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Grace College Chemistry Graduate Serves with Mercy Ships Before Medical School

Mar 22, 2023

Grace College graduate and Warsaw-native Austin Bowell is spending the next four months aboard Mercy Ships, a Christ-centered nonprofit organization that provides free healthcare around the world with its hospital ships. A 2022 chemistry and biology graduate, Austin is seeking to serve and gain cross-cultural healthcare experience before attending medical school this fall.

“Mercy Ships brings people together from around the world,” Austin said. “Volunteers from more than 60 nations are brought together for one purpose — to reflect the heart of Christ by providing healthcare for people in desperate need.”

At the end of her college career, Austin knew she wanted to pursue short-term missionary work before moving on to medical school. When one of her previous teachers told Bowell about Mercy Ships, she knew immediately it would be a good fit. Within a few days of searching its website, a position opened up for a Crew Clinic COVID Assistant. 

“The volunteer description was a literal copy of my resume,” Austin said. “It was as if the position was written for me. I was in awe. God orchestrated His plan, in His timing.”

On the last day of her undergraduate classes, Austin received an offer letter to serve with Mercy Ships from January to July. Weeks later, she arrived at the Global Mercy Ship. Her job was to prepare the ship for the organization’s first field service in Senegal. Now, she is on her first sea voyage aboard the Africa Mercy Ship, sailing to South Africa.

In her role, Austin conducts COVID testing, oversees contact tracing, and ensures the crew is up-to-date on COVID boosters. She also provides first aid in the clinic, and she serves on the EMT team and the safety committee. 

Now a few months into her role, Austin knows this is where she was meant to be. Mercy Ship’s faith-based mission puts into action her desire to bring people hope in the name of Jesus. 

“When Mercy Ships’ volunteers give free medical care to patients, it is a life-saving gift,” Austin said. “It reflects how God gave us the eternal, life-saving gift of His Son that can never be repaid. I feel privileged to be a part of Mercy Ships’ mission and team.”

Austin has enjoyed many unique experiences thus far, like setting up a clinic in a family cabin on the African Mercy Ship due to hospital renovations. 

“I had no idea I would be building a clinic when I arrived at Mercy Ships, but it was so rewarding to watch it come together and now to see patients in the clinic we put together ourselves,” she said. 

As Austin looks ahead to medical school in August, she continues to learn how she can bring her love for Christ into future jobs and throughout medical school. She is grateful to her professors at Grace College for helping her believe that her worth comes from being made in the image of God. 

“It has been easy to go to bed and measure my worth based on what I did well or what mistakes I made throughout the day,” Austin said. “However, I have been continually reminded that my worth is not in my work but in my identity as a child of God.”

Editor’s note: Austin attends Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church in northern Indiana, where she serves in kids ministry. Her father, Ryan, is the executive director of Grace Financial, a national ministry of the Charis Fellowship. A version of this story originally appeared in a press release from Grace College. Find out more about Grace on their website here.