We Are All Missionaries
A collaborative article by CMDA Members
Today's Christian Doctor - Winter 2012
In 1953, Dr. Richard Scheel was serving as a medical missionary in Ethiopia. In an article published by the Christian Medical Society Journal, he outlined several Scripture passages showing that Jesus was a medical missionary and encouraged others to follow in His footsteps. He wrote, “Therefore, in obedience to His command we should go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
He went on to issue a challenge to all CMS members that they were all missionaries, whether they served at home, in a foreign country or at work: “To be a missionary means to be a witness. Right where you are, right now, God expects you to be a soul-winner. The practice of medicine in America and in Africa should have the identical motive—to bring men and women to Christ.”
That is a command we still share today. As an organization, CMDA is dedicated to both domestic and international missions, and we focus many of our ministries on those goals. Through these outreaches, we provide numerous opportunities for healthcare professionals to use their God-given skills to meet the needs of others around the world and to share the gospel with them.
And our members actively accept the challenge issued by Dr. Scheel so many years ago. They spend their vacations going on short-term mission trips; they take time away from their practices to help those in need in their hometown; they leave home for years at a time to serve overseas on a long-term basis; and they remain committed to preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth.
We’ve asked several members to tell us how they are answering the call to be missionaries. They share their journeys—the steps they’ve taken along the way, the mistakes they’ve made, the struggles they’ve endured and the joys they’ve experienced. How are you answering the call to be a missionary?
GOT IS AT WORK IN AND THROUGH US
by Andrew S. Lamb, MD, FACP
In November 2000, I went on a Global Health Outreach medical mission trip with team leader Dr. Andy Sanders to Uspantan, Guatemala. It was a time, a person and a place that God used to begin a transformation in me that altered the path of my life.
It was a critical time in both my personal life and medical career. My medical practice was busy with a full outpatient clinic and an overwhelming inpatient service and hospital call. I also served as president of our four-site multi-specialty group practice. At home, the teen years were hitting with full rebellious force as my sons reached that age of pushing the limits. My spiritual walk was strong . . . or so I thought. In truth, I had become self-righteous and judgmental without recognizing it. I was depressed, burning out and wondering if I had made a mistake going into medicine.
Then the CMDA brochure advertising the GHO trips arrived in the mail. I thought, “Why not?” It would be fun, an adventure, an opportunity to serve. My motives in signing up for the trip all revolved around me and my wants and desires. I chose the November Guatemala mission because it was 11 months away, giving plenty of time to prepare. But nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced on that first mission trip. God absolutely blew me away during that week. He showed me that it is ALL about Him and not about me, that the needs of the world are great and that even one person like me can make a difference. And just like that, my transformation started.
More than 12 years and 24 short-term mission trips later, I’m still being transformed. I started leading GHO trips as a team leader in 2005 and now lead three trips each year to Moldova, El Salvador and Nepal. I am blessed beyond measure to serve with team members and national partners who make me an intimate part of their family. All of this occurs while we reach the most beautiful, yet desperately poor and lost people in the far corners of the world with the Good News.
Being involved with GHO opened the door to a passion that I never knew I had —discipleship and mentoring. After serving as the team leader on my first trip, Dr. Andy Sanders continued to teach, disciple and mentor me for years to come. God used Andy’s example to show me that He is rising up a remnant in this young generation, and He is going to use it in a powerful way for His Kingdom work. I have served with hundreds of young people and healthcare professionals on the mission field. I am always greatly encouraged by these people who have amazing servant hearts for Christ. Yet, they need someone to help guide and direct them through as they face the challenges and obstacles of our world. So I began investing in them any way I could—one-on-one talks, frequent encouragements and countless letters of recommendations for schools or employment. I listen as they relate their fears, hopes, dreams and faith struggles. I try to be a safe place where they can be transparent. Over the years, I have watched as these same young people move on to all areas of life and impact their families, peers and patients with God’s love and grace.
God also gives me the opportunity to disciple others in my home medical community. During the last three years, I have been discipling two of my peers whose once “in control” lives came crashing down around them. I was privileged to lead them to Christ and we now meet on a weekly basis. One of them is a cardiologist who went on his first GHO mission with me in 2011. God used the team and the people of Nepal to soften his heart and draw him to Christ. I spent many hours praying with him, encouraging him and loving him as his heart was broken by the things that break God’s heart. The second physician is a vascular surgeon who went on his first GHO trip with me to Moldova earlier this year. Before our trip, I said that I could not wait to see all that God would do in and through him on the journey. And I certainly was not disappointed.
GHO played a major role in my life, first through my own discipleship and spiritual growth and now in the reversal of roles as I do the same with others. I frequently tell the GHO leadership team how thankful I am to be part of this God-ordained organization. My life will never be the same and my prayer is that God will continue to use me to help change the hearts and lives of others.
About the Author
Andrew S. Lamb, MD, FACP, spent the first 37 years of his life in or around the U.S. Army, growing up as an army “brat” and moving nearly every year. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1977, and married his wife Cathy two weeks after graduation. They served in Germany for three years before he decided on a medical career. He graduated from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in 1984. While serving at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he deployed to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm as Chief of Medicine for the 86th Evacuation Hospital. In 1992, he entered private practice at Kernodle Clinic in Burlington, North Carolina, where he remains in full practice. He serves as a GHO team leader to Moldova, El Salvador and Nepal. Dr. Lamb and his wife Cathy have three sons and reside in North Carolina.
TRAINING AND HEALING THROUGH PAACS
by Bruce C. Steffes, MD, MBA, FACS, FWACS, FCS (ECSA)
The sign over the exit door in the church proclaimed, “You are now entering the mission field.” In his article, Dr. Scheel made the same point—we are all called to proclaim the gospel no matter where God puts us. That is the principle underlying all that the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS) does. We are training young African physicians to meet the unmet need of surgery in sub-Saharan Africa. In a recent article published in the New York Times, the point was made that 56 million people need surgery today. We know that all of those need healing of their souls as well as of their bodies.
PAACS is a commission of CMDA and was founded in 1996. We now have 40 residents in training with more expected in 2013. We have 27 national and career missionaries serving as faculty for eight programs in Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Gabon, Niger and Bangladesh, with others hoping to join us. Last year, more than 150 short-term faculty volunteers came and made a difference in the lives of African men and women. A total of 25 general surgeons and three pediatric surgeons have graduated, and virtually all are serving in underserved rural or urban areas, sharing Christ as they use their surgical skills.
General surgery in the developing world is surgery of “the skin and its contents.” Short-term missionary surgeons and physicians are vital in teaching both the faculty and residents the skills they will need when they are the only surgeon for up to 2.5 million people. Earlier this year, I was making teaching rounds as a “visiting professor.” One resident would occasionally disappear and someone else had to give the report on the missing resident’s patient. Concerned about the work ethic and sense of responsibility he was showing, I was about to upbraid him when he pulled me aside and apologized for his absence. He led three people to the Lord on rounds. His example of making the main thing the main thing took the wind from my sails. I could hardly say, “Well, it is okay this time but don’t let that happen again!”
As I serve on various mission fields, it is exciting to get to know these young men and women. It is deeply satisfying to watch them and see the mentoring and teaching blossom in their lives. Frehun Ayele, a product of both general surgery and pediatric surgery training within the PAACS system, is scheduled to return soon to Addis Ababa in his home country and start a pediatric surgery program at Myungsung Christian Medical Center. He writes, “Calling doesn't mean comfort or lack of conflict. It is clear and continuous assurance by God Himself. In my seven years in PAACS, there have been many achievements and many frustrations, but the quality of PAACS training is obvious all over East Africa. There is wonderful leadership and great work for God. But for me, PAACS is more than that: it means God's way and His means of pushing me closer to His calling and to the way of life He intended me to live.”
As the result of a personal spiritual crisis, I walked away from my practice in the U.S. 15 years ago, not knowing what God would have for me. I ended up being a “missionary.” Why do I continue to be an unpaid volunteer missionary with PAACS? Because God is working and I get to have a front-row seat. PAACS is serious about both professional training and discipling because it may ultimately affect the entire continent. I do it because I see graduates returning to other hospitals, making a difference not only spiritually and medically but also in the financial security and level of care in these hospitals. I also support PAACS because it is the most cost-effective ministry I know. For the price of supporting one North American missionary for five years, we can train four African physicians for five years.
Most of all, I am a “missionary” in the sense that Dr. Scheel meant because, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “. . . Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (TNIV). I must be a missionary because I understand what a tremendous price Christ paid for me and I do not wish to live for myself.
About the Author
Bruce C. Steffes, MD, MBA, FACS, FWACS, FCS (ECSA), has served as the Executive Director of PAACS since 2006. He has been a member of CMDA since 1974, and is also a member of the Continuing Medical and Dental Education Commission. He graduated from the University of Michigan, studied surgery at the University of Florida and received an MBA from Duke University. He is also certified in tropical medicine by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Dr. Steffes is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the West African College of Surgeons and the College of Surgery of East, Central and Southern Africa. He and his wife are authors of Medical Missions: Get Ready, Get Set, Go! and Your Mission: Get Ready, Get Set, GO!, both available through the CMDA Bookstore.
HOW GOD TRANSFORMED MY LIFE
by George Stewart, MD
As I prepared to retire from medical practice in the fall of 2005, I was sad because I felt as though 40 years of training, research and experience in pulmonary disease and critical care medicine were being discarded. But God knows better.
In October 2005, I accepted Christ as my Savior and Messiah. That sadness I was feeling quickly transformed into joyfulness as I discovered a new purpose for my training. Instead of wasting four decades of experience, God opened the door for me to become involved in international medical education. In May 2006, I participated in my first medical mission trip to Liberia in West Africa. I was part of a mission team from our church with three pastors and three doctors. That first trip profoundly affected me. After seeing the devastation at Liberia’s JFK Medical Center, I returned to my home in Alaska committed to helping find the equipment and supplies needed at the hospital. Since that time, I have returned to Liberia on three more mission trips teaching providers how to use the materials we were able to send them.
It wasn’t until I returned from my first trip to Liberia that I became involved with CMDA. At a meeting of the Christian Medical/Dental Fellowship in Anchorage in 2006, I had the privilege of meeting CMDA’s CEO Dr. David Stevens. At his suggestion, I joined CMDA and got involved with Medical Education International, one of CMDA’s outreach ministries. In 2007, I went on my first MEI trip to Kazakhstan. I was so honored and delighted to be part of this teaching ministry. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, and God enabled me to share my medical knowledge with the medical students and my love of Christ when the opportunity arose.
My involvement with MEI and CMDA has continued to grow during the last few years. I have participated in three trips to China, even functioning as the team leader on one trip, and I am also now a member of the MEI Advisory Board.
It is truly a blessing to have these opportunities to respond to God’s calling. Since coming to Christ in 2005, my path has been filled with joy, peace and a desire to serve others in Christ’s image. I have learned how to say “YES” when God calls me to a mission. Whatever skills I brought to the bedside while I was still practicing were there because God used me to care for those patients and their families. Now HE is directing me to carry the word of Jesus and teach healthcare to others around the world through medical education.
About the Author
George Stewart, MD, grew up in New England and received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York in 1958. He received his MD from the State University of New York in 1964. He completed his internship in internal medicine at the Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, Washington. After spending two years doing viral immunology research and an additional two years working with the Indian Health Service in Bethel, Alaska, he returned to Seattle to complete his internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care training. In 1971, he returned to Alaska and practiced pulmonary and critical care medicine until retiring in 2005. Since retiring from active practice, he has been on seven mission trips with Medical Education International and two other mission trips. George and his wife have five children and nine grandchildren.
DOMESTIC MEDICAL MISSIONS: BRINGING IT HOME
by Wiley A. Smith, MD
Is being a medical missionary within one’s native culture inferior to foreign missions work? Can a medical missionary returning from a foreign assignment to work domestically find approval and support? How can I earn enough to have three kids in college simultaneously? These were the questions facing me as my family and I returned to the U.S. after eight years in Belize. We were at the end of our second missionary term, and with the economy taking a nosedive, along with our financial support, it was time for a change.
One of our supporting churches, Grace Presbyterian in Dalton, Georgia, had a thriving Hispanic ministry. They were open to help me with an idea to base a domestic medical mission on house calls. In doing house calls for my patients in rural Belize, I noticed that I was able to build up relationships that led to evangelism much more quickly than with clinic visits. Surveying the Dalton area, I found that no other physicians were doing house calls, especially for indigent patients and Hispanic immigrants. Out of this idea grew Grace Medical Outreach Ministry. With assistance from Grace Presbyterian, we are now a non-profit organization with a board of directors and an office. Volunteers from the congregation also lend support in fundraising and providing services for our patients. To help with expenses, the local hospital provides lab tests at cost and we use a free web-based electronic medical record program. While researching other free clinics in Georgia, I found that existing laws granted broad immunity from malpractice. So far, we have enrolled and served about 275 individuals, all at no cost to the patients. I find that many patients are discouraged Christians, who need prayer to reconnect them with their faith. Others are introduced to Christ for the first time.
Our immediate goals are to hire a part-time nurse and involved medical professionals from other churches in the area to help with the ministry in Dalton. There is a big need for house call services for indigent patients. I believe our model could easily be replicated elsewhere. In addition, my present situation allows me to work part-time for a federally qualified healthcare clinic that serves uninsured and underinsured patients, paying me enough to keep the kids in college. Plus, I get to spend about six weeks of each year overseas with Mission to the World medical teams in countries including Haiti, Honduras, Ukraine and Southeast Asia.
All those questions I faced when we returned to the U.S. were answered in ways I could not have imagined. I answered God’s call to use my medical skills to help my local community because the people in my local area need to be introduced to the love of Jesus just as desperately as those I meet in my international travels.
About the Author
Wiley Smith, MD, is a family physician who accepted Christ as a teenager. He graduated from Uniformed Services University School of Medicine in Bethesda in 1980. He completed a family medicine residency at Tripler Army Hospital in Honolulu. A career in the U.S. Army included tours in Germany and Kuwait. After retiring in 2000, he and his family served for eight years with Mission to the World at Presbyterian Medical Clinic in Belize, Central America. In 2009, the Smith family moved to Dalton, Georgia, where Dr. Smith directs Grace Medical Outreach Ministry. He and his wife Karon have four children and one grandson.
SEEING THE EVERDAY OPPORTUNITIES
by Julie Griffin, MD
I remember well the day I was called to be a missionary. I was attending our church’s Vacation Bible School where a visiting missionary fascinated me with stories of far-away places and pictures of hungry children. That day at the altar, I heard the Lord’s call on my heart to one day be a missionary doctor in Africa.
It’s easy to think back to that day and wonder, “When, God? When do I get to go?” I see missionaries visiting our church on their way overseas to plant churches. At the Global Missions Health Conference, the missionary doctors’ stories of preaching and healing are enough to make me want to buy a plane ticket right from the auditorium. Yet, I write this from the office of a community health center in rural southeast Kansas.
We must be careful when assigning terms to people such as “missionary” or “called.” To be sure, missionaries who move their lives and families overseas and into other cultures are to be honored for their sacrifices. However, Jesus commands every believer to “. . . go and make disciples of all the nations. . . .” (Matthew 28:19, NLT). Too often we fall into the trap of thinking that some are “chosen” and others are left to be second-string witnesses or even sit on the sidelines. We must remember that each of us is “called” with the fulfillment of the Great Commission. It is the position of our hearts, not our geographical positions on a map, which are most indicative of whether we are answering that call.
Fervently anticipating the dream of my eight-year-old heart, I’ve learned to ask a different question as I bustle about the office in Kansas: “Why not now, God?” I no longer wait just for the opportunity to serve in Africa; I practice watchful waiting on a daily basis. Peter provided an example of this concept on a routine walk to the temple. Outside the gate, a lame man eagerly expected a gift from Peter and John. In lieu of a monetary gift, Peter spoke healing into his life through the name of Jesus. Acts 3 tells us that crowds “rushed” out to Solomon’s Colonnade to see the lame man dancing. Peter’s next action is one we should all follow: “Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd” (Acts 3:12, NLT). Peter was able to inject the extraordinary into the ordinary because he “saw his opportunity.”
The Lord challenges us to be as vocal for Him in our everyday lives as we would be on a foreign mission field. Our daily walk among our patients and especially our coworkers is one of the strongest opportunities for witnessing we are given. We must be more cognizant of our attitudes, showing Christ’s love and forgiveness toward patients who never quite seem satisfied. We should be challenged to pray share the gospel more openly with our patients and coworkers. We must focus on encouraging those we supervise when mistakes are made.
Prior to medical school, I had the privilege of serving as an associate to a missionary physician in Honduras. In September, I participated in a Global Health Outreach trip to Moldova. I saw incredible testimonies birthed as people came to know the Lord or experienced healing from their diseases in both countries. These opportunities have been essential in my growth as a disciple, reiterating the urgency of eternal healing more so than physical healing. Praying with each Moldovan patient reminded me just how important it is for me to pray with my Kansan patients.
The focus is not where we go, how far away or for how long. Our goal is to fulfill the Great Commission. Our aim should be to get outside our comfort zones to experience medicine intersecting with the gospel on a new level each day. Short-term trips refocus me on that call, serving as a reminder that I am a missionary who is a doctor, not a doctor who is a missionary, regardless of where I am.
Each of us is challenged to live like Peter, asking the Lord, “Why not now?” Instead of waiting for the perfect opportunity for miraculous power to be displayed, we must seek everyday opportunities to share the gospel. If you have doubts about your ability to see the Lord in everyday activities, consider a short-term missions trip through CMDA. You will quickly find yourself reprioritizing your life’s purpose. Whether you are in your hometown or in a small village across the globe, you will discover the joy of being a missionary who is a doctor.
About the Author
Julie Griffin, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and pediatrics and currently practices at Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas in Coffeyville, Kansas. She graduated from the University of Kansas School of Medicine and completed her post graduate education at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center. She is currently pursuing a master's in public health. She worked with Global Health Outreach in Honduras prior to entering medical school and is a certified minister with the Assemblies of God.
STEPS ALONG THE JOURNEY
by Jonathan P. Bacon, MD
“A well-intentioned, prayerful wrong decision is better than the default position.” Those words still echo in my ears as Dr. Russ White, a missionary surgeon at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, concluded CMDA’s 2011 Discover the Joy conference in Bristol, Tennessee. In my mind, the implications were clear. Even if I couldn’t see the second step, I needed to take that first step of obedience and then wait on God to reveal the rest of the journey. But that was the difficult part, even though I know that God does not reveal His will for our approval but for our obedience.
My first step was visiting Scott Reichenbach, the post residency program coordinator for World Medical Mission, who I had met at the conference. While visiting their offices in North Carolina, Scott arranged a meeting for me with Gail Gambill, the placement coordinator for staffing at Tenwek. “Would you like to go to Tenwek this summer?” she said with a smile. It was evident that this was God’s plan for me, even though going to Africa had never entered my thinking. The next memorable step was on Valentine’s Day as I sat across from my wife Sandra filling out applications to go to Kenya. As I gazed at her across the dining room table scattered with various forms to fill out, I thought how gracious God was to give us a unified heart in this decision.
A few months later, we attended CMDA’s annual Orientation to Medical Missions in Bristol to prepare us for the future. Not only were we encouraged by other medical missionaries who were preparing to enter the mission field, but we had valuable talks on adjusting and living in a new culture, language barriers and a host of other topics that would benefit us in so many ways during our journey. It was exciting to see some of the pieces come together. We started this journey simply by going to a conference to get information, but God had other plans. Now to my great delight, He started unveiling those plans at a faster pace.
As we traveled to Tenwek in 2011, some of the words from the second conference rang through my mind: remember you are coming as a servant and a guest; maintain flexibility and carry along a sense of humor; and it is all about relationships and touching lives physically and spiritually one at a time.
The joys at Tenwek abounded. As challenging as the surgical cases were, the unexpected joy we experienced was working with the next generation of national Christian physicians and nurses. Though their intelligence impressed me, it was their godliness that humbled me. In many respects, Tenwek is technologically poor but spiritually rich. There is a special presence of God there. Quite frankly, many patients should not have survived due to their advanced diseases and devastating injuries, but God answered the earnest prayers said at morning reports and throughout the day.
I was refreshed daily by the prayers of the staff before each surgery. Christian music filled the operating room. My first case in the OR was an above the knee amputation on a young man as a result of severe trauma. After a prayer by the nurse anesthetist asking God’s blessing on the patient and operating staff, I began the surgery with a faint recognizable melody coming from an adjacent room. “He leadeth me, O blessed thought....” O blessed thought, indeed! I knew that God would continue to lead, guide and give me strength and wisdom for the days ahead.
After returning home, I realized how small my faith was, even though I never doubted it. Numerous things had crowded out a simple walk of faith, a daily dependence on God for all my needs. Tenwek was truly a spiritual mountain top experience for us. And to think it all began by reading an email about a mission conference.
Can a CMDA missions conference change your life? It did ours. I would attend a missions conference even if you are only seeking information, but be prepared that God may have other plans for your journey. He certainly did for us. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
About the Author
Jonathan P. Bacon, MD, is a retired orthopedic surgeon. After practicing in the Pacific Northwest, he and his wife Sandra relocated to Fort Mill, South Carolina, for sunshine and family in 2010. Besides serving with World Medical Mission, Dr. Bacon volunteers as a physical education teacher at Brookstone, an inner city elementary Christian school in Charlotte, North Carolina.