Laurel Smith’s African odyssey
The team relaxes and enjoys their last sunset before returning to America. They were inside the thatch hut at the hippo pond overlook at the Wilderness Lodge. Pictured are (from left) Geneva Sides, RN, from St. Albans, Maine; Lesa Beth Titus, RN, from Roseburg, Oregon; Colleen Grunaw, a pharmacist from Brush Prairie, Washington; Jack O’Neill from Oregon City, Oregon; and Laurel Smith, RN, on the front row.
Did you hear the one about the single mom who works two jobs, raises two kids, goes snowboarding, camping and fishing when she can find the time, and still manages to jet off to Africa to help out at a missionary clinic on her vacation?
Her name’s Laurel Smith, RN, and she’s not exactly the type who likes to sit around waiting for something to do.
Ms. Smith works part-time as a nurse in the emergency department at LLUMC, and full time as an RN and mobile intensive care nurse at Chino Valley Medical Center. It’s probably safe to say that she fits more into the average day than many people do in a week.
In fact, she tends to do everything in a big way. Her best fish story is about a 7-foot thresher shark that didn’t get away. She landed the big fish off the coast of Newport on a three-quarter-inch hook baited with squid. “Tasted great!” she reports. “I served thresher steaks over rice to everyone on my shift.”
Here’s the scoop on how Ms. Smith became involved in serving the poor at impoverished medical clinics on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya.
Her uncle, Jack O’Neill, is founder and president of Hope Teams International, a mission advocacy group that provides relief and hope to street kids and orphans in the third world.
When Mr. O’Neill saw the need for medical and dental care in Kenya, he contacted his colleague Jeff Solheim of Project Helping Hands
Together, the two men pooled the resources of their ministries and came up with a plan to offer American Christians a chance to volunteer their services through vacation outreach trips to Africa. After a little good-natured prodding from her uncle, Ms. Smith packed her bags.
What did she think? “It was amazing!” she says. “When anybody asks me what my mission experience was like, that’s the word that always comes out. The whole experience of going there, working in the mission, and being able to make an impact with our skills in that environment was just simply amazing!”
It is so amazing, in fact, that she is planning to return in May and October of this year.
By James Ponder
Jack O’Neill, founder and president of Hope Teams International, is definitely an orphan’s advocate. He lives in Oregon where he works as an official of the Pacific Conference of the Evangelical Church. He conducts these Hope Teams as a separate project, not an official ministry of the church.
This young girl is probably less than 10 years of age. The baby she is holding is not hers, but most likely a sibling. The Maasai wear lots of red. They say the color helps their herds recognize them without getting scared and running off.
The group stayed at the Wilderness Lodge in Maasai Mara Game Preserve for two nights. They were amazed when they found themselves within 30 feet of these elephants. The herd walked within 10 feet of the other van in the party. The vans stopped and the elephants walked between.
Ms. Smith was disturbed by the fact that the problem above could have been prevented. This little boy fell and received a small cut on his leg more than a year ago. With a little peroxide, bacitracin, and a bandage, he would have been perfectly fine within a week. Instead, he has a raging septic infection and possible osteomyelitis. If the infection has not spread into his bone, he may recover with antibiotics and daily wound care.
Lesa Beth Titus, RN (left), looks on as a group of Maasai perform a welcome dance. The charge is only about $12 per person for a visit to the Maasai village and the right to take pictures. If one tries to take pictures elsewhere, they are charged extra. Some of the men in the photo have long hair while others have short hair. For a Maasai man to wear his hair long, it means he hasn’t yet killed his first lion.