It seems like over the past several years we have completed a lot of applications and now we have added one more to that list. We mailed off our application to World Medical Mission for their Post Residency Program 2009. When we first decided to go serve at a mission hospital we researched several different "sending" agencies and found a tailor made program offered by World Medical Mission. It is part of Samaritan's Purse (Billy Graham's mission organization). It really fills a void that exists in mission organizations for doctors. They understand our current time and financial limitations and work with and/or around those to help get us in the field. It's a brilliant idea really - help usher people into the places they want to serve overseas before they settle down, start a practice, get comfortable and find it more complicated and difficult to leave. So we have our application in for a spot in the program where they connect us with a mission hospital, facilitate all of the paperwork involved for medical licensure, visas, travel preparations, etc. and provide us with a food/housing stipend for two years while we are overseas.
Sounds great, huh? Well we thought so too! I wasn't sure how competitive it was going to be (Rhett thought not at all, I thought maybe a little) so we were a little surprised to hear that last year they had 40 applications for 15 spots. When I first heard that number I was caught up in the "oh, no what if we don't get a spot" thoughts but then the fog cleared and I realized what a sad piece of information that is. There are 40 fully trained and qualified physicians willing and wanting to be sent to bring compassionate care to people in the name of Christ and there is only enough money to send 15? That is an abomination to Mark 16:15 (Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.) and Matthew 28:19 aka The Great Commission (Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . .). As the body of Christ we should be ashamed at our unwillingness to accept and fulfill God's commands and plans for taking the Gospel to all nations.
It is usually at this point that people like to pull out the ole "I'm all about Jesus but I'm not called to missions" card but I hate to break it to you if you are a follower of Christ you are responsible for making disciples of all nations. One scripture often quoted to provide comfort is Matthew 28:20- "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age". If you back up a little bit and read that scripture in context you will find something interesting - in it's entirety it reads: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Did you catch that? In order to get some "I am with you always" you have to "Therefore go". This is Christ's plan to take the Gospel to everyone. We are involved in it but he is in control of it.
Over the past several years as Rhett and I have been grappling with our future plans and praying about going overseas God has done a tremendous work in our hearts relating to missions. Part of that is what I just mentioned - How we ALL have a role in making disciples of all nations. It's the last thing that Christ commanded us to do before he left Earth. So what does that look like exactly? It is more than going on a mission trip once in college and checking that off your list. It is more than sending $50 to another college kid so they can go on a mission trip. It's more than making a special donation at Christmas time for missionaries. Rhett and I have come to truly believe that as followers of Christ we are called to either go ourselves or give sacrificially so that others can go. This is pretty radical is a church culture today that breeds complacency when it comes to the Gospel.
At this point someone might say "Well, what about making disciples here in the U.S. ?Isn't that important too? Who is going to reach all of the people at my workplace, social scene if I run off to Africa?" Good point. I don't believe that everyone is supposed to pick up and go (although a short term trip to a different culture has tremendous benefit for the person going in terms of view of the world) but I do believe that if you stay you have to take your job of disciple making as seriously as someone serving in Africa. I think that is really, really tough. It is really easy to get super comfortable in a busy, wonderful American life and get sidetracked. It is most important for you to be in a place where you are having the biggest effect at the fulfillment of the Great Commission- where ever that geographic location might be. If we can have a bigger impact on the nations by living in U.S. then that is what we will do. If we can reach more people by living in the bush somewhere then that is where you will find us. Remember the light that shine the farthest shines the brightest at home.
I know this is a tough issue that a lot of Christians struggle with. I have struggled with it for years! I am challenged constantly by Jesus' teaching and commands to us as His church. I found comfort in a prayer I read the other day by John Piper. It mentioned something about praying that God would lead you in how you could most be effect in ministry in each phase of your life (singleness, young married, young children, school age children, college age children, empty nest). Each of those phases is very different and our ministry may look different at each of those phases of our life and that is OK too. The most important thing is that we are seeking God's will above our own desires.
So the next big question that we are constantly asked is where are you going???? That is another great question and I wish I knew the answer to that one! We find out about our acceptance to WMM in early September and assuming we are accepted we will start the process of deciding where we will go then. Since Rhett is an HIV/AIDS specialist and will be trained in Tropical Medicine I would imagine that we will be going somewhere that he can apply those skills. I've been scouring the internet researching mission hospitals all over the world. If you know of one please let me know - I will add it to my list! So for now we wait . . .
In the mean time we are busy planning for our 2 month stint in Peru next year. I know this is awfully confusing! We will be in Peru February and March of next year while Rhett completes his Tropical Medicine training. So for now Rhett is busy moonlighting to pick up the enormous tab involved in paying tuition and the expenses of moving a family of 4 to a foreign country for 2 months. I'm busy trying to research life in Peru and figure out how in the world we are going to pack everything we will need in 6 suitcases!
So that is where we are. A lot more questions than answers at this point. We know that the safest place to be is in the middle of God's will and that is where we feel we are. Thanks for all of your prayers and support as we start this long period of waiting and preparation.