The life of a missionary: Alumna celebrates her 75th anniversary
Ms. Whitney, finally fulfilling her dream of working in China, poses for a picture next to Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital in Hong Kong.
When Marjorie Whitney was a little girl in grade school, she read a poem about the many challenges that disadvantaged Chinese families face. She decided then and there that she wanted to be a missionary and serve in China.
“As far back as I can remember, my ambition was always to go to China,” says Ms. Whitney.
Nursing was the area she wanted to work in, so she set her sights on coming to Loma Linda.
After graduating 75 years ago from the College of Medical Evangelists (now Loma Linda University) with her diploma in nursing in 1932, Ms. Whitney stayed in Loma Linda and worked at the hospital there.
Marjorie Whitney received her first mission call in 1946. The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was sending her to the newly constructed hospital in Montemorelos, Mexico. She went, serving as the first and only nurse at the hospital for more than a year.
Thus began a long and storied career in mission hospital nursing. For the next 30 years, Ms. Whitney would devote her life to helping others less fortunate.
Every mission call that she took was either at a newly constructed facility that needed a seasoned nurse to get things started, or a hospital that had no medical doctor and was desperately in need of leadership.
“It was pioneering work to a great extent,” says Ms. Whitney of her career. After her time in Mexico, she received another mission call, this time for Kingston, Jamaica. At Andrews Memorial Hospital, Ms. Whitney led the nursing department for eight years.
After hearing that CME was developing a master’s degree in nursing, Ms. Whitney returned to Loma Linda and began the program. She graduated in the first class to receive their master’s in nursing degree from Loma Linda. The year was 1957.
Marjorie Whitney poses for a picture at the Clinica y Hospital Adventista that she helped move from Puerto Cabezas to La Trinidad, Nicaragua.
tney didn’t have to wait long to receive her next call. That very same year, she was called to Nicaragua.
It was there that she supervised the move of Clinica y Hospital Adventista from Puerto Cabezas on the east coast to La Trinidad on the west coast. Ms. Whitney had to have enough supplies to last for six months before new supplies would arrive.
Just after relocating, the doctor asked Ms. Whitney to set up for surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery suite hadn’t been built yet. Ms. Whitney and the doctor looked around for a suitable area for surgery. The only thing available was the doctor’s own office desk. The two prepared the desk and performed the surgery right there in the office with the use of a flashlight.
“I just had to depend on the Lord in these times, knowing that He would guide and direct,” Ms. Whitney says.
She also remembers a time when the doctor was out of town for the day. One of the patients went into labor, which was no real cause for alarm. However, as Ms. Whitney was delivering the child, the umbilical cord ruptured.
Though the child was delivered successfully, the placenta was still inside the patient, which can be life-threatening. With no equipment or assistance, she had to remove the placenta by hand. The patient went home the next day.
“You may be sure that the Lord guided my hand,” she says. “You have no one to depend upon; you have only to rely on your knowledge and the Lord.”
Ms. Whitney served in Nicaragua for three years.
She was then sent to the small island of Trinidad to help forge the beginnings of Community Hospital in the capital of Port-of-Spain. For three years, she provided supervision for the nursing staff and organized nursing supplies.
“Practically every place I went
Ms. Whitney poses for a picture at the 2007 LLUSN alumni weekend.
was just starting—you had to improvise for everything,” she recalls.
Marjorie Whitney soon received another mission call, this time to Shashamane, Ethiopia, in 1967, teaching pre-nursing for one year.
In 1970, at the age of 61, Ms. Whitney decided it was time to retire, never having fulfilled her dream of mission work in China. She moved to Whitmore, California, to care for her mother.
While in retirement, she took more than 20 trips every summer for eight weeks with Pacific Union College, Angwin, California. This also was only through Europe and Australia, but never China.
Five years later, at the age of 66, Ms. Whitney finally received the call to serve as a missionary in China.
“I had been retired for five years when I finally got a call to China,” she remembers. “I was so excited!”
For the next four years, she lived out her dream, supervising the nursing department at Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital as a volunteer.
In 1981, she was asked to travel to Haiti for a little more than a year. She worked there as a nurse at the newly built Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti, organizing and supervising in surgery and obstetrics/gynecology, an area that Ms. Whitney had never worked in before.
“When you’re in the mission field, you have to specialize in everything,” she says.
From Haiti, it was off to Puerto Rico for six months helping to organize the nursing school at Universidad Adventista de las Antillas.
At the age of 73, with more than 50 years of nursing and more than 30 years of mission work under her belt, Ms. Whitney finally retired—this time for good.
In 2000, she moved to Calhoun, Georgia. She lives alone and drives by herself.
Though not able to go out on mission trips any longer, she still spends her time crocheting and knitting. She gives away what she makes to friends and church people, and when there was a fire a few years ago, she made several blankets for burn victims.
In 2009, Ms. Whitney will turn 100. “I have no regrets whatsoever,” she says. “Well, let me take that back; the only one I have is that I’m not able to still go out into the mission field.”
By Dustin R. Jones, MA