July 21, 2022
by Autumn Dawn Galbreath, MD, MBA
Today I am a pharmacist. Well, not really. I’m still a physician, but this week in the Dominican Republic on a Global Health Outreach (GHO) trip, I am serving as a pharmacist. The incredibly dedicated pharmacist who has served on this team for years is at home with COVID-19, and I am attempting to fill his shoes. And as I look around the pharmacy, I see a beautiful picture. While we don’t quite represent every tribe and tongue, we are a varied group, to be sure. There is a woman here from Georgia who is originally from Colombia, a woman here from Ohio who is originally from Indonesia and a multitude of Dominicans and Americans. When I look outside the pharmacy door at the rest of our 75+ team members, we represent at least 10 U.S. states and at least five countries of origin. We include physicians, dentists, nurses, students, optometrists, teachers, pastors and homeschooling moms. We span ages from 10 to 70. We have people triaging and organizing patients, taking vitals, pulling teeth, prescribing medications, performing ultrasounds, filling prescriptions, dancing, singing, making balloon animals and sharing the gospel. We speak English, Spanish, Indonesian and Tagolog. We are funded by people and churches who paid our way or bought medications, and we are even funded by airlines that waived baggage fees to allow the many bags of equipment to travel here. We are supported in prayer by hundreds of people across at least two countries. As a group, we exemplify the beauty of the body of Christ.
“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, NABRE).
This experience is in refreshing contrast to my experience in the U.S. church over the last several years. It has grieved me to see the church not operating like a body, allowing political and ideological divisions to amputate its members. The only outcome of such division is a church that is less effective and leaves kingdom work unfinished. In the process, we who compose the body of Christ reflect poorly on His love and grace. Of course, the Lord can and will complete His work in His world regardless of our participation or effectiveness. He doesn’t need us to accomplish His purposes, but He wants us. We are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10) and His holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). We are called to be imitators of God and to walk in love as Christ loves us (Ephesians 5:1).
How do we represent Him when we choose dissension over unity and dogma over compassion? How do we represent Him when we condemn and judge others because their particular sin is more distasteful than our own? We are certainly not imitating His own earthly interactions, and I think our failures of love and unity grieve His heart more than the sins we are so busily judging.
During Jesus’ dinner with tax collectors and sinners, the upright spiritual leaders of the day questioned His choice of dinner companions. Overhearing their condemnation, Jesus said,
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (Matthew 9:12-13a, NIV).
The microcosm of the Christian body that I see around me this week is actively choosing love and unity over personal preference, dogma, doctrinal differences and even personal needs. As we navigate the challenges of this trip, we must choose these values over and over again all day long. We must choose Jesus over ourselves. And in so doing, we are a body—as all Christians are called to be. And we are reflecting Christ to the hundreds we are serving in our clinics this week.
What if the entire body was able to do this all the time? What if my own life was always grafted into the body with this kind of unity? What kind of impact would the world see? It starts with each of us choosing to serve within the larger body, and that choice is presented to us every day.
By the way, if you are interested in a life-changing experience like the one I am having this week, and you are interested in using your healthcare skills in underserved areas, consider a GHO short-term healthcare mission trip. There are options in numerous countries and with a variety of different focuses. You’re sure to find one that works for you. For more information, visit www.cmda.org/gho.