Borward Profile Joe Borward '12

From War to Nursing

Having escaped civil war in Liberia, nursing student Joe Borward ’12 wants to care for others.


“What really brings joy to my heart is seeing people who are down and out come back again,” says Joe Borward ’12.  He’s experienced this redemption firsthand, having escaped civil wars in his native country of Liberia.

Joe was 11 years old when war erupted in the west African coast country. “There were five or six years of civil war,” he explains. “But I don’t like to reflect on it very much because I lost my family. It was a bad experience.”  As Joe tells it, two tribes were fighting each other, and then everyone joined in as fighting continued.

Liberians took extreme measures for safety. “Out of anger and to protect myself, I carried a gun around with me,” explains Joe. “People older and younger than me were also carrying guns. It was a disaster because there was no law.”

As war raged on, Joe was able to escape, boarding a ship that took him first to Nigeria and then on to Ghana where he stayed for seven years. Joe’s older brother was already in America and through an American refugee program, filled out the necessary paperwork to allow Joe to come to America.

Upon arriving in 1999, Joe got his GED from Job Corps, received an associate’s degree in human services from Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and began working at Regions Hospital as a nursing assistant. “While working at Regions, people kept on telling me how good I would be as a nurse, so I decided to go back to school,” he says.

After completing his prerequisites at St. Paul College, Joe researched nursing programs, including Bethel’s. He thought, however, Bethel would be financially impossible for him. Still, he submitted an application and was called in for an interview. To his surprise, he was accepted and began in fall 2008 with financial aid and scholarships.

“I’ve always been this caring person that stood for justice,” Joe says of himself. “After seeing what I’ve seen and knowing what I know, I feel more of a responsibility to do something. Before I just thought I should help this person or that person. Now, it’s much more of a responsibility to help people.”

This includes attending to the mental health of people and approaching medicine in a holistic manner—healing the person physically, mentally, and spiritually. Joe’s studies are reinforcing this approach to nursing.  “Bethel has added a lot of value to me and has challenged me in so many ways in my life,” he says. 

Joe plans to graduate in 2012, is working to start a Bible study at Regions Hospital among his coworkers, and continues to seek God. His Christian walk has not been easy, but as each new challenge comes his way, Joe just reminds himself, “There’s no problem that’s too big that you can’t go through.”