A Christian nurse from Detroit with over 41 years of experience in her profession shared about her life-changing spiritual journey while working in a number of impoverished countries in Asia.
Vicki Augustiniak shares in Really, God-Bangladesh? the physical struggles she went through while traveling and working in several Asian countries, including Bangladesh and the Philippines, as well as the difficulties she faced making sense of things when confronted with the harsh reality people lived in. But she also shares in her book stories of human ingenuity that inspired her the most.
The author and registered nurse says that profits from Really, God-Bangladesh?, published by InspiringVoices, will go toward building a hospital in the Chilmary district of Northern Bangladesh.
Below is Augustiniak' phone interview with The Christian Post on Monday. The transcript is edited for clarity.
CP: What inspired you to write a book based on your experiences?
Augustiniak: When I made the first trip, my husband (Rick) was not with me. And you know how you try to tell someone a story when you come back from a vacation, and suddenly you can't explain everything that you've experienced?
I felt that if I wrote a diary, that when I came back, that he would understand what I had experienced. I also found that writing the diary was very helpful to me. So I kept writing. After the car accident on the third trip in Bangladesh, I just felt that I was supposed to write this down and tell other people. I felt God told me "You need to put it in book form and write it."
CP: What about places like Bangladesh and the Philippines would be most surprising for people who have never visited before?
Augustiniak: The human nature. People are basically the same. You see them loving their families, you see them when we were in the accident and in the hospital, these two women from Bangladesh surrounded me and tried to help me. The human spirit – we are not as different as we think we are. We love our families, we are curious about people from different places. I found a lot of time when I'm working with the local people, they want to know what's going on over here, they want to know about my life.
Sometimes I would bring candy with me, and I would offer it to them. And just like anyone, they want to taste it. The same things we go through-life.
CP: Did you struggle with anything on a spiritual level during those trips? Did other things strengthen your faith?
Augustiniak: The first time I went, seeing the poverty in Bangladesh, and the amount of people, it really reminded me about what I would read about Christ's time. There was not a lot of farm machinery that I saw, and we traveled for hours on the road through some of the really remote areas. You see the rice paddies and people out on the field. You see the women dressed with the scarves covering their heads, and the men dressed in loincloths. And we would see brick-making, and the little towns that you go past, and everybody has their little shop.
Knowing where I live, and where we come from, and seeing what's there, I was overwhelmed by all of that. It was like going back in time. I struggled with making sense of all of that in the world that I live in, and what I'm seeing in a different country.
I really wrestled with overpopulation, and the value of people in general and the value of people who live in poverty.
I finally came to terms, and said "God, you are either real, or you're not real." And I gave my heart over to Jesus again, in a real profound spiritual way. It made me really rethink a lot of things. And I can honestly say I was forever changed by the experience.
CP: What was the most difficult part of your journey and work? What was the most inspiring?
Augustiniak: The most difficult part was actually the physical part of the journey. When we go to Bangladesh, we go from here to Tokyo, which is about 13 hours on the plane, then we deplane for about an hour, then we go to either Singapore or Thailand, which is about 7 hours on a plane. Sometimes we spent 7 or 8 hours in those countries, and then we go to Bangladesh.
We're driving 8 to 10 hours on a bus through town after town on a two-lane highway. I have a lot of fear on the drive. There are people, there are spikes, it's very narrow transportation, near misses all the time, and then we were in that accident. So I have a lot of fear on the trip.
Once I am at the final destination, there is peace, and I feel like I am home with friends, because I have gotten to know these people.
As for what inspired me, [it was] the ingenuity of people. Sometimes I laugh, because if we have to do sometimes here in the States, we have to go through several committees to get things done. They don't have to go through a committee. They see a problem, and they solve it.
The example I have of this, is we had guys outside playing soccer. They were having a game and [the soccer coach] kicks a ball, and it breaks the window. The next day, they had fishing nets to act as a net, so that [the ball] would not break another window. As soon as they had a problem, they were fixing it.
That part impresses me so much. You can be poor, but you can take care of things. You're working, you keep working, there was not a lot of lazing around. If you're doing a project, you're doing a project.
CP: What is the message you hope people will take from the book?
Augustiniak: My goal in writing the book is to build a hospital in Bangladesh. What I hope they take away from the book is that you don't have to be a superstar to do little things that change people's lives. That you don't have to have great talents. I am not the super nurse, I am a human beings, who has worked hard at my career. I still don't do it perfectly.
If you cannot do it physically yourself, then you need to understand that you [can] support the people who can. I tell people that its their responsibility to do their homework and find groups who use the money correctly. I don't recommend that people give their money to (those) who will take their money.
I came from simple means, and I'm not making this huge impact on the world, but I have contributed to trying to make things better.