GOSHEN, Ind. — Florence Irene Nafziger, who wrote about her life and mission work as a nurse in India in her book, My Walk With God, died April 9 in Goshen. She was 93.
Nafziger served in India from 1946 to 1984, helping to establish a nursing school at Dhamtari Christian Hospital where she also taught. Afterward, she became an administrator and professor at the Graduate School for Nurses in Indore, India.
She was a graduate of Hesston (Kan.) College, Goshen (Ind.) College, and the nursing program in La Junta, Colo. In 1984, she moved to Goshen to retire and, in 2000, Goshen College recognized Nafziger for her outstanding medical work in India.
Perhaps it was the sicknesses among her family that she experienced as a child growing up in Nampa, Idaho, that fueled Nafziger’s calling to be a nurse. In her self-published book, she wrote of having an appendectomy as a child, and of illnesses endured by her siblings and her parents. Her mother, Lydia Barbara (Birkey) Nafziger, passed away in 1931 when Nafziger was 12.
“It seemed that our family was always paying doctor bills …” she wrote. “Mama was never well. With the advance in medical knowledge that we see today, we realize that now she could have been treated and enjoyed a happy life.”
However, Nafziger also wrote: “Through all of these childhood experiences, there was a secure feeling that we had a loving Father-in-Heaven who cared for us and in whom Mama and Papa trusted.”
This faith would sustain Nafziger through her many transitions from going away to school, to leaving the United States for India, and even her later years in retirement in Goshen. She had many “conversations with God” throughout her life.
One particularly critical talk occurred in 1966 after she was in a near-fatal two-car accident. Nafziger was a passenger and sustained several injuries, including a collapsed lung and severe blow to the head that caused facial damage that required surgery. Glass had to be taken from behind one of her eyes; however, her vision was spared. She spent two weeks in intensive care and was in a cast from her waste to her ankles. Nafziger began doubting God. She prayed.
“‘God, if you are there, let me know!’” she wrote. “And I waited, that’s all. What was the point of saying any more?”
Then she felt the presence of God beside her and heard God speak:
“I wept in relief to hear again the familiar Voice: ‘I AM, and I am with you even during this experience. Don’t be afraid. It will be alright. Trust me and go on.’”
Nafziger is survived by her youngest brother, Mervin, in Sun City, Ariz.; seven nieces and nephews, Carol Schweitzer in Salem, Ore., LaDonna Cappilini in Meridian, Idaho, Dean Nafziger in San Antonio, Texas, Peggy Martin in La Junta, Colo., Steven Nafziger in Pueblo, Colo., Colette Hostetler in Muscatine, Iowa, and Jeanette Pyle in Litchfield Park, Ariz.; 17 great-nieces and nephews; and nine great-great-nieces and nephews.
Memorial contributions may be made to Mennonite Mission Network for the Graduate School for Nurses, Indore, India.
Mennonite Mission Network, the mission agency of Mennonite Church USA, leads, mobilizes and equips the church to participate in holistic witness to Jesus Christ in a broken world. Media may contact Andrew Clouse at email@example.com, 574-523-3024 or 866-866-2872, ext. 23024.