Q&A with Mercy Medical Team Volunteer Hayden Rensner
The Concordia University, Nebraska, student has served on two trips to Sierra Leone.
Although 20-year-old Hayden Rensner describes herself as a “homebody,” she’s traveled to Sierra Leone twice — first in 2018 and again in 2019 — to help provide medical care to underserved people through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Mercy Medical Team (MMT) program. The Effingham, Ill., native first learned of MMTs from a missionary who spoke at her home congregation. When the program was discussed again at Concordia University, Nebraska, where she is a student, Rensner was finally ready for the challenge and old enough to apply.
How did you get involved with MMTs?
A: Freshman year of college I joined my campus mission club, and a brochure was handed out about Mercy Medical Teams. … Before I knew it, I had applied, gone through the phone interview, and been accepted on the LCMS’ first MMT to Sierra Leone.
Why did you decide to return to Sierra Leone?
A: As soon as I was back in the States and had a few months to process the trip, I was itching to go back. … My dad actually ended up serving as the chaplain [on the second MMT]. It was a very unique and rewarding experience to be able to do something like this with my father. I was able to reconnect with Sierra Leone nurses and pastors whom I had met the previous year. When he saw me this year, local Sierra Leone Pastor Stephen Ngaujah said, “My sister! You came back!”
What is most challenging about serving on an MMT?
A: The most challenging thing is processing everything throughout the week and upon returning to the States. MMT weeks are physically and emotionally exhausting. … Last year, I was so focused on working to the best of my abilities that I kind of pushed some things to the back of my mind. When I returned to the United States, I was really overwhelmed at the poverty I had witnessed and felt guilt and anger at the unfairness of our world.
What is most rewarding?
A: In just one week, I fell in love with the people and country of Sierra Leone, and I saw God at work in amazing ways. While I might not see the people of Tuyama again, I can remember the absolute joy that I experienced during my time with them, and I can look forward to Jesus coming again, when all God’s children will be brought together from all around the world.
How did the experience impact you?
A: [It] changed me in ways I didn’t think possible. I went from being a strict homebody that would not even spend the night with friends, to taking a trip to Africa with people I didn’t know, to falling in love with Africa and searching for ways that I can help further God’s mission here at home and abroad.
What would you say to someone thinking about going on an MMT?
A: The rewards far outweigh the challenges. Spend focused and intentional time in the Word before, during and after. As you embark on the MMT, be present in the moment, and be watchful for the things that God is trying to teach you.
Megan K. Mertz
Managing Editor of Lutherans Engage the World and chief copyeditor for LCMS Communications.