This thanksgiving I thought I’d write about how I’m thankful for the way in which God has orchestrated my life to prepare me for the mission field. I’ll try to put them in chronological order, but some are rather nebulous in time.
Second-born child, but first-born daughter-This took some of the pressures off being the oldest, but as the oldest daughter, I was often given responsibilities my sisters did not have until I left for college-much later than I started. This allowed me to develop some leadership skills (sitting on your sister when she doesn’t do her chores is appropriate leadership, right?).
He put it in my heart from an early age. When I was little, adults used to ask what I wanted to do when I grew up. I often answered I wanted to be a doctor or a missionary. I don’t know exactly where this response came from, but it’s what I would say.
Since my mom worked second shift, and my dad worked late in the winter months (tax season), I often had to make the meals for the family. It first started as ‘heat up the leftovers in the fridge’, and gradually developed to ‘make spaghetti and sauce’, etc. We often also baked together, especially around the holidays. This cooking knowledge has been helpful since most things I eat are made from scratch. Had I not learned to cook, I would struggle more.
We often traveled during the summers. I can remember camping, peeing in the woods, using pit-toilets (and that was at the rest area!), and other interesting places to relieve ourselves. Since most places I’ve visited in Africa have pit toilets, it wasn’t a big deal to me to use them, nor the ‘squatty potty’ so very common there. It may seem an odd thing to be thankful for, but I’ve seen some missionaries who had a hard time with this. For them, I’d suggest to invest in a ‘Go Girl’. Mom also taught me an important lesson when it comes to bathroom breaks: You can always at least try. You never know when your next chance is going to be, or if it will be among biting ants (been there, done that.)
Growing up, I enjoyed reading books based in the 18th and 19th centuries, pioneering, traveling and working in the old west. It may seem odd, but this has actually helped me, as living in Impfondo is like a strange mix of 19th and 21st century mixed together. Women still go to get water, most often from a pump well. Most things are made by hand, and from scratch-no Lean Cuisine dinners there. I had read about killing and plucking chickens, killing goats, farming (with a hoe, not a tractor), and many other things that have helped me be more aware of how things are done, and not be too surprised. There are sometimes certain words, or items that I know, only because I read those books.
He also placed people in my life to influence my desires to be a missionary. My own family doctor used to take missions trips to haiti each year. In college I met other missions minded people, which expanded my horizons of possibilities in the mission field. College afforded me my first trip to Africa, where I fell in love with the continent. Medical school allowed me to return, and spend two months there. In residency I was able to make several short term trips to Kenya, Uganda, and Ecuador. Each of these gave me insights into different ways of doing missionary medicine, in different settings.
The process which brought me to be a post-residency fellow with Samaritan’s Purse is quite a long and strange route. I met some people while on my medical school rotation in Kenya. A year after I returned, the wife of the couple died suddenly. I went to the funeral. At the meal afterwards, I met a resident at IU who did an internship at Kijabe Hospital in Kenya. He stated that there was a need for doctors, especially surgeons, at that hospital. Just a month or two prior, my attending for my surgery rotation mentioned he’d like to take a trip to Africa with his daughter in the summer of 2008. We had discussed combining forces to work in a hospital in Kenya. I contacted Kijabe hospital, who stated they could use both of us, but we needed to complete an application through World Medical Mission. This is the first I’d heard of them. The next fall, I went to the Medical Missions conference in Louisville, KY. There I met Scott Reichenbach, then the director of the Post-Residency Program. I wasn’t really planning on stopping at that booth, but I noticed the photo of a resident who had been at my program the year before I started residency. I asked about her, and soon we were talking about the program. From my time in Kenya in medical school, I knew I wanted to do long term missions, but was a little hesitant/unsure how to go about it. This program seemed like a nice way to bridge the gap between residency and full-time missions. It’s a wonderful program!
There are myriad other ways in which He’s prepared me that are not listed here. Friendships, other events, professors, courses, familial encouragement have all played a part.
Thank you, Lord, for how you have guided me, and how you will continue to guide me. Help me keep my ears and eyes open to your will for my life.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future.”