Why should I do Short-Term Medical Missions?
June 17, 2017
Do you ever ask what you should get out of serving? What is the benefit to you? How should you be changed by the act of serving? Here are the heart-felt thoughts of someone struggling with exactly these questions.
This was a rough trip for me. We had an incredible team, were able to serve between 100 to 200 patients each clinic day, and visited an orphanage. We, as always, enjoyed joining our local Haitian partners in their work, praying with our patients, and sharing the Gospel with those who desired to hear it. Even so, the weight of the injustice and poverty in Haiti felt especially heavy this year. I couldn't stop thinking about the suffering of the Haitian people, including the people working with us in Port-au-Prince. Who sees these people? Who sees this injustice? Who will make it right? It seemed odd that I was struggling so much, given that this was my 11th trip down to Haiti in the past 8 years, but I couldn't let it go. On top of all of this, I was personally feeling very unseen.
At first, I hardly noticed my own feelings of being unseen in light of all of the devastating sickness and poverty around me. Looking back, though, I believe that those feelings and my struggle with the trip were intricately connected. Specifically, I think God allowed me to feel this way for two reasons:
1. My own feelings of being unseen made me more sensitive to the unseen people of Haiti. When I first arrived back in Atlanta, I ran into a good friend who has led previous trips to Haiti and explained to him my struggle with our trip. He said that anyone going on these trips pretty much has one of two options: 1. We can become more cynical and hard-hearted every time we go, or 2. We can become even more broken-hearted over the things Jesus himself is broken-hearted.
Who has more experience on this earth of feeling unseen and unknown than Jesus Himself? "He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him" (John 1:10). If anyone understands injustice (being falsely accused and murdered by his own people), if anyone understands poverty (homeless and surrounding himself with the poor and powerless for all of his adult life), if anyone understands feeling unseen, it is Jesus. My feeling unseen on this trip was a gift that allowed me to see with God's eyes those whom we served.
It allowed me more clearly to see the sweet and resilient people of Haiti--those who walked miles to the middle of nowhere, from the middle of nowhere, because they heard of a medical clinic where they or their family might be treated. It allowed me to be more sensitive to those who came with great hope, often not even realizing the depth or extent of their need... just as we come to Jesus. Our medical team was given the privilege of meeting physical needs--treatment for typhoid, malaria, skin infections, parasites, malnutrition, prenatal vitamins for pregnant women. We were able to offer community--to say: "We see you. We care about you." But our greatest offering was the message of hope, which is the heart of Jesus: God Himself sees you. God Himself cares about you. That is why Jesus came. Because He cares for you. He sees you. He knows you and He loves you. You are important Him.
2. My lack of feeling seen or validated by others allowed me to lay down that good desire for validation at the feet of Jesus. When my hands are open, no longer grasping the approval of other people, He is able to fill them with His approval, His validation. He says: "I see you. I know you. I care about you. I call you worthy because of my Son, not because of anything you do or have ever done." When I know that truth, when I live into my identity as a child of God, I am more free to genuinely express that care and love and validation to others. I see and know because I am seen. I am known.
So my message from this most recent trip, both to me and hopefully through me to all of you is this:
God sees us. He knows us. He has eyes for the poverty-stricken, the suffering, the sick, the wounded, the confused, the cynical, the rejected, the misunderstood, for those exhausted by trying to do this life all on our own, for all of us.
He loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. Jesus loves us so much that He came to die for you, for me. He loves us so much that He overcame death. He overcame darkness, both in and around us. He even overcame our own tendencies to still look to other people, to success, to medicine, or to anything else as our God--the thing that will satisfy us, the thing that will make us "worthy." He wants us to lay those things at His feet...not to take away what is good, but to make room in us to be filled with what is infinitely better: true life, true joy, true freedom. Knowing we are already called "worthy" by God himself, because of His Son's perfect life on our behalf, we can live from a place of love for love.
God calls every one of us, His precious children, by name to receive His eternal love for us.
You and I, dear brothers and sisters, we are forever seen.
"But now, this is what the LORD says--
He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.'" -Isaiah 43:1
"She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me,' for she said, 'I have now seen the One who sees me.'" -Genesis 16:13
Lots of love to you all.