Asking the Right Questions
As mentioned in a previous post, I am writing this series of posts, and the book to follow, because I believe that most health care professionals wanting to serve in long-term missions are asking the wrong questions. In previous posts we dealt with questions about matching with a health facility or program as a medical missionary. We also talked about questions designed to help you discern through which organization to serve. This post is about questions we need to ask ourselves about long-term service as a medical missionary.
Discerning Where we Need to Grow
As you read and process this list of questions, my prayer is it will help to discern areas where you need to grow in order to be successful as a medical missionary. To truly thrive on the field we need to identify areas in our own thoughts, behaviors and attitudes where we need to grow. We need to continuously and intentionally seek growth. The foundation of being able to thrive on the mission field is pursuing high levels of personal health; mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Being healthy as a human being and in our Christian walk means seeking and being intentional about self-reflection as a starting point for being healthy people; people who continue to grow. I believe the first step to being successful as a medical missionary, and in life, is taking responsibility for becoming and staying healthy in all of these ways.
Health as Shalom
In the global north we often see health as simply free of disease, and in primarily physical ways. I am healthy if I am in good shape physically. Even the World Health Organization recognizes the fallacy describing health this narrowly. Their definition of health reads: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In Dr Dan Fountains 1989 book, “Health The Bible and the Church” he frames the concept of health in a Christian context. He states: “In the Bible, health signifies a functional wholeness which includes the person, the full spectrum of social relationships involving the person, and how the person relates to God and to the physical environment”.
The headquarters for the Christian Health Service Corps is a retreat center we call Shalom. It is a place where we transition our missionaries on and off the field, offer CME/CEU training and provide support to field operations. But most importantly, it is a peaceful, judgment free place where our missionaries come to for counseling, and debriefing. A place to find and or restore Shalom, and I say Shalom, because that word really defines this concept of health better than any other word. It is often translated as peace, but it is deeper than just peace, it includes wholeness. It is the word from which we derive the Arabic word Salaam.
In his 1983 book “Until Justice and Peace Embrace|” Nicholas Woltersdorff puts it best. “Shalom means just relationships (living justly and experiencing justice), harmonious relationships and enjoyable relationships. Shalom means belonging to an authentic and nurturing community in which one can be one’s true self and give one’s self away without becoming poor. Justice, harmony, and enjoyment of God, self, others, and nature; this is the shalom that Jesus brings, the peace that passes all understanding.” It is about developing healthy relationships with God, with ourselves and with others. So how do we find our way to shalom?
Self-Reflection is the Starting Place
Finding our way to shalom means we have to be willing to be self-reflective, and continue ask the Lord to peal away our blind spots and reveal areas in our life where we need to grow. We all have areas in our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that keep us from achieving higher levels of health and wholeness, ie Shalom. Being diligent about identifying those areas in our lives is an important step to growing in our emotional and spiritual maturity.
The Self-Reflection Questions
Here is a list of questions that I think can help get you started on that journey of self-reflection. It is far from a comprehensive list, it is only meant to inspire thought. I would encourage you to pray about each of these questions carefully, and use them to identify areas where you need to grow. These questions are about finding your own path to deep self-reflection and introspection. Like the questions in previous posts, they are not meant to disqualify you in any way. They are meant to help you process where you are now, so you can increase your likelihood of success as a medical missionary. This group of questions, will likely require more in depth explanation than the groups of questions I posed in previous posts/ chapters. We will discuss each in some detail in subsequent posts.
1) First, and probably most importantly, what are my motives for wanting to serve as a medical missionary?
2) What are my core values and how are they driving me to long-term missionary service?
3) How do I define success as a medical missionary?
4) Am I willing to work for a balanced life and continuous personal growth?
5) Can I pursue genuine humility as a cross cultural learner recognizing there is more to be caught than to be taught?
6) Can I place relationships over achieving process and outcomes?
7) Am I fully able to submit to authority?
8) Can I manage and likely lower my expectations about serving as a medical missionary?
9) Can I walk with the poor in a way that respects their dignity?
10) Do I fully understand the holistic Gospel, and the Jesus I represent?
11) Can I truly love as Jesus loved?
See the other Blog Posts in this series:
Learn more about Shalom, Dr Dan Fountains work, and health missions at Health For All Nations