Fida Lassang received a full Global Mission Scholarship from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to attend the Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica, an island in the Caribbean. The only condition: to work as a doctor in her community of Ngoundéré, Cameroon, when she finishes.
Fida Lassang didn’t think twice. Time and time again, she has witnessed God working through people, carrying her toward her calling.
“Things have always worked out so perfectly,” she says. “God has always provided.”
The Beginning of a Dream
While living in Cameroon, Fida Lassang applied to Concordia at the urging of an alumnus from Ethiopia. In her mind, even studying in the United States was an unattainable dream.
“I knew I could never study in the U.S.,” she says. “It was something I never dreamed of doing.”
Shortly thereafter, she received a scholarship to be a camp counselor in South Dakota – and an admission letter from Concordia.
On her journey to camp, she shared two flights with a pastor, who would later become one of her mentors.
The camp she worked at was only seven miles from the home of the Rev. Charlie Bunk, a former missionary in Cameroon. He offered to take her on a campus visit and, with faint hope, Fida Lassang agreed to come along.
“I wanted to see Concordia even if I couldn’t go,” she says. “I came and fell in love.”
Even with a generous financial aid package, Fida Lassang knew she couldn’t afford to attend. That is when the church stepped in.
Bunk started asking friends, former missionaries and his four congregations in rural South Dakota to help fund her education.
Another former Cameroon missionary, the Rev. Luther Symons, also joined the tuition team. He invited Fida Lassang to speak to his congregation in Poway, Calif., and travel with them on mission trips.
“She’s absolutely a delightful person, a person of good character,” says Symons. “She’s become very close to my congregation and my own family.”
Fida Lassang was blown away by the generosity of Bunk’s and Symons’ churches. Their kindness paid for her education, one semester at a time.
“They paid for everything,” she says. “I don’t have any loans, and most of the people (who supported me) I have never met.”
But for her benefactors, supporting the aspiring doctor was an easy choice.
“The gifts she will bring back (to Cameroon) will have a profound impact,” says Symons. “She sees it as a calling, not simply a job or task.”
Bunk knows Fida Lassang’s skills and faith will be essential for patient care.
“The most important personal trait for doctors in Cameroon is Christian faith,” he says. “They bring hope and healing in very challenging work conditions.”
Fida Lassang has already gotten countless opportunities to care for the ill. And through the trials, her faith became an everyday necessity.
In her community, getting malaria, typhoid or cholera is a regular occurrence. As a result, she and her family members spent a lot of time at the local hospital built by ELCA missionaries.
She remembers two instances where her mother was miraculously healed – once after childbirth complications and earlier when her mother, who was studying nursing, pricked herself with a needle from an HIV-positive patient. Miraculously, her mother lived and didn’t test positive for HIV.
“My faith played a big role,” says Fida Lassang. “I trusted God that things would work out.”
When she was 15, her youngest brother crawled into a bucket of scalding bath water and suffered terrible burns. Fida Lassang brought him to the hospital and was the only one that her brother would allow to hold him.
She would go on to become the health prefect in her boarding school, accompanying ill students to the hospital and acting as their nurse.
“There have always been incidents that drew me toward medicine and drew me toward God,” she says.
Both her heart and her head have served her well as she has come closer to realizing her vocation.
Dr. Krystle Strand, assistant professor of biology and neuroscience, took note of Fida Lassang’s intelligence, work ethic and respect in her introductory neuroscience course. Since that time, Fida Lassang has assisted her with two research projects on autoimmunity.
“Nathalie’s engagement with research was the same as in her courses – she asked excellent questions, dedicated a great deal of time to the work, was technically very skilled and demonstrated a high level of curiosity – qualities of every good scientist,” Strand says.
What stood out to her even more was the influence that she has on the lives of others.
“Nathalie has richly impacted many lives on campus, in her church community, at her home in Cameroon, and I have no doubt in many other places as well,” says Strand.
Fida Lassang doesn’t take her blessings lightly.
“If there is anybody who doesn’t have an excuse to mess up in life, it’s me,” she says. “There has never been anything that I have needed that I didn’t have.”
As a doctor in Cameroon, she knows she may not always have funds for medicine and supplies, but she also knows that what people need most lies within her – her faith.
“It is my fervent prayer that Nathalie would one day be used by the Lord to bring healing and hope to the gracious people of Cameroon,” says Bunk.