Tessa Gerberich and new mother hold a baby
Courtesy of Tessa Gerberich

Tessa Gerberich, left, works with new mothers and their babies at a clinic run by Faith Alive Foundation in Jos, Nigeria. Names of mother and baby are withheld due to patient confidentiality.

JOS, Nigeria — When 23-year-old Tessa Gerberich left for her year-long service term in Jos, Nigeria she hoped to have the opportunity to help deliver at least one baby. To date, she’s helped deliver 25.

“Helping women deliver their babies leaves me in awe of the simple, yet complex miracle of birth,” says Gerberich, who studied nursing at Eastern Mennonite University.

Gerberich had this privilege while participating in Serving and Learning Together (SALT), a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) international service program for young adults from Canada and the U.S.

She serves at a clinic run by Faith Alive Foundation, an organization that provides free health care to about 10,000 people each month. In addition to helping with births, Gerberich staffs a clinic for expectant mothers and cares for adults and children living with HIV and AIDS.

Gerberich says that her experience at Faith Alive has shaped her both personally and professionally. Before her SALT term, she was uncertain about whether to continue education as a family nurse practitioner or to train as a nurse midwife. Now, because of her experience working with mothers at Faith Alive, she hopes to train as a midwife soon after returning to the U.S.

She dreams of one day teaching other nursing or midwifery students, perhaps in international contexts. She says, “I want to bring nursing students to places like this and walk with them through their experience.”

In Jos, Gerberich goes to church with the family of one of the first babies she helped deliver, and she recently attended the child’s congregational dedication service.

Watching the dedication, Gerberich was “grateful for the baby’s life and for having a part in welcoming him into the world.”

During her final months at Faith Alive Gerberich worked with Monika Neufeld, another SALT participant, to develop a curriculum for Faith Alive’s prenatal program. She hopes that will allow her to give back to the community that has taught her so much.