The clinical team approached the soon-to-be mother for about the 32nd time during 16 hours of hard labor. The members felt exhausted, but it was imperative that the mother’s vitals were checked every half hour. The team included student missionary Melanie Ramirez. She was excited to assist in the labor process, but it seemed the baby girl would never arrive. Finally, the moment came, and Ramirez helped deliver her first baby, thousands of miles away from home in the remote country of Zambia.
Ramirez has been traveling for the majority of her life. She was born in California, but lived in Michigan, Texas, and Arizona before finally settling at Southern Adventist University her freshman year. While growing up, she was influenced by her father, who pastored throughout the United States. Comfortable with people and public speaking, she felt a strong sense of leadership at a young age.
When arriving at Southern, Ramirez declared biology as her major and began developing a love for the medical field. During her freshman year, she went on her first uQuest Mission trip to Cairo, Egypt. The summer following her sophomore year, Ramirez again decided to spend time as a missionary — this time in Palau.
Tina Smith, Southern’s project planner for marketing and university relations, reflected on her time with Ramirez and other students in Palau.
“All of the college students on the trip were strangers to my husband, Bo, and me,” she said. “It amazed both of us how quickly we became a team and a family. I remember Ramirez asking me if it was okay for the students to call me ‘Mama T,’ which I absolutely loved.”
Both of those mission trips were enjoyable to Ramirez, but it was not until her third trip that her outlook on life began to change. In her junior year, uQuest Missions coordinator Melissa Moore approached Ramirez about becoming a student leader on a new mission trip.
Months later, Ramirez found herself drifting down a Brazilian river, hopping from village to village to provide medical care for those in need. She fell in love with the fulfillment she received from smiling faces; most of all, though, she fell in love with the plan God had for her life.
She also started seriously considering mission work, and was soon presented with an opportunity to spend 11 months in Zambia. She took it. When Ramirez’s mother heard of her next adventure, she responded by saying, “Oh, here she goes again.” Her parents were nervous about the possible dangers, but they supported her every step of the way.
As Ramirez embarked on her new mission, she felt overwhelmed. “It was all really nerve-wracking,” she said. “I was being thrown into a new culture thousands of miles away with only one friend, Carolina Lopez.”
However, Ramirez’s fear did not stop her. In Zambia she worked as a clinical nurse, a lifeguard, and a Sabbath School teacher.
When asked about the most difficult part of her trip, Ramirez responded, saying, “The cultural divide: Only a small percentage of Zambians speak fluent English, and there were four main dialects of the language I had to learn during my time there.”
During her first month of working at the clinic, Ramirez saw a variety of field injuries. However, the most memorable moment arrived when she helped deliver the beautiful baby girl. “Although I didn’t have any medical experience or qualifications, I was presented with opportunities as a student missionary that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else,” Ramirez said. Later on, when Ramirez helped deliver another girl, the parents named the new baby after her.
During her fourth month in Zambia, a Bible worker asked Ramirez and Lopez to share their testimonies with future Bible workers. Although shocked by the request, the pair spoke in front of a room full of men for seven hours. Though intimidated by the experience, they shared their relationships with Jesus. After speaking, several men came up to Ramirez, saying that her story had inspired them profoundly. She is still in contact with them to this day.
Today, Ramirez is a senior at Southern finishing up a biology degree. Her experiences around the world have affirmed her passion for the medical field, and she now wants to work as a medical missionary.
“God calls all passions,” she said. “Each person has a specific skill set that can be used by Him. The beauty of service is seeing the impact you can make.”
Southern Union | January 2020