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.