It’s not that the world of medicine is new to Lynda Kithil.

During her career, she’s seen health care from about as many vantage points as anyone—as a nurse, as Avista Adventist Hospital’s community board member, and as a volunteer on mission trips.

But it’s her recent volunteer work with Global Health Initiatives (GHI), the organization that coordinates international medical aid for Colorado’s Adventist hospitals, that she says has had the greatest impact on her.

“Some of the happiest people I’ve met have been those with nothing,” says Kithil.  “And they’re grateful for so little.”

Kithil will tell you that everyone who goes on a mission trip will come back with a different perspective.  “One thing that changes is your view on happiness. I’ve become less tolerant of unhappiness here in the states, where we have so much.”

The 15 mission trips she’s now been a part of have taken her to Peru, Nepal and Rwanda. A self-declared “behind-the-scenes” person who organizes supplies and recruits team members for these trips, Kithil has had a front-row seat to seeing lives forever changed for the better.

Greg Hodgson, director of GHI, knows that it takes a team to make these trips successful, but is quick to recognize the important role that Kithil plays . “Hundreds of people have received life-changing surgery through our teams, but their success is based on Lynda’s amazing talents,” he says.

As Kithil will tell you, these trips often change the medical team most of all. For her, the contact with some remarkably strong, grateful people has left a lasting impression. Like the woman who delivered her own child all by herself, the women who cry with joy at the chance to have surgery, or the people who have trekked miles on foot in the hope of have a life-changing procedure.

Besides assembling medical resources for the trips, Kithil teaches women better ways to stay healthy in the hopes that it can have a lasting impact on their lives. She implores them to choose healthy diets, to take time off during pregnancy, and to get help during childbirth.

Yet she, like the rest of the team, knows there’s a limit to how many surgeries, educational clinics and deliveries they can perform on a trip. And it’s tough to have to leave. There will always be more women in pain who need medicine or expertise, and that’s why Kithil keeps coming back. “Even though we have to leave, I focus on the good.”

It’s clear that mission work has found its way into her heart—and she’s grateful for it. “If you had told me I’d find this much joy at this stage in my life, I would have laughed. I was happy before,” she says, adding that her work is made easier because of the support she’s been given by Avista.

“Lynda’s work is an inspiration to many of us, and her impact has been far reaching,” says Avista Chief Executive Officer John Sackett, who awarded her the hospital’s Humanitarian Award in 2012. “She embodies what our healthcare work is about—faithful, compassionate service to people wherever the need presents.”

This article was submitted by Stephen King, senior vice president for mission and ministry for the Rocky Mountain Adventist Health System/Centura Health, where he serves the four Adventist hospitals in Colorado. It was written by the CMBell Company.