A life with the Scalpel

A life with the Scalpel

Posted by: Dani Ellerbe on Friday, December 14, 2018

The sound of the heavens dumping onto the jungle forest, a billion drops of water pounding on the tin roof, the smell of hot jungle mist in the air; this is one of my first memories of Pucallpa, Peru, engrained in my 8-year old brain because of the novelty of the place, sights, and sounds, and the beauty of the sun in its full glory rising amidst the rain over the dense Amazon canopy. This might sound dramatic but that was just it; this was quite literally the first time I had ever experienced reality like this, filled with such a thick vibrancy of life that I have never witnessed across all my travels in the same way that I have in this corner of the world.

 

The evolution of my journey with Scalpel At The Cross began with simply a love and wonder for an exotic place I am so grateful my parents introduced us three children to, very near our memories’ formation. I remember landing for the first time over the sprawling city of Lima, walking out to the airport concourse with a thousand Limenan faces peering at me. Peru to me as a child was a place filled with dear friends and full of adventure; old missionary friends I have known for my entire life, and new friends made from the Shapibo indigenous Indian tribe across the river. Adventures consisted of fishing for piranhas with fishing poles that we made from bamboo, motorcycling through jungle terrain, eating unfamiliar things like blood sausage with pig intestine, and landing via float plane on the largest tributary of the Amazon, the Ucayalli River, to explore Indian tribes where hundreds of kids flocked to touch my pale white skin. I remember going to “church” in a large open-air pavilion with a hundred people’s lifted hands praising God in Spanish worship. These mere memories have actually gone on to really shape the things I most love and value today.

 

As I grew up, this place of adventure and wonder evolved to a place of discovery of my passions. This was the setting where I first got to see medicine in practice. I got to be apart of the official medical teams that began to come along with my parents to do surgery in the hospital. I saw what nurses and physician’s assistants and surgeons and scrub techs all did in the hospital setting. I saw patients in pain crammed six beds to a hot stuffy room. I saw what it was to use physical healing and service as a parallel to spiritual healing and faith, and how to use physical help to share about spiritual hope! Then came the years of being home schooled so that we could travel to see the developing of relationships that were flourishing into a full-fledged medical ministry.

 

This place eventually became so impressed in my mind and heart that I, through a series of life events, decided to take a gap year spent in Pucallpa before I went to college. In the span of that year, this place that had always been so refreshing and invigorating did for a time become a place of isolation; but God turned it into a wilderness of discovery of self and of Jesus. This was the place I learned about what Jesus meeting us in trial looked like, what it was to see God be faithful, and how to keep walking and watch God equip us for every piece of what He calls us to. My relationship with this country and the role these peoples played in my life was thus deepened and became the place where God found me, and I let Him have my life.

 

I returned to the States after that year away with a solidified purpose in starting nursing school in the city of Boston. Some of the trials I had experienced in Peru prepared me well for the trials I had in moving to a new city, learning a new culture, and being faithful to the job at hand. Throughout my time of studying medicine in Boston, it was the passion for missions that kept me going. I practiced my Spanish skills and always held close my love for global ministry and my vision to use nursing in a cross-cultural setting.

 

I quite literally grew up with Scalpel At The Cross; as it grew from an idea to a mission to a reality, I grew from a child to a teenager to a student, and now a nurse. Wanting to solidify and continue my role in Scalpel in a more official capacity, I became a board member 4 years ago and got to be a part of the executive decisions of the non-profit behind the scenes. The opportunity and need grew to have an additional person to lead medical campaigns, so I started a year-long training with our current mission director learning how to be an administrative lead in partnership with a lead orthopedic surgeon. Out of this time, the opportunity arose in my own life to find an additional part-time job, while simultaneously for Scalpel to find additional staff. That is where I find myself today, splitting my time as a floor nurse at New England’s busiest level-one trauma center, and as Scalpel At The Cross’s official Program Manager, overseeing fundraising and patient outcomes. God truly orchestrates in beautiful ways, all while stretching, and challenging, and loving, and growing us.

 

This past Sunday, I led the worship music at my current church in Boston, MA, and as is common for me, I ended the set with a Spanish song. It brings me back to when I was eight years old, standing in a hot pavilion in the Amazon watching the Pucallpinos praise the Same God that I do today. My pursuit in medicine continues as my passion for my faith and Spanish have been strengthened. It encourages and refreshes me as I look back at the journey God has taken me on throughout my life, how interwoven ministry, Peru, and medicine was in my trajectory. It makes me grateful for how the Lord guides and directs, and how the things he imprints on our minds and hearts as a child can lead us to the very things He calls us to spend our lives doing. I hope this inspires you to reflect on the ways this very pattern has been woven throughout your own life and that it makes you realize how truly miraculous our great God is.