Mission trip to Kenya offers hands-on experience and heartfelt message

Piled high in assistant professor of nursing Lisa Gazan’s office are bins of baby bottles, clothes, medicine and booster seats all packed for the School of Nursing’s upcoming mission trip to Nairobi, Kenya. There, Gazan, along with two other faculty members and 17 nursing students, will spend spring break caring for infants and serving the community’s needs. 

Liberty University’s School of Nursing will partner with the local Jesse Kay Hospital and the accompanying Happy Life Children’s Home, an organization wholly dedicated to caring for abandoned infants under the age of 3 1/2. 

“The children’s home has rescued over 800 babies from dumps, sewers and substance abuse caused by poverty and desperation,” Gazan said.

The School of Nursing has spent weeks equipping the participating students by holding classes committed to teaching topics such as culture training, infant and health assessments and a “Stop the Bleed” seminar. 

As the students work toward earning their required pediatric clinical hours, they will experience a hands-on and fast-paced environment. They will work alongside the Kenyan providers and staff to provide free clinics to the community and physicals for the babies and children of Happy Life. Students will also have the opportunity to shadow surgery as opportunities arise. 

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Happy Life Children’s Home was started in 2002 by the Rev. Peter and Faith Ndungu, who cared for three abandoned babies. 

“They saw the need and had the vision to raise these babies with a Christian education to grow up and transform Kenya for God,” Gazan said. 

The ministry has grown over the years and has helped over 650 babies and children  come to know Christ. 

Gazan and her husband lived in Kenya for four years as missionaries 20 years ago. 

“I left a piece of my heart in Kenya,” Gazan said. 

She fell in love with the country and its people throughout her time spent in the mission field. Since working for Liberty, she was able to go on the LUSON trip in 2021 and has returned this year to serve as the leader for  the trip in March.

Gazan believes the trip also helps to broaden the minds of her students. 

“I think it’s a good way for us all to remember (the world) is so much bigger than little Lynchburg, our little states that we’re from (and) that God can do so much and he’s always at work,” Gazan said. “I think it’s just a reminder to look past what’s the here and now and keep being open and surrendering to (God).” 

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Mariana Bendinelli, a junior nursing student, has dreamed of this opportunity since she was in middle school. 

“I had mason jars in my closet that I had been saving since the sixth grade because the Lord put it in my heart that I wanted to go to Africa at some point,” Bendinelli said. “So, since (the) sixth grade, I’ve been saving spare change in my closet.”

After being accepted to attend the trip, Bendinelli cashed in her savings to help fund it. She recently found an old letter written by her younger self to her future self urging her to pursue a nursing career and to find a way to travel to Africa. 

Bendinelli has only one goal for this trip — to help people.

“We’re not opening up any clinics or doing things that would make it hard to keep (up with),” Bendinelli said. “We’re going there, and we’re showing them how to do things and giving them the right education, and I think that’s more important than starting something you can’t finish.”

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Junior nursing student Kailey Crisman hopes this experience will help her achieve her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit. 

“I think this is going to be a really eye-opening experience,” Crisman said. “It’s going to allow me to have hands-on experience in an uncontrolled environment where I will be seeing things in a different light (as opposed to) seeing it in a clinical setting here.” 

The students are eager to leave for the trip and hope their time there will make a difference. 

“It’s so surreal that we literally leave in a week, … and it’s like, ‘Okay, this is actually happening,’” Crisman said. “(God) is going to use each of these girls going on this trip for such a greater purpose, and I’m just really excited to see how he uses us.” 

Goforth is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion


  • Jacquie Grinstead

    Prayers for a safe trip and life changing experience for you all. You definitely will be in our prayers . I am Kailey Crisman’s great grandmother. So proud of her and all the yNursing students. God bless each of you. Love you Kailey❤️

  • Jerry Grinstead Sr



  • Paula Dougherty

    God bless all of you! Safe travels! Time will go by so fast.

  • Thank you to all of you who prayed! Our team of 20 touched and impacted over 1,000 patients. We saw God at work and made a difference. We thank you for being a part of our team through prayer. We felt your prayers and know God was very present with us.

    Lisa Gazan

  • Well from all I hear Mission accomplished Kailey shared her experience which left me breathless!! The learning, living, teaching and experiencing God’s love was in every word of her testimony!! May God continue to Bless you ALL both at Liberty and Africa!❤️❤️✝️✝️

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