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Nursing school sharpens Africa missionary's skills

Aug. 23, 2004

Program important

for medical workers in poor countries

By ASHLEY DAWN SHEPPARD, contributor

After working for eight years in poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Kenya and Uganda, Linda Barany decided she needed more education to help the countries' school children afflicted with devastating diseases.

The 49-year-old wife, mother and missionary returned to the United States in May and enrolled in Baylor's Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas.

Barany, formerly a school nurse in Africa, encountered abundant cases of malaria, typhoid, anemia and HIV and believed she needed to know how to diagnose and treat the illnesses.

Barany said she thought Baylor's two-year Family Nurse Practitioner program would sharpen her nursing skills.

Dr. Judy Wright Lott, dean of the nursing school, said the program is important for nurses who live where doctors are scarce -- such as third-world countries.

Lott said the nursing school tries to help missionaries through scholarships and financial aid whenever they can because Christian service is a facet of Baylor's mission.

"We're honored to have Linda; she brings real-life experience to the classroom," Lott said.

Barany said it was scary and overwhelming to return to the United States alone.

Barany dealt with cultural differences and difficulties in Africa.

Among those challenges was a large number of illiterate people, according to Barany. Also, the Christian Ugandans lack a strong theological foundation so their faith tends to be shallow, she said.

The assignment carried some dangers as well. While in Uganda, Barany was robbed and tied up at gunpoint in her home.

"Inspiring, day-to-day average missionaries who were able to trust God so totally that it blows my mind away," enabled her to endure the hard times, she said.

Barany said she supports Leininger's Transcultural Nursing Theory, which calls for nurses to be sensitive to the cultures where they're practicing medicine.

Barany was 14 years old when she decided to be a missionary. A speaker came to the Baptist church she attended in Rhode Island and promoted mission work to the congregation. Two years later she spent a summer in Africa as a missionary helper.

Twenty-five years later she became a full-time missionary overseas. Barany said she thinks every Christian should go on a mission trip at least once.

"It's life-changing. You see the world from a whole different perspective," Barany said.

She hopes to return to Uganda upon graduating from the nursing program.

"Missions will always be a part of what we do. My heart is there," Barany said.