Service Spot

Service Spot

March 17, 2017

I was checking my email in the family room with the Wimbledon Tennis Championships on TV in the background when a phrase the announcer used grabbed my attention. He said Nick Kyrigos, an Australian tennis player, was a "spot server." I had never heard that term before, but he went on to explain that Kyrigos picked the exact spot where he wanted his serve to land and tried to place the ball right on that spot. He observed his opponent's strengths and weaknesses and tried to exploit them when he served.

He knew his "service spot." Do you? If not, you are not alone. Most people called to missions only have a vague idea, if any idea at all, where God wants them to serve. They usually don't even think about that issue until they finish their training. Starting that process earlier has some advantages, but even if you do, how do you go about it?

You can pull up information on the internet to look at the quality of healthcare in every country and pick one out on the bottom tier. (Interestingly, the U.S. is rated 37th out of 190. Costa Rica is rated better than us!) You could go to the inner city of any major city in the U.S. and find dramatic health needs. But is that the best criteria to use to make a decision?

Christ didn't say, "Go and make people healthy." He called us to spread the gospel and make disciples. Using those criteria, you should seriously consider where people are the most unreached with the gospel. In other words, where is there no self-propagating church?

In many places around the world, Christian healthcare can open minds and hearts to hear the truths of Jesus Christ like no other single factor.

The unreached are usually unreached for a number of reasons-religious practices hostile to the gospel, harsh and difficult environments, unfriendly governments, civil instability and numerous other factors. But there is no lack of these groups. Checkout the Joshua Project to find out more about the 3,117,724,000 people, 40.4 percent of the world's population, who still don't have the gospel. (For more information about reaching the unreached, check out the summer 2016 edition of Today's Christian Doctor.)

Most of these people live in the "10-40 Window," from ten degrees north of the equator to 40 degrees north of the equator from Africa through Asia. Some people call this the "Resistant Belt" due to the difficulty people have in coming to Christ.

A total of 5,571 unreached people groups are located around the world, and some of those groups are right in the middle of "reached" areas all around. There is an increased focus on these groups, but still only 8 to 10 percent of missionaries and less than 1 percent of mission finances are focused on these needs. Each day approximately 50,000 unreached people die and enter into eternity without Christ.

Willie Sutton, a prolific American bank robber, was once asked why he robbed banks. He replied, "Because that is where the money is!" You should consider going to the 10-40 Window because that is where the greatest need is, but there are other factors to consider as well.

Start exploring to see what location God may place on your heart. Read missionary books to let God use one of them to direct you. Talk to missionaries on home assignment about their work and needs. Ask them lots of questions. Attend mission conferences to visit exhibitors, listen to sermons and go to workshops. God can't give you a burden for what you don't know. Correspond with and visit mission agencies to let them know your mission interest. Ask them how someone like you can fit into their plans for reaching the world for Christ.

The best immersion is to take the guidance or interest you have and visit a country or people group. Early in your training, you can go on a service team and help out. Later in your training you can do a rotation overseas and actually use your skills while checking out a spot. Check out the International Rotations Handbook for details about finding an overseas rotation. CMDA also has scholarship programs to help you go and serve. If you are about to finish your medical or dental residency, check out Samaritan's Purse's post-residency program. They provide most of the funding for you and your family to go and serve two years overseas to check out a place God may call you to serve on a full-time basis.

Examine yourself. Do have a pioneer spirit, or do you need to be part of a team? Are you a leader or a follower? How well do you adapt to other cultures? Are you a fretter? If you are married, what does your spouse need? What concerns your spouse about serving overseas? As you do this, don't sell God's grace and power short. He empowers those He employs for the task He gives them. Look at your skills and interests. If you want to be a missionary neurosurgeon, you are going to look at larger healthcare mission facilities that can support the work you want to do. Your needs, interests and talents can help you make a short list of countries to consider.

God should be your ultimate decision maker, and He will reveal where He want you to serve via the work of the Holy Spirit. He can use a sense of certainty, Scriptures, a message, an experience, circumstances, a sending organization or countless other ways to reveal His will to you.

God may surprise you. Our tendency is to logically think things through, but God doesn't always work that way. I went to Tenwek Hospital during a summer spent in Kenya before my senior year of college. When I came back home, I knew that was where God wanted me to serve. It just made sense to me. I was so sure that I applied for a preliminary appointment with the mission agency that had founded the hospital and ultimately moved there with my family eight years later.

Dr. David Thompson was a pioneer missionary to Gabon where he founded Bongolo Hospital and initiated the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons to train national surgeons in Africa for Africa. Really though, it made no sense at all. Dave and his wife were missionary kids in Cambodia. Dave's parents were martyred for their faith. He felt a call to go back to the people he loved and use the local language he knew so well. The Christian Missionary & Alliance Mission Board appointed them, but the Khmer Rouge took power and starting killing over a million people just as they were leaving. So, though it "made no sense," David, Becki and their family's country of service was changed to Gabon where they had to learn French and a tribal language. Their plans changed midstream, but God had a better plan. Looking back, they could clearly see God's hand.

So don't fret. Don't worry. God will lead you each step of the way to your service spot. Just seek His direction, trust His guidance and follow His leading. You will be glad you did.

David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

About David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

Dr. David Stevens, author of Jesus, MD, Beyond Medicine and co-author of Leadership Proverbs and Servant Leadership and serves as CEO Emeritus of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, a national organization of Christian healthcare professionals that seeks to change hearts in healthcare. Founded in 1931, CMDA promotes positions and addresses policies on healthcare issues; conducts overseas and domestic mission projects; coordinates a network of Christian healthcare professionals for fellowship and professional growth; sponsors student ministries in medical and dental schools; distributes educational and inspirational resources; holds marriage and family conferences; provides missionary healthcare professionals with continuing education resources and conducts academic exchange programs overseas. At CMDA, Dr. Stevens has helped develop an evangelism training program that teaches thousands of healthcare professionals how to share their faith in a healthcare setting. He was a catalyst for starting the Global Missions Healthcare Conference, trains new healthcare missionaries three times a year and annually leads a summit for executives of mission organization doing healthcare ministry. He has also helped launch a nationwide network of community-based ministries that provide on-site discipleship, fellowship and outreach opportunities for local healthcare professionals and students. As a leading spokesman for Christian healthcare professionals, Dr. Stevens has conducted thousands of media interviews, including NBC's Today Show, NBC Nightly News, BBC-World Television, Newsweek, JAMA, USA Today, CNN Sunday Morning, CNN News Site and National Public Radio. He has also appeared on FOX Family Channel, PAX-Television, Tech TV, The Odyssey Channel, America's Health Network and many other national outlets. He has written many book chapters and magazine articles. Prior to becoming a Zondervan author, he wrote a regular health column for the Promise Keepers' New Man magazine and served on the editorial board of Christian Single magazine. Dr. Stevens is also heard as host of the CMDA Healthwise Public Service Announcements, which address general health and bioethical issues and airs on radio stations nationwide. CMDA members hear him as the host of the popular Christian Doctor’s Digest audio magazine, which has featured national leaders such as Luis Lugo, Jim Cymbala, Newt Gingrich, John Stonestreet and Kay Arthur. Prior to his service with CMDA, Dr. Stevens served as director of World Medical Mission. In Somalia, Dr. Stevens led an emergency medical mission that treated 45,000 suffering Somalis in the midst of war. In the Sudan, medical teams under his leadership treated more than 25,000 villagers to stop the spread of an epidemic. Dr. Stevens has seen firsthand how meeting the physical needs of patients provides opportunities to meet their spiritual needs—by introducing them to God’s love through a relationship with Jesus Christ. From 1981 to 1991, Dr. Stevens was a missionary doctor at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya where he served as Medical Superintendent and then Exeuctive Officer. He helped to develop Tenwek from a bush hospital to one of the most outstanding mission facilities in the world. At Tenwek, he directed a $4 million development plan, secured the installation of an $850,000 hydroelectric plant, oversaw the start of a nursing school and doubled the size of the hospital. The community healthcare and development programs he designed at Tenwek are currently reaching more than one million Kenyans and serve as an example of what medical outreach in the developing world can accomplish. Dr. Stevens’ experiences provide rich illustrations for inspirational and educational presentations at seminars, conferences and churches. His topics include missions and evangelism, spiritual commitment and growth, bioethics and other medically and spiritually related subjects. Dr. Stevens holds degrees from Asbury University and is an AOA graduate of University of Louisville School of Medicine and is board certified in family medicine. He earned a master’s degree in bioethics from Trinity International University in 2002 and served on the boards of World Gospel Mission and Asbury University. He has regularly taught at the Christian Medical & Dental Associations' educational seminars for missionary physicians and dentists in Kenya, Malaysia and other forums. He is a Fellow of the Biotechnology Policy Council of the Wilberforce Forum and helped found the National Embryo Donation Center. Dr. Stevens and his wife Jody have a son, Jason, and two daughters, Jessica and Stacy, and nine grandchildren, all of who are involved in domestic or international healthcare ministry.

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