Birthing Nursing Ministries
KIRKLAND, Washington — Growing up delivering lambs on a farm gave rise to Ashley Ott’s aspiration of a veterinarian career. However, while on a short-term missions trip to the village of Silk Grass in Belize at the age of 17, Ashley had the opportunity to catch a human being at birth. She sensed God switching her vocational plans to nursing.
The Kent, Washington, native graduated from Northwest University, the Assemblies of God school here in Kirkland, in 2005. She spent the next 14 years as a cardiac surgical nurse at St. Joseph Medical Center in nearby Tacoma.
But during that span, Ott continued taking short-term missions trips overseas, this time as a nurse. Her locus has been Belize, the same Central American country where she sensed God’s calling as a teenager. As she traveled that nation, she became familiar with the medical struggles residents face, often chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. In 2018, she founded Hummingbird Medical Resources to help mitigate some of the suffering.
In partnership with the Belize Red Cross, Hummingbird Medical Resources provides supplies such as blood pressure cups and glucose machines. After becoming a registered nurse in Belize, Ott expanded the mission of her nonprofit ministry to include preventative education and screenings. Hummingbird representatives visit schools to teach about nutrition and also conduct home health visits in villages. In addition, they offer spiritual hope through prayer.
“We provide opportunities to evangelize, train disciples, share personal testimonies and be the hands and feet of Jesus wherever we may go,” Ott says.
Ott, who earned her master’s in public health nursing in 2021, now is associate professor at Northwest University’s Buntain College of Nursing.
“It’s rewarding to be back at Northwest University investing in others, as Northwest did in me,” says the 39-year-old Ott, who remains bivocational. Besides teaching, on weekends and during summers she is a home hospice nurse for MultiCare Home Health & Hospice in Tacoma.
As a faculty member, she teaches nursing students about community health, oversees an outreach team to the homeless, and places seniors in hospital internships.
In conjunction with the school, Ott leads groups of six to eight nursing students on three- to four-week mission trips to Belize. Students gain cross-cultural nursing experience. Ott has discovered more than a few nursing students are interested in a career as a missionary.
That includes Sarah Garat, a Duvall, Washington, native who knew she wanted to combine her spirituality with her vocation when she entered Northwest University.
“Ashley showed me how my faith could motivate me as a nurse,” says Garat, a 21-year-old senior at Northwest University who has been mentored by Ott. “She walked me through building cross-cultural relationships in a hospital setting.”
In her first time outside the U.S., Garat in the summer of 2022 went to Cambodia on a volunteer nursing outreach with a secular organization. During the monthlong expedition, she repeatedly engaged in social messaging back and forth with Ott — who in that span lived in not only the U.S. but also Belize and Burundi as well.
“Despite her schedule, Ashley still made me a priority,” says Garat, who will graduate in May. “She gave me advice and concrete examples of what it looks like to be creative in nursing in a developing nation.”
Garat currently is seeking the Lord’s direction about her future, but she hopes to be involved in community development and nursing education in Cambodia.
“Ashley has given me opportunities by paving the pathway,” Garat says. “She brings so much passion, energy, education, and experience to the Buntain College of Nursing.”
Burundi figures in Ott’s future. Two years ago, she married Janvier Nkurunziza, a Christian whom she met in the country. He is awaiting a move to the U.S. In the meantime, the couple have launched Mosaic Project.
“Our ministry passions and callings aligned,” says Ott, who now uses her husband’s surname. The Mosaic Project takes a holistic approach to helping women and children who have been sexually trafficked, as well as treating malaria, sexually transmitted diseases, and childhood respiratory troubles. Women receive counseling for abandonment and a lack of self-worth. A sewing ministry launched by Mosaic helps the women learn a trade to emerge from poverty.
LOWER PHOTO: Sarah Garat (left) went on a nursing outreach last year to Cambodia.