How Trusting God Led this Bethel Alumna to be a Nurse in a War Zone

One of the biggest life lessons that Major Katie Lunning ’12 has learned is to not say no to opportunities, especially when it is followed by the Holy Spirit’s prompting. She has thrived in her faith and career, shaped by numerous challenges on her journey as a nurse in the National Guard. Lunning is confident that God extends his protection to those He has called to seemingly impossible tasks.

By Marcus Dip Silas S’25, student writer

April 26, 2023 | 10 a.m.

Major Katie Lunning

Major Katie Lunning has served with the Minnesota National Guard for over a decade.

Minnesota Air National Guard Maj. Katie Lunning (Malszycki) ’12 grew up in a Christian home. At an early age, she heard the Gospel message and came to trust in Jesus for her salvation. Christian education was a big part of Lunning’s life and she attended a Christian elementary and junior high school. Her career with the MN National Guard began immediately after she graduated high school. “I worked full time in the Guard for four years, and during that time, I began to have a growing desire to pursue a nursing degree. Eventually, I made the decision to transition into a part time schedule so that I could attend nursing school,” Lunning says.

Faith was an important consideration in Lunning’s choice of a nursing school. When the time came for her to make a decision, she says that Bethel was the best choice for her. “I chose Bethel because I knew it had a great reputation as a Christian school and a solid nursing program.” Lunning has many fond memories of her time at Bethel as a nursing major. She chose to do her clinical at the V.A. Hospital in Minneapolis and had an opportunity to participate in a study abroad program in the United Arab Emirates. Lunning says, “Both the clinical experience at the V.A. and my time in the UAE provided me with formative opportunities to envision a future career as a nurse in the Guard. The UAE experience in particular led me to see people who were culturally different than me in new light. I remember witnessing Jesus having such an impact and movement in a place that does not have the same religious freedoms as we enjoy in America.”

Katie Lunning Graduation

Major Katie Lunning ‘12 graduated from Bethel with her B.S. in Nursing.

After graduating from Bethel with her B.S. in Nursing, Lunning continued her career with the MN National Guard and also worked as an ICU nurse at the Minneapolis V.A. Additionally, she trained to be a critical care nurse on a disaster response team that traveled around America before moving to Iowa with her family. In Iowa, Lunning continued to work as an ICU nurse for Veterans Affairs. In 2021, Lunning was deployed to Afghanistan with the National Guard to aid those who had been injured in the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban.

“Kabul was chaotic and unprecedented,” Lunning says. “I am currently part of a three-person team called CCATT— Critical Care Air Transport Team. The team is made up of a critical care physician or surgeon, a critical care nurse, and a respiratory therapist. When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban and the country descended on Kabul to try and escape, we were tasked with flying out the most critically injured. We flew almost non-stop for three weeks.” Lunning was on the first responding flight after a suicide bomb went off at the Kabul Airport’s infamous Abbey Gate. The blast killed 170 civilians and 13 U.S. service members. Lunning and her team flew six critically injured and 16 injured to Germany on an eight-hour flight. As the Taliban’s chokehold on the city closed dangerously around the airport, Lunning and her team were evacuated on the very last flight out of Kabul.

Maj. Katie Lunning with the two other members of the Critical Care Air Transport Team.

Maj. Katie Lunning with the two other members of the Critical Care Air Transport Team.

“When I am on a mission, I say a quick prayer and then I focus on my job.”

— Major Katie Lunning, critical care nurse
Lunning was recently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the nation’s highest flying award. It was a historic moment as she was the first Air National Guard member to receive the award and joins only a dozen other women in American history to be awarded the honor. While the award recognizes her bravery and service to her country, Lunning credits her faith as the sustaining element in her work. “The missions I am deployed on can be very scary and traumatic,” Lunning says. “Yet, I have faith in God and I know that my life is always in his hands.” Lunning’s favorite scripture is Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Trusting God does not always mean that one’s life will be safe and comfortable, Lunning says, but followers of Jesus will alway have the assurance that God’s presence goes with them wherever they are led to serve.
Maj. Lunning receiving the Distinguished Flying Award on Jan 7.

Maj. Lunning receiving the Distinguished Flying Award on Jan 7.

In a world that is mired by war and conflict, Lunning sees an opportunity to make a difference through nursing. “There is a lot of hope in the nursing profession,” Lunning says. She is a firm believer that nurses are capable of great impact in a hurting world, especially nurses who are motivated and sustained by faith in God. Her advice to nursing students is to not turn down any opportunity. In her own life, she has seen the hand of God directing her path and leading her as she surrenders her own plans in obedience. She encourages those considering a different path in nursing to be open to being challenged and to trust God’s leadership.

“God will create paths to use you in ways you could not even imagine.”

— Major Katie Lunning, critical care nurse
Maj. Lunning is all smiles with her husband and daughter after receiving her award.

Maj. Lunning is all smiles with her husband and daughter after receiving her award.

Lunning lives in Iowa with her husband who serves in the Army and their 9-year-old daughter, Addie. While the couple has appreciated the opportunity to serve their country and make a difference in the lives of people around the world, they are starting to picture their lives as retired U.S. service-persons. Lunning’s hope is to spend time with her family traveling, as they continue to trust God for what the next chapter of their lives will hold.

Your compassion can make a difference.

Bethel’s B.S. in Nursing will prepare you to provide a Christ-like presence in healthcare settings locally and around the world. You’ll gain leadership skills in nursing practice and education so you’re ready to serve a diverse and changing society with excellence.

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