By Tanisha Terry (@xoxotanish)
When I received the phone call from my recruiter telling me that I landed my first travel assignment in the Virgin Islands, I couldn’t believe it! My mouth fell open. I was excited, and couldn’t wait to share the news with all my family and friends. But soon after, my feelings turned from excitement to doubt. I doubted how I would survive living in St. Thomas all by myself, how I would excel as a travel nurse with such limited experience and I questioned why God was calling little Tanisha from Missouri City, Texas to start her travel nursing career on St. Thomas, Virgin Island…
The following Sunday, I came to church with a heavy heart and was greeted by extreme confirmation. Our Sunday school lesson was titled, “Beyond Doubt”, and my Sunday school teacher spoke on believing beyond what you can see. I felt like the lesson was made especially for me. After class, my teacher pulled me aside and asked me how things were going. I broke down in tears and told her that I was feeling extremely doubtful about my upcoming move. She embraced me and reminded me that God is with me; it’s not my job to wonder why He called me, but to be obedient and walk into the new season of life with confidence that He will continue to provide. After church, she sent me a powerful message that got me through the next month of my life when I was feeling down, discouraged and extremely doubtful.
Those words spoke to me louder than anything had in the past few weeks of my life as I was feeling overwhelmed and stressed behind all the work I was putting into starting my new journey. This message provided reassurance in a dark season of my life when I needed it the most. Anytime I started to feel unworthy I reminded myself, “God calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things that He might get the glory“.
As the days came closer to my departure, I became excited and eager to start my new assignment. When I finally arrived in St. Thomas, I remember having an overwhelming sense that I belonged there; that I was being sent with a purpose. I stepped off the plane and saw the following sign…
The first two months of my assignment were filled with partying, boat trips, cliff jumping, island hopping and living on vacation all while wondering, “What am I here for? When will it be my time to be extraordinary?”
The weekend of September 1st, we all received news that a major hurricane was expected to hit the island. Some of my fellow travelers grew worried, some began to frantically prepare and some even chose to evacuate the island. While “Hurricane Irma” was the talk of the town and everyone was in a complete uproar, I had peace knowing that THIS is what I was called for. Finally, it was my time to be extraordinary!
The day before the storm hit, I reached out to my closest family and friends and asked for their prayers. I knew I was being faced with a great task and that I needed all the support they could give. All of the island natives warned me that if the hurricane hit… it would be devastating. We were expected to lose water, power, phone service, and all means of communication. I warned my family that if they didn’t hear from me, don’t worry…I would be fine.
Tuesday night September 5th, I went to work fully prepared. I had a weeks worth of clothes, all my valuables, and food to last for a few days. That night as I made my hospital bed and laid down, I was comforted with tons of encouraging words from my family and friends letting me know that they were praying for me. My Instagram and Facebook were overflowing with messages from people who I didn’t even know; everyone finally got word that Irma, the category five hurricane was headed straight towards me and there was nothing left to do but pray.
On Wednesday morning, I woke up, prepared for work and walked to the unit to receive report. I was in charge that day and remember thinking, “Why me?” My mom texted me her prayer for that morning and said, “When the lights go out, it will be your time to shine.” I knew then that everything would be okay. I put my phone away and began my day. I rounded on my patients and made sure everyone’s needs were met. I looked outside and noticed that the rain and wind began to pick up. Everyone gathered by one big window on the unit as we watched Hurricane Irma begin her wrath. Things quickly escalated from scary to terrifying, so I decided to move my patients from their postpartum rooms to the Labor and Delivery unit for their safety. While transporting my patients I heard loud banging on the door coming from the emergency stairwell. I opened the door and saw other nurses transporting their immobile patients by their mattresses down the stairs to safety. I soon discovered that the windows on the floor above me blew out and the entire floor was forced to evacuate immediately. The hurricane was blowing through the hospital. From that moment on, things were in complete chaos. We were in full crisis mode transporting patients, administering emergency medications, making life-threatening decisions in split seconds and doing everything we could to keep our patients alive.
Out of respect for my company, my hospital and my profession…I choose to spare the details of what went on that day. The hospital was simply filled with, “Ordinary people, doing extraordinary things.“
The days after the hurricane, I was forced to stay at the hospital because the roads were unsafe to drive home. There were huge trees, power lines and remains from people’s homes that filled the streets. I slept in the uninhabitable hospital and I began to wonder, “How would I ever survive?” Friday morning, the curfew that was placed on the island ended and I was finally able to return home. I feared going home alone with no water, no power and a limited supply of food; but I knew I had to. I had to get away from the hospital because it was no longer safe.
When I finally went home, I opened the door to my beachfront condo to discover that the roof caved in, and it too was uninhabitable. I packed everything I could and went to my friend Veronica’s house. We began discussing our options and realized they were slim. My company canceled my contract and booked my flight home for Sunday morning, only to discover that the airport was destroyed as well. I literally felt trapped on the island, and paradise was starting to feel more like my worst nightmare.
With no running water, limited food, no roof, no cell phone service, no internet and people robbing at gunpoint for necessities; my fear finally set in. I became fearful for my life and overcome with emotion. That Saturday night, I sat on Veronica’s sofa and asked God to make a way…
Around six o’clock Sunday morning, Veronica looked out her window and saw a boat. Without hesitation, we packed everything we could and ran to the dock! With a quick confirmation from the captain, we were welcomed onboard and told that we were headed to Puerto Rico. Veronica spoke Spanish and had family in Puerto Rico, so we knew we would be just fine.
(Veronica and I looking extremely rough but very happy to be making our way home).
Once we made it to Puerto Rico, Veronica arranged for her family to pick us up at the marina and I instantly felt peace that everything would be alright. Her family treated us like royalty; they fed us, gave us warm showers and a safe place to stay for the night. When we woke up the following morning, they served us coffee and breakfast sandwiches. They told us they arranged for a driver to show us around town and I couldn’t believe it! Our evacuation was starting to feel more like a vacation.
After rationing our food for days, we were finally able to enjoy eating out, exploring the city and staying at our five-star resort. I owe Veronica and her family endless thanks for their kindness and hospitality. They were there for us in a time of need and reminded me that God will always make a way. Three days after being in Puerto Rico, I was able to fly home to Houston and be reunited with my family. Looking back on my experience in the Virgin Islands, I am so grateful that God saw fit to give me such a task. I hope my testimony serves as a lesson to you all: Go wherever God is calling you, and trust that He will provide!