I remember in our house growing up we had this quote on our wall “A coincidence is when God performs a miracle and decides to remain anonymous.” Well, I think many times God does not remain anonymous. In fact it’s obvious He has his hand in it. Let’s give him the credit!
In our journey to full time service overseas at Bongolo Hospital, Amy and I have seen many “God Sightings” along the way. We use this term to refer to any situation (conversations, provisions, answered prayer, etc.) where we obviously see God working. Many of these God sightings come completely unexpected. Yet, it is these “surprises” that encourage us the most.
Through a friend of a friend, I was recently introduced to an anesthesiologist in Washington state. Come to find out, he and his family are headed for full time service to Kibuye Hope Hospital (http://kibuyehope.com) in Burundi. In fact, similar to part of our calling, he wants to start an anesthesia training program at Kibuye--teaching and discipling others to help improve anesthesia care in Burundi. Further, in conversation last week, I found out his family will start French language school in Albertville this September. This is the same school where Amy and I will begin in September! On top of that, they will be in Colorado this summer for pre-field missionary training at MTI when we will be there.
What are the odds? Two anesthesiologists are headed to French speaking countries in Africa to start anesthesia training programs while learning French at the same school in France together, and completing pre-field training in Colorado at the same time. Some may call this coincidence. No way! God has his hand in this. While we are going to different countries in Africa, it is as if we are heading out together. There are only a handful of anesthesiologists in Africa doing mission work. It is a wonderful encouragement to embark on this journey with a like-minded new friend. We look forward to what God has in store for this new relationship. Praise God for his goodness.
“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
God the Father has called us to follow Him in faith. We are stepping out on this journey and trusting Him to protect us, provide for us, and guide us. As Christians, God has adopted us as his children and we follow Him as a child follows his "Abba Father" or "Daddy."
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, "Abba, Father." Romans 8:15 NLT
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul states, "And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1Cor 2:1-2). From a human perspective, Paul was a highly esteemed individual. He was an educated Roman citizen, who did his rabbinical training under one of the most well known and respected teachers of the time. He knew his stuff, spoke eloquently, and was highly respected.
Yet, as the verse states, when he came to share the Christian message to the Corinthians he had only one motive--"to preach Jesus Christ and him crucified." While all the education, training, and status likely helped him in his ministry, his focus was to tell people the message of the cross. Paul wanted to be sure their faith would not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
As we transition to serve at Bongolo Hospital, we must follow Paul's lead and remember that our single most important motive is to tell people about Jesus and the message of the cross. We go to provide compassion and mercy to those in physical need. We go to train others to do the same. But, above all, we go to share the love of Christ and share His message of salvation. If this isn't the highest priority, why even make the effort?
We are moving forward in this journey under the banner of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA), a wonderful organization with a great history of sending missionaries out into this world. One of the core values of the CMA is "Prayer is the Primary Work of the People". This was very evident this past week as we received a note from the pastor of a small CMA church in the South:
"Greetings; was encouraged by your faith and obedience to the call of Christ on your life. I am the pastor of a small C&MA congregation in ...... Every week we choose one missionary or couple as the focus of our prayers all week. This Sunday in our service I will be sharing your story and we will be praying for you all week. Please keep us informed of your progress and your prayer needs and I'll pass it on to our prayer ministry. May the Lord Bless you both and greatly increase your ministry! Love In Christ."
Other than both parties being a part of the CMA, we have no connection to this church whatsoever. How encouraging to know that people we do not even know are supporting us through prayer. We are blessed to be a part of the CMA family. Praise God for the people of the CMA and churches like this who make "Prayer the primary work of the people."
Join us in prayer.
Below are some words from a devotional I read a few days ago. I thought I would share them here as they give a great message on trust. The second word in the title of this website and the second concept from the verse (Psalm 37:5) we hold on to is TRUST. People ask us if we have fear in this career change and move overseas. While we have some anxiety and concern, overall we are at peace because we "trust our Master" to guide us, lead us, and protect us. We step out in faith and trust.
We were blessed to be invited to speak at Centerville Community Church’s missions festival in mid-November. As this is our home church it was wonderful to share with our own congregation our plans for ministry at Bongolo Hospital and how they can connect and partner with us. We spoke to all ages including Seniors, Children, Youth, Young Marrieds, Young Families, and Community Groups. We were able to share this time with another missionary couple from CCC who serve in the Dominican Republic, Brandon and Bethany Nutter. We shared our passion to follow God’s lead no matter where He is calling you. We are all called on mission. It most likely will not be overseas to Africa, but more commonly He is calling you to love and meet the needs of others right next door in your neighborhood or workplace. We have taken Psalm 37:5 to heart in this transition. It states, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.” It is a simple reminder with three steps to fulfilling God’s calling - commit to His way, trust that He will see you through it, then He will act. We have seen God act in marvelous ways over the past two years as we have committed and trusted.
Audio clip from Sunday, November 15 at CCC:
What a great week Amy and I have had here in Bongolo! I have been busy at the hospital teaching anesthesia to the anesthetists and the surgical residents. We have had a few tough cases and some heartbreak but all in all a good week of being the hands of God in ministering to these gracious patients.
Mike is a clinical engineer from Cleveland and accompanied me on this trip. We have spent a lot of the week checking out all the anesthesia and surgical equipment, fixing things when needed and doing some preventative maintenance. It has been a blessing to have him on this trip as I am learning things that will prove useful when I am here without such help. I thank God for bringing us together and for Mike’s servant heart.
Today we spent most of the day celebrating the graduation of one of the PAACS (Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons) residents, Anatole. We started with church at 9am for a couple hours followed by the graduation ceremony in the same building. This lasted another 2 hours. We then gathered for food, dessert and celebration. It was a joy to honor Anatole and his accomplishment--finishing the 5 year surgery residency. PAACS trains and disciples Christian surgeons to remain in Africa in underserved areas. Part of my responsibility when I am here on short term and eventually when we are here permanently is to teach these residents basic anesthesia skills. Many of them will go to places lacking quality anesthesia services.
Tomorrow we start another busy week in the hospital and mission. We look forward to the end of the week when we will accompany the Thelander family on a trip to the coast for some rest and relaxation. Thank you all for your prayers and support. Have a blessed week!
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” - 2 Timothy 2:2
Amy and I arrived at Bongolo Hospital safe and sound yesterday afternoon. Mike (clinical engineer) and Sharon (accountant) are traveling with us to serve at the hospital as well. The last leg of travel is by small airplane from Libreville to Bongolo and takes about 1.5 hours, much easier than the path by road. God has blessed the hospital with the airplane and pilot. It is wonderful to fly, avoiding the 10 hour trip by road. It is long, dusty, bumpy and inconvenient, especially after traveling many hours to get to Gabon. Most of the time during the short flight you get great views of a beautiful county including lush tropical jungle, rivers, and small towns and villages. If you look close enough, you can even see people. It was on a flight like this that God called me to serve at Bongolo.
On yesterday's flight the skies were overcast and we were above the cloud cover. Even though we were flying at the same low altitude, we couldn't see anything--just cloud cover. No jungle, no countryside, no beauty, and no people. As I was peering out the window, God spoke to me again on this flight. As Christians do we spend most of our lives flying above the cloud cover? We like the convenient, quick, fast and clean routes of life. Yet, we cannot see the people below who are hurting and lost. We cannot see God's beauty because we are not even looking.
My prayer for this trip and life is to get below the clouds, take the inconvenient, tough, longer, route. That's where we see the people and their hurts and lostness. That's were we see God.