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 previously I shared questions about matching with a health facility or program as a medical missionary. I also shared some questions designed to help you discern through which organization to serve. This section of the book is about questions we need to ask ourselves about long-term service.
Defining Success on the Mission Field
One thing we must do before heading to the mission field is to define what success looks like? How do you define success while serving as a medical missionary? Or maybe the more important question to answer is how does the Lord define success on the mission field? Success is never something the Lord demands. Perhaps Mother Theresa defined the Lords perspective best. She said, “God does not require we be successful, only that we be faithful”. This is clearly the definition of success on the mission field, being faithful to the Lord’s call, following him in obedience, around the corner or around the world.
But how can we do this without being healthy emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically? I know we can be faithful even at our lowest points emotionally and sometimes clinging to the Lord at those times is incredibly important. But we can’t be effective in ministering to others living in a low place emotionally or spiritually. Serving in a mission hospital, living in community and across cultures, has far more stressors than most people expect.
The Pit Many Fall Into
There is the inevitable pit within the first year or two many new missionaries fall into. It is a pit filled with unmet expectations, the frustration of language and cultural assimilation. For the medical missionary, this pit can also include death and suffering in the developing world on levels few of us anticipate. One can certainly be faithful in this context, but quickly burned out and wounded. I have seen burned out wounded medical missionaries spend years in this place until they finally leave the field. They lose their compassion, their love for the people they are serving and their witness in the process. The burned out and wounded missionary is toxic to themselves and to others on their mission station.
Avoiding The Pit
How do we avert falling into this pit? Or at least realize if, and when, we are falling into this pit so we can adjust our course and if needed seek help? Preparing for this wall is the starting point. Asking yourself the right questions before you go is the essential piece in preparing yourself. The questions to follow are about becoming sure of your purpose and call, I would encourage you to come back to them frequently.
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?
6) Am I fully able to submit to authority?
7) Can I manage and likely lower my expectations about serving as a medical missionary?
8) Can I walk with the poor in a way that respects their dignity?
9) Do I fully understand the holistic Gospel and the Jesus I represent?
10) Can I truly love as Jesus loved?
In the book to follow we will explore each of these questions and why they are important in some depth.
See the other Blog Posts in this series:
Learn more about Shalom, Dr Dan Fountains work, and health missions at Health For All Nations