Norwich nurse takes on refugee mission in Mexico
Bridget Carroll has run away with a circus, worked in an army hospital and now is about to start work as a missionary nurse in Mexico.
Bridget Carroll, who until recently was worshipping at St Stephen’s church in Norwich, is now working at a mission station on a site donated by a Christian convert who used to be a member of a drugs cartel. Working with refugees and asylum-seekers, she is right on the northern border of Mexico at Reynosa, some 50 metres away from the United States.
The neighbourhood is characterised by drugs, people trafficking and violence. For Bridget, getting a car will be essential, because taxi drivers refuse to go there, and walking or using public transport are out of the question.
To others it might seem unappealing, but to her it is the culmination of a lifetime of training and dreaming.
Bridget comes from a well-known Norfolk family: her father, Peter, founded the Christian conference centre at Letton Hall. The family moved there when she was 12 and her brothers were teenagers, Peter having raised the finances by running a furniture factory in Kent.
The farming family which had owned Letton Hall neglected the upkeep. It was cold and full of dry rot, and the many leaks from the roof were solved by putting buckets underneath. But the family was on a mission, and they turned it around, the brothers laying down the now-famous go-kart track.
Six months into the project tragedy struck. Bridget’s mother had been suffering from coeliac disease, but now she suddenly developed an aggressive cancer, and within weeks she was gone. “I was very angry with God,” said Bridget. “We had moved here with nothing for miles around, people were praying – and then this.”
The downward spiral began. Bridget’s academic work gradually fell apart, and she failed her A levels. “I was looking for love in all the wrong places,” she said. She took a ‘gap year’, went to Australia and ran away with a circus.
“It was the darkest year of my life,” she said. “Everybody in the circus was running away from something, and there were some very nasty people.”
Drugs, immorality, fighting - in a strange way, it was a training ground for what was coming in Mexico. It was also, ironically, where she found her vocation. She was mopping up blood one day in a bar when someone said to her: “You should be a nurse.”
She came back to England and trained to be a Registered General Nurse. She loved the job, and the job loved her. Soon she was climbing the career ladder and won a position in Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.
“On the surface it looked as if I had everything,” she said. “A flat in London, a great social life, good holidays. But on the inside, I was screaming and empty. Going to church made me cry, and it was easier to stay away. I had a string of bad relationships, which would always end in tears.”
In the end, she burned out, and in her thirties decided to take a second ‘gap year’. By now she had discovered scuba diving, which set the itinerary for her: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica, the Cook Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia. “It was glorious,” she said. But after a year under water, she remembered that she enjoyed nursing, and got a job with an agency in Auckland.
The void was still there. “If I can’t save myself, I’ll save the world,” she thought. There was civil unrest going on in the Solomon Islands, and she volunteered at the army hospital.
Soon she was spotted by World Vision, who invited her onto staff. At the time she had no idea that it was a Christian organisation. On the first morning the country programme manager invited the team to begin the week with prayer. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she thought.
It got her talking to God again. Back in Auckland, she accepted an invitation from a flatmate to go to church. “At the altar call, my hand went in the air,” she said. “No-one was more shocked than me, but that was the moment when everything changed.”
It opened an intense time of healing, and the void began to fill. Two years later she was on a mission trip to Rwanda, and then joined a Bible school in Pemba, Mozambique with Iris Ministries. She would spend four years in Mozambique, finding her niche as a nursing missionary in the bush.
Once caught, the missionary bug would not respond to antibiotics. 2012 found her in the Peruvian jungle, teaching hygiene and sanitation to the remote Urarina tribe. Then back to England for a stint at Monkton Combe Christian school, imparting inspiration to missionary kids.
In August 2022 came the opportunity to attend a missionary conference in Holland. Josh and Olivia Muse from Kaleo International were there, who were evangelising in Reynosa. They prayed with Bridget, and as they finished, she said, “I’m coming.”
She will be nursing at a centre for people trying to enter the United States: Haitians fleeing the violence in their country, alongside Central and South Americans. The neighbourhood is dangerous, but the cartels have come to respect the humanitarian work of Kaleo and give them a call if there is trouble brewing.
Bridget began her mission on Tuesday February 22, supported by St Stephen’s Church and friends. If you would like to join them, you can contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Holy Spirit is very much at work,” she said. “If you partner with Him, you’d be amazed at what He wants to do.”
Pictured above is Bridget Carroll.
Eldred Willey, 17/03/2023