Preparation for new challenges


Helen Ryan

From our Foreign Correspondents:

Helen Ryan (left) spent six months working with SIM Malawi as a Short-Term Associate in 2013. Having been back in the UK for a year, she talks about how her time in Malawi has prepared her for new challenges and just how tough those challenges are.

Hello, I am Helen and I have finished year one of a nursing degree at Oxford Brookes University. Here is some of my story.

In sixth form I felt God leading me to nursing, and also calling me to overseas mission. I chose to take a gap year to test the waters in this area, to travel and see God at work.

SIM-UK GAP programme

I chose SIM for their superb GAP programme, cross-cultural training and six-month overseas opportunity. I went to Malawi and was involved in youth and children’s ministry. I loved learning about Malawian culture, meeting people from other nationalities and I fell in love with the country. I am so grateful I was able to go, and would do it again tomorrow if I could!

Returning home was difficult; I missed Malawi so much and no one fully understood what I’d experienced. However, I settled well into Uni and have made a great Christian nursing friend who had a similar experience, so we spend hours chatting about Africa and our dreams for the future.

I think SIM prepared me well for University by increasing my life experience, faith and independence. Many Christians fall away from faith at University due to the many temptations, but I have been excited to live differently for Jesus and never considered turning back, despite hardship. My church and CU have been superb in supporting me and giving me opportunities to share my faith through various events (seven non-Christian friends have heard the Gospel this year and I’ve had great conversations with them since), praise God!

Challenge of the Wards

My main challenge has been working on the wards. It’s easy to forget I’m a student when I wake up at 5.30am for a 14-hour shift. Nursing has exposed me to the realities of life and my whole outlook has changed since starting. Tragically, one of my friends in Malawi, a fellow missionary, was killed in a car crash in December 2013, which hit me hard and still hurts so much. Just a month later someone I knew as a child was also killed in a traffic accident. I’ve had many patients pass away, with the most distressing being my patient suffering a cardiac arrest at 1am, where I watched the team perform CPR (and failing) just 20 minutes after I’d been talking to him.

Helen working with the Child Evangelism Fellowship at the Blantyrr Baptist Accademy when in Malawi as a SIM Malawi Short-Term Associate

Thin line between life and death

All these situations have made me realise that the line between life and death is so fine, and my appreciation of life has increased. My hope in heaven has become real and I now try to make every day count because I don’t know when life may end.

 Not all nursing is so tough, and most of the time I love it, and wouldn’t want to do anything else.

Building relationships

Working on Renal and Acute Medical wards means I work with the same patients for days in a row, building good relationships. I feel God has given me skills to be a good nurse, such as ongoing patience when other nurses have given up. Some shifts have unusual rewards, including persuading a learning-disability patient to have a suppository when he’d refused from all other staff, being afraid it would hurt! I have no doubt God has called me to this profession, and could not make it through my shifts without His help. I would love to return to Africa as a missionary nurse and I wait on God as to when and where that will be. 

If you want to know more about short-term opportunities with SIM Malawi please visit our website at:

A video of Helen’s experiences in Malawi is also on the website at






Volume 2: Issue 2
Webpage icon Malawi Amoto Editorial
Webpage icon Go and make disciples of all nations
Webpage icon ‘The challenges and rewards of missionary life’
Webpage icon New contexts - New challenges