in the clinic (rendering curative care by diagnosing and treating diseases) and travel into communties for preventative care (health education and immunization). The SIM health station also involves water work (i.e., capping of springs for pure drinking water--see slideshow about Ethiopia Water Project) and a veterinary clinic for cattle -- all important components of development. These project agreements are granted by the Ethiopian government and are the means of invitation for being allowed in the country. While endeavoring to promote long term change, non dependent on outside help, our goals also include a spiritual outreach, desiring to establish an on-going Christian witness

What does the Bible have to say about this sort of thing?
My work in Ethiopia is based fundamentally on the message of the Bible. Most essentially, humanity cannot solve their great sin problem, or its effects of poverty, injustice, sickness, and pain. However, the gospel- the message of Jesus Christ who is the Mediator between a holy God and a sin-sick human race- offers new spiritual life that gives hope to a world full of death. (See Romans 3:23, 5:8, 6:23, John 1:12, Hebrews 6:19, 9:13-15).
My recent time as a Bible student at Western Seminary has confirmed to me the life-giving quality of the Book and its message. This same Messiah who died and was resurrected by God's power in order to lead us to God is the One who gives me courage and joy to embark on this journey to Africa. (Hebrews 12:1-3, Phillipians 4:13).

See how you can get involved >

[2] This information is taken from the WHO website


© Copyright 2004 Laura Niblack