Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Where in the world are we going?

This blog post is a little late in coming - I apologize. We've fallen into a nice routine the past few weeks and I've neglected my blogging. I appreciate all of you who have noticed that I haven't posted in a few weeks! It just goes to show how wonderful blogging is for keeping connected these days!

So the big news that I am late in sharing is that we found out that we got accepted to the World Medical Mission Post Residency Program! We are thrilled because this program is tailor made for people in our position and they know exactly how to help us! Other mission organizations, although great, really struggle to understand the ins/outs of a medical family (especially one just finishing training) and we have heard crazy stories about how they just don't get it. For example, a friend of our is a Pediatric Surgery fellow - very, very specialized and very talented. Most of these surgeons have spent 8-9 years after medical school training to operate on children. It is crazy competitive and you have to be the best of the best. You don't have pediatric surgeons calling your mission agency every day telling you they want to sign up to go to Africa. Well that is exactly what our friend did and explained to the person at a particular agency the geographic area and hospital he had in mind (due to the specialization of his surgery he needs appropriate anesthesia services and post - op care for his patients that isn't available every where in Africa). He was told he needed to think outside the box a little bit and was urged to think about serving in a heath outpost giving immunizations to children. WHAT??? Anyway, that is what we were up against outside of WMM so we are thrilled that we will be a part of their program.

I've decided at this point it would be a lot easier to do a FAQ section since we hear mostly the same questions about this and we have mostly the same answers. So we will catch everyone up . . .

1. Where are you going?
We don't know yet. We are in the process of deciding which is very exciting. We are both ready to know so we can start having a picture in our mind of our life there! We have a shortish list that includes hospitals in Peru, Cameroon, Kenya, Zambia, Papua New Guinea and others. We are in the process of, first of all, praying about where God wants to send us and we are researching places online and through blogs to get as much information about places as we can. We are hoping to know where we are going by the first of the year.

2. Are you taking your kids?

3. How long will you be gone?
Our commitment to this program is for two years. We are open to serving long term after that if it is God's will for our lives. We just want to have an effective ministry. If that is here then great. If that is somewhere that is not here then great. If it is somewhere in between then great! We are not into making 10 or even 5 year plans. We pray that God uses us in different ways during all the different seasons of our lives and ministry so we can be most effective.

4.What will your living arrangements be like?
This is really dependent upon where we end up going. I can answer this in a really general sense. We will most likely be living in a simple apartment/townhouse or small house either on a hospital compound or nearby. It will probably have 2 bedrooms, a living area, kitchen and bathroom. Very simple. We expect it will have electricity some of the time and we are hoping that it has hot water some of the time although this isn't a given! There will most likely not be heat or AC. There will most likely be a washing machine but probably not a dryer (can you say clothesline?) and definitely not a dishwasher. We are really hoping to have internet access from home but this is very place dependent - some places have wifi available and others only have slow connections available from the hospital. It would make communication with our families so much easier. These are all different from our current home but I have to say none of these things really bothers me. I love the simplicity and look forward to a different way of living.

5. Will it be safe?
I truly believe the answer to this question is yes. Of course there are risks living anywhere even in the U.S. After looking at most of these hospitals that we are considering I do believe we will be safe in a general sense but more than that I believe that the safest place that we can be is in the center of God's will for our lives. I know it is terribly difficult for those who love us the most to think about us being in an "unsafe" environment but I think the thing we want to convey is that we are accepting any risk there might be because we think that it is worth it. We have assessed the potential risks to us and our family. We believe that our ministry and our purpose for being there is so important that it is worth the risk involved. We are eternally safe in God's hands and we put our trust in that.

6. How will you get around?
Rhett will most likely be commuting to the hospital on foot each day. Most hospitals have transportation and/or drivers available for longer trips into nearby cities for supplies etc. I've seen a few situations where missionaries like us have purchased their own cars. This will be dependent on where we go obviously. Most of the hospitals are relatively remote. They were mostly built in areas without access to healthcare and little towns or villages have grown up around them. I have some how made it 30 years without learning how to drive a stick shift so I will most like not be driving for 2 years!

7. Are you raising support?
This is another wonderful part of WMM! Along with training and facilitating all of of the documents necessary to make this happen they also partially fund us. I say partially because they basically base their funding on the physician not the family. They will cover all of Rhett's expenses but we are obviosly a growing family with more expenses than a single physician. We will be receiving a housing and food stipend in addition to a modest amount to cover monthly living expenses. They pay for Rhett's plane ticket and his health insurance. That leaves us with a few big expenses: plane tickets for the rest of our family (which depending on the place can run as much as $2,500 a person) and the rest of our family's health insurance which will come out of that monthly living expenses amount as well as a possible vehicle purchase. So our general attitude towards "raising support" is that we know that God will provide for us and we are depending on Him to do so. I don't think that He has brought us to this point and will leave us in a lurch when it comes to paying for our plane tickets to get there!! We are excited to see God work in the details and provide for us. More on our philosophy of raising support later . . .

8. What will you be doing there?
Rhett will be working as a physician in the hospital. His complete job description is totally dependent on where we go and what kind of patients are in the area where we will live so I can't give more detail about that yet. Rhett is trained in Internal Medicine (all adult medical problems) and Infectious Diseases (any and every type of infection, HIV/AIDS) and after his course in Peru will be trained in Tropical medicine (malaria, typhoid, dengue, etc, etc.) so he can expect to take care of patients will all of these problems. Of course in places of limited resources he may be wearing many different medical hats including taking care of children, delivering babies and doing minor surgical procedures. This is going to be a stretch for a guy who wants nothing to do medically with pregnant women or sick children (in fact he cut neither of our children's umbilical cords - not interested!). So we shall see!

My job description is a little more vague. Medically, I'm not sure what my role is going to be. I would love to be involved in any way that I can in service at the hospital. Since I specialize in taking care of really sick kids I'm assuming I can come in pretty handy at times (maybe just to get an IV on a dehydrated baby if nothing else). But I do have my hands quite full at home so that is going to be the primary focus of my time. I will be homeschooling the kids and hope to be involved in some sort of small group and discipleship. I really enjoy children's ministry so I'm sure I'll be involved with kids in that sense too.

Although Rhett's patients and hospital surroundings are going to be very different he is still going to be going to work at a hospital every day. I will have a complete change of operation, however. My days consist of running errands in my car with my kids, going to fun activities with the kids like ballet and the zoo, taking the kids to school and going to the grocery store among other errands. Basically none of those things will be happening in our new location so I'm going to have to re-engineer my whole life. I expect it to be a lot more domestic because I will have a lot of work to do around the house (just hand washing dishes and line drying clothes will take up a lot of time!). There won't be convenience foods so I'll be spending a lot more time in the kitchen. It will be a big adjustment for sure. Again I am in a sense a little nervous about having such big life changes but I also am really drawn to the simplicity and I think it will be wonderful.

9. Did you say "homeschool"?
Yes! At first this was a huge barrier for me to this whole experience. I couldn't imagine my kids not having a traditional school experience. I really struggled with this until I started looking into homeschooling a founds some amazing curriculums out there. I am really excited about this now and think it will be really fun. Again this will all be very different so you have to think outside the box. I've decided on the Sonlight curriculum and can't wait to get started with it. Claire will most likely be doing preschool and kindergarten during those two years (since I'm not bound by her age like traditional school we will just go with what she knows and is capable of doing). The program is set up to teach multiple kids at once so Ford will be able to listen in with Claire and also do age appropriate activites.

10. What is your purpose for being there?
We are there to tell people who have never heard about a loving God who created them and wants to be reconciled to them. We will tell them about a God who loves them and sent his own son to die as an atonement so that we can have a relationship with Him. In short churchy terms we are going to tell the Gospel. We are following Jesus' commandments to all believers to go and make disciples of all nations so that is exactly what we are going to do. In addition to telling people about Jesus we want to help them grow in their faith by learning the Bible and growing in their relationship with Christ (the churchy term being applied here would be discipleship). My heart is really in discipleship. We aren't love 'em and leave 'em types. We really want people to grow and know God.

11. How does your family feel about you going?

This is tough for everyone involved. The last thing we want to do is hurt the people we love the most by leaving them and taking their grandchildren. It is our hope and prayer that God will work through this experience with our families as an opportunity to experience his grace and sovereignty like never before. We truly believe that God will bless the relationships in our family and sustain them even across the miles that will separate us. We aren't even hinting that it is going to be easy. It is going to really tough. We hope that all of our family considers this part of their offering to the Lord.

We plan on having our families come and visit as often as possible. We hope to be connected via technology so they can video chat as often as they want to - I'm sure every day for a while at least! Once again this is tough so your prayer for all of us in this area is much appreciated.

11. Will you be wearing long denim jumpers and have long hair with bangs?
That is what a lot of people think of when they hear "missionary" so I thought I'd stop those thoughts now. No, we are not morphing into some homely little family. I'm sure my kids will be the only ones around wearing smocked stuff (at least for a while!). We plan on being who we are while respecting the local customs (this may mean long skirts however I will avoid denim jumpers at all cost). Just so we are all on the same page . . .

So there you have it - you know what we know. As the details begin to fall into place we will share them with you. We appreciate all of you who read this blog and love us and support us. We are truly depending on you as we start this journey. I'll keep you posted!


Shanan said...

Who hoo! Congratulations. We are so very excited for you guys and what the Lord is going to do in and through ya'll. We hope to get to wherever you are in those 2+ years - as my mom says, life is all about shared experiences. Thanks for the update - I love the new look! Missing you guys! Can you believe Fordy will be 1 in just 2 weeks!!!!!

Katharine said...

Again, we are so excited for you. And so grateful to know you during this time to pray and hopefully encourage. Keep us posted! (pun intended) Love, Katharine

Stephanie said...


erin nolen said...

yay! i can't wait to see all of your adventures unfold as we see God work. can i come take pictures of your kids wherever you are?

Stacy said...

So excited for your family. Keep us posted on where you will end up. Do you choose or do you list preferences? We will definitely be praying for you every step of the way. Mama Townsend has some great "from scratch" recipes if you need - yogurt, bread, the works!

Sarah said...

This is such a great way of letting people know what you're doing. I totally should have done it...would have saved TONS of repetitive conversations!

Your ideas about living a simple life are so true. You will love leaving behind things that we think are absolutely necessary here in America but are actually just luxuries. Don't get me wrong, there will definitely be days you will just want to sit for hours in an air-conditioned Starbucks and hear nothing but English! But you'll realize how much you really DO love simplicity when you come back to America and have to deal with everything again! Ugh.

#11 totally cracked me up. This is something we all need to work on...getting rid of this crazy and very INACCURATE idea of what a "missionary" is! I'm so excited for your family and I love keeping up-to-date through Julie. Maybe we can actually meet someday! Ha ha!