Alone in Niger during COVID-19 Outbreak: “I am privileged.”
Maureen Sloan is a nurse and has been volunteering for CURE for many years. Her recent trip to volunteer at CURE Niger has left her alone in the country, away from her family, and unable to travel back home to the United States, due to the travel ban. Paul, Maureen’s husband, was unable to accompany Maureen on her current trip, and due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, he has been unable to visit her. Despite these facts, Maureen remains positive and even considers her extended stay in Niger a privilege.
Recently, Brant Hansen interviewed Maureen remotely, while she is in Niger, and below are some highlights.
Brant: Are people in Niger anxious about the virus?
Maureen: “I think that this is something that has taken the whole world by surprise. There is a great deal of ignorance and information being passed around. Sadly, when I went shopping for groceries over the weekend there was fleecing of fake N95 masks on the street and that sort of thing…just so much misinformation. I guess we have just been caught by surprise by how much this has affected people, and people are very anxious regarding their families and their children.”
Brant: How does the hospital staff deal with it?
Maureen: Maureen speaks about how she often refers to Psalm 94:19, “when anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” She says that this psalm speaks about having anxious thoughts and how they can multiply within us. She feels that those who believe in God have His promises to lean on and can recognize His goodness and graciousness in the world. She goes on to say that she has seen the power of God transform lives and that He can do the impossible to bring healing and hope in the most desperate of circumstances.
“I am so privileged to be here. People have said, ‘Oh, you are stuck!’ You were only planning to be there for 10 days, and now you may not be able to come home for some weeks or months. No, I am not stuck. It’s a great privilege to be here. Niger is like a second home for Paul and myself. The only difficult part is the Paul is at home without me. He would like to be here with me.”
Maureen shares that she is spending her time in Niger “loving up on the children that are here in our care” and helping staff members deal with anxiety about protecting their families from this virus.
Brant: Why would you do something like this? Why would you be in Niger?
Maureen: “I don’t think you have a long enough time on your podcast for my answer to that question. I was called at a very young age to be a nurse and to serve the Lord. As a nurse, and to come here to Africa…I had to pray for a very long time before I had that opportunity. Since the Lord has given this opportunity, it is just a great joy!”
“Why would I do it? Because God has called me to do it! And one thing I want to be is a woman of God, who is obedient and there is no greater joy than doing what God has asked you to do.”
“Why am I here? It’s because of the relationships. It’s not just about the work and helping because of COVID-19 and these circumstances. It’s about loving people and doing exactly what God has called me to do. There is great satisfaction in it and being with these awesome people – the patients are awesome, the caregivers are awesome. The colleagues that I work with here live in conditions that you and I would consider impossible, with the heat, the dust, and whatnot of the desert, but they come to work and they work hard. They are so committed in every way to serving our objective to bring the message of the kingdom of God and Jesus’ love to people as well as healing these children – children that have been burned, born with cleft lips and palates, and orthopedic issues. It’s just a great joy to see children begin to walk again and use their hands again.”
Brant: Last question: As a woman that has grown in faith over time, how do you deal with anxiety?
Maureen: Maureen speaks about capturing our thoughts in obedience to Christ, and challenges people to think about our minds like a remote control. We have to pause, stop, but not rewind – thinking about what could happen, our disadvantages, and the things that are so difficult at this time. She mentions that at times like these, we need to have connections with people and is so grateful for technology. She speaks about how we can communicate face-to-face over the internet and spend our time that way with people that we enjoy. We need to capture our thoughts and focus on something other than COVID-19 because “worrying will not change anything – it is a waste of emotional energy. I don’t want to be thinking about it all the time.”
We are grateful for Maureen and her dedication to helping people and being a part of the CURE family. She feels privileged to be working with CURE Niger right now, and we feel privileged to have her on our team!