Years ago, my life was transformed after meeting one woman. I don't know her name. I can't even remember what she looked like. But I'll never forget what meeting her accomplished in me.
During my second medical mission trip to Guatemala, after treating hundreds of people one after another, our clinic day was almost over. While I felt exhausted physically but invigorated in my soul with a deep sense of accomplishment and joy, a young woman sat in front of me and smiled nervously. With impressive skill and heartwarming trust, she summarized her life story and current challenges in a brief yet thorough and impactful way.
I got it quickly. I saw into her soul and felt her pain
Her story included mental illness, physical exhaustion, endless demands on her time as a single mom, and domestic abuse. I quickly summoned in my mind the various resources I knew were available within her community, and ensured good follow-up for her once our brief time together was over.
While she shared her story, I felt overwhelmed. In a continuous inward gaze to God, I prayed while she spoke.
"He hit me and I ran away," she shared of years ago. (Lord, please keep her strong as she raises her children alone.)
"I work the fields now and the kids eat every day. (Oh, I thank You, Lord! Please continue providing for them.
"But now that I'm sick, I don't know what to do." (Lord, what can I possibly do for this mother when our mission ends tomorrow? Why have me hear this when there's so little I can do?)
Pray with her. Offer to pray with her.
God's voice came, as so often happens, in a whisper
like a soft, soothing rain.
My reply was more like a raging storm!
(Pray with her? I've never done that! Lord, that's not what we do. I'm a doctor, you know. We're supposed to leave our faith on the other side of our exam room door.)
Well, in Guatemala there were no doors. On mission, there was no wall separating my personal faith from my professional practice. Somehow, a certain courage came over me to stop being two different people, leaving the best part of me outside of my relationship with those I seek to help.
Still caught up in a heavenly gaze, I spoke to the soul before me.
"I am so sorry for all you've been through, and I'm so proud of you and your courage in sharing your story. The truth is, I'm not sure how I can help you, but I know the One who can."
And then, the words that changed my life slipped through my lips unto her heart
"Would it be okay if I pray with you?"
She looked surprised and excited. Her eyes lit up, and she sprung up and took my hands. Clearly, even the mention of faith and God empowered her like none of my words had.
She was in her element. In an instant, hope arrived.
So I, too, rose from my chair (and from my previous life!) and began to pray with simple words, asking our God to guide her steps, guard her heart, and heal her soul. I asked God to bring the right people to help her once our team left. And I thanked God for giving her courage and strength.
I offered a short, heartfelt prayer. And before I was able to speak my Amen!, she shocked me.
She began to pray for me in our native Spanish, and the gates of Heaven opened.
Suddenly, we were two sisters seeking the same God together, and we were not alone. God's presence filled the room and, for a time, I was unaware of our surroundings and felt lifted up to Heaven. It was a holy moment that continues to bear fruit, empowering and filling my soul even now
As I boarded the plane the next day, I knew life would never be the same again. From then on, I would be myself with patients back home. I would not withhold my greatest treasure
my faith in an all-powerful, good, and loving God
from the hurting people who need Him most.
I decided to live on mission here and now with no need to board planes to the other side of the world. My mission field is here.
That inward gaze changed me. I would go as far as saying that it saved my life. That prayer with a stranger saved me from the apathy and self-centeredness at the heart of our culture's decline. And it saved me from the fear of being genuinely myself as I care for people. Thanks be to God!
Two days ago, our teenager boarded a plane on his second mission trip to Costa Rica. As I reflect on the events of my second mission trip, I rejoice for him and the entire team, for I know these life-changing moments often come during mission trips overseas
outside our comfort zone
where we can become something we were not when we arrived.
Our children have learned at a young age that life is about loving God by loving and serving Him in our neighbors. They have learned that our gifts and talents come from above with a purpose: we are to share them with others. What a blessing!
Please join me once more in praying for their safety, their health, and for God's work to be accomplished in and through them. Pray for hearts to be transformed and lives changed, including ours as we intercede for them. And pray for God's Spirit to empower them (and all of us!) to love as Christ loves.
For parts I and III of this series on Mission, read Living on Mission: What's That All About?
and Living on Mission: Compassion Trumps Fear
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
"God loves to pour out His Spirit with power on those who will dare to align radically their purposes with His." (S. Childers)
"The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become." (Henry Martyn)
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
1 John 3:1
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.