By Rachel Keifer, C’20
In support of my goal to attend veterinary school after graduation and with the support of the Office of Competitive Fellowships, this summer I hopped on a plane to Central America to spend a week serving alongside Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM). My understanding of a career in veterinary medicine was transformed by spiritual, relational, and medical connections.
This trip took me outside my comfort zone. Within 48 hours of arrival, I was plunged into the reality of poverty. After meeting in San Jose, our CVM team began the week by setting up shop in Guarari, a suburb outside the city. Surrounded by “squatters,” homeless individuals surviving in small metal shacks stacked in the valley, the team settled in a warehouse about the size of my kitchen. During our mission, hundreds of local Costa Ricans flooded our small workspace, gripping their scrambling dogs, fearful kittens and even the occasional rabbit to see if we had room to care for their animal. Some waited for up to 10 hours to get their animal onto a surgery table, denoting the severe need in the area for basic veterinary services.
For two days, we vaccinated, spayed, neutered and dewormed. It was exciting when the two techs and I working the front table assumed specific roles and worked efficiently together. By day two, we were measuring dosages, loading syringes, and talking with clients like a well-oiled machine! I learned to administer various types of injections and practiced assisting in the operating room. The veterinarians patiently performed surgeries until late at night. Their impressive flexibility and quick decision-making during operations and anesthesia procedures was educational in itself.
By the end of each day, every member of the team was exhausted from hours on the job. Yet, while our team cared for more than 400 animals, the mission didn’t exclude our patients’ humans. We began the day by praying with the locals. As we explained that we were there to bring hope in the name of Jesus Christ, beautiful smiles beamed from behind tired eyes and messy hair, and in these moments, peace replaced the chaos of the stuffy warehouse room. By the grace of God, our mere presence brought great joy to the struggling community, and I pray that I will never forget their patience, kind spirits, and grateful hearts. We ended each day with team devotions for one to two hours, regardless of the workday’s length, signifying the priority of the mission to give every ache, pain, or success to God.
This CVM mission resonated with me. Through vet medicine, we had the chance to serve the people by providing expensive procedures for free. One of our leaders, Dr. Katie, began the trip by saying, “I love animals just as much as anyone, but it’s not about them. It is about the people. We are here for them.” In other words, if a few hundred vaccinations meant that one person saw the love of God in action—that He is giving, He is kind, and He is patient—the trip was successful.
I am so grateful for this professional and spiritual development opportunity. I am more excited than ever to do God’s work in the way He has planned for my life. As John Paul the Great said, “Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure!” This summer was no exception!