A New World Opens up for Me

By the time I was finished Bible School, I knew I wanted to go somewhere to be a missionary, but I didn't know where.  I was going to train to become a teacher, because I felt somehow that was what I was supposed to do. But in my last year of Bible School some or my friends decided to go into nursing, and I thought yes, that's something that I would like.

I had already been exposed to nursing, having worked during the summers in an old folks home and in a small twelve-bed hospital, both of which I really liked.  So in 1957, I started my education at the Calgary General hospital to become a registered nurse. Calgary is in Alberta and it was quite far from home for me at the time.

Wonderful Nursing Namesake

The nursing director's name was Miss Gertrude Hall; she was an older lady with grey-hair that was almost tinted blue. She was wonderful, very determined, and she made that place go.  The City of Calgary owned and operated the hospital and I remember they were trying to cut down on nurses at the time. But she wouldn’t have any of it. She said no, if you cut down on the number of nurses you won't have a hospital. If you cut down on nurses, you cut down on nursing care, and I will not be responsible for that kind of a hospital.

There was another woman too, the Assistant Director, who had gone to McGill University – she was older too, quite a bit older.  Both of them were wonderful women that really made that hospital run. They were truly amazing.
Both of them were at our graduation, when we finished our nursing education in October 1960. Miss Gertrude Hall herself handed out the diplomas. When she gave me mine, she said “from one Gertrude to another.” It was a special moment for me as I admired her so much.

Then, as we walked out of the hall after the ceremony, she collapsed on the stage and died of a heart attack. It was a huge shock – completely unexpected. So instead of enjoying all the festivities we had planned to celebrate our graduation, we found ourselves in mourning. Everyone felt very sad, she was such a wonderful woman. 

Where Am I Needed?

During the last year of my nursing course, I contacted the mission board TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission), and said: “Here I am, I’m available, what have you got for me?”  In my mind I was thinking I might like to go to India or Pakistan, or somewhere in the Middle East.  While I was in Bible School, missionaries who had worked there had come and told us all kinds of stories about their lives in those places, and we would pray for them. So that’s what I had in mind, and I had a feeling that India might be the place...

But in my heart I wasn't that anxious to go to India because of the masses of people there. It would have been so alien for me, having been brought up in the wide-open spaces in Saskatchewan, to be in a place that was so densely populated in comparison.  Anyway, in the end, I asked for something in the Middle East.

They wrote back and said they had something at an orphanage in Lebanon, and I thought well, OK, I could do that, my dad always said I would work in an orphanage because I love babies so much. So I thought maybe that was what I was meant to do.

The UAE Beckons

But then something changed the course of my life. In 1959, a small team, which included Dr. Kennedy, the doctor I would later work with, and a man named Ray Joyce, made a survey trip here, to the United Arab Emirates, which was called the Trucial States at the time. Anyway, the mission decided to open a hospital here, and they needed nurses.

Ray Joyce came back to Canada for a short while in 1960; he was in Toronto mostly, but he went to Three Hills for a conference. I was living in Calgary at the time, taking my nursing course at the General Hospital, but I went to Three Hills for the conference and my Dad came from Saskatchewan.

Ray Joyce made a presentation and he talked about the Trucial States and he had all kinds slides of the area. It was just barren empty desert, but somehow it had a tremendous attraction for me, and I knew for sure that's where I was going, I just knew it. I was sitting beside my Dad in the presentation, and I nudged him and whispered "Daddy, that's where I'm going."

I think he was probably shocked out of his boots!

Related links:
Gertrude's story