Thursday, September 27, 2018

Furlough and Beyond....

Furlough time is when a missionary leaves their home of service and spends time back in their home from which they have been sent. I arrived back in the US in November 2017 to spend this time recovering, working, visiting and recruiting. No matter how many months this furlough time is, it somehow passes quickly with things, sadly, still left undone and people left unseen. 

Hiking in Banff, Canada

Fun on Lake Michigan with mom and dad!
Disney with my sister Jessica and family










I started my time at home with my parents in Kenosha, WI. Six weeks later I a major surgery (donated a kidney to a friend) and spent the next six weeks recovering. (It turns out that when the surgeon tells you it will take 6 weeks to recover, that number isn’t just for people over 60, but does, in fact, apply to you personally!!) In mid-January I moved back to Louisville and began working at the hospital where I did my Pediatrics training. Thankfully, the hospital has always been kind enough to let me slip back into the department and fill-in gaps in various places including the Emergency Department, the hospitalist service and Heme/Onc. 
The set-up for a presentation a Valley
Baptist Church's missions week in CT
more friends in Banff

birthday fun!
I did a fair bit of traveling during my time at home as well. I was able to visit Canada for the first time (I know, I know…..how did it take me this long to go to Canada?!) and visiting Banff national park while meeting up with friends and supporters (who are also friends!). I was able to take a trip to see one of my aunts and her family as well as my grandmother. It was a bitter-sweet reunion as I realize that I may not see her again this side of heaven. I told her to wait for me to come back again from Africa in 2-3 years. Her response: “Maybe you can just write me a letter.” She longs to see the Lord and her husband of 50 years. Who can argue with that?

Time at home was also made particularly sweet by being at my church home. Despite several trials our church body has gone through recently, there is a comfort of being present during that suffering, opposed to just hearing about it from afar. We are also blessed to have a growing missions department with a supportive staff including missionary counselors and prayer staff. Our first ever missions retreat took place in mid-October where all of Sojourns missionaries gathered together at a “central world location” for a time of teaching, prayer, debriefing and fellowship. It was an incredible time to get to fellowship with missionaries all over the world, all serving as members of one church body. 

As my time on furlough was coming to an end, I was asked by Samaritan’s Purse to fill in for a month as a staff doctor at the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh where they had set up a cholera center. I started my time in Togo working for SP and had been following the situation with the Rohingyan refugees very closely, since their displacement from Burma back in August 2017. This refugee camp has been the largest in the world as it overflows with 1.2 million people. I wish I could better describe what is it to look out and see that many people living in temporary bamboo, tarp and tin dwellings in a square mileage not meant for this purpose. There is a heaviness to it all as a solution to all the needs seems impossible and never-ending. 

clinic staff and friends from Bangladesh
During my time at the clinic, we ironically did not have many patients. It was a good problem to have as groups had gone through the camp several times to do cholera vaccine campaigns. The blessing is that it worked! The hard part was that we were a cholera center! JThe clinic has since transitioned to urgent care, but during my time there, we took advantage of the low census by building into the nurses, WASH staff and translators we employed at the clinic. I spent a lot of time teaching and a lot of time simply hearing peoples’ stories. One of the translators who is also one of the Rohingyan refugees started playing a song on his phone one day. I recognized the song immediately and was taken off-guard that he had it on his phone—complete with youtube video displaying all the words. Kari Jobe’s “I am not alone”, was playing loudly and confidently from the phone of this Muslim, Rohingyan man’s phone! You can imagine my surprise. I asked him, “Where did you get this song?” He said, “it is my song.” I replied, “ yes, but who gave it to you?” He said again, “It is mysong. It is for me.” I realized that the English barrier was not going to be overcome, and he began to sing and show me the familiar lyrics: 

           When I walk through deep waters
I know that you will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear 

            I am not alone
            I am not alone
            You will go before me
            You will never leave me

            I am not alone
            I am not alone
            You will go before me
            You will never leave me

He said, “we are so afraid. This song is for me.” 

I have no doubt that however he got that song on his phone, it was a gift from the Lord.  Later in the month I was invited to have a meal in his home. Another person and I ate together with our friend from the clinic as his wife, mother and children looked on. (this is customary. Even in Togo, the wife and family will not eat with the guest, but wait until they have finished and eat after they leave). It was a humbling experience. He read my face and told me, “do not worry that we are refugees.” The honor of hospitality in many countries is far beyond that of our own country, and it’s a hard pill to swallow. 

We later had the privilege of watching him read Luke in his own language for the first time ever. Pray for him and his people, that during this difficult time, the Lord would draw them to Himself. 

Fun new friends form around the world
all working at the SP Rohingya clinic
Lastly….. I am back in Togo! I arrived on September 4thand have already been back to work for the last couple weeks. More on that later though. I want to thank all of you for praying for my time at home--including time for emotional, physical and spiritual recovery. I also want to say that there are many of you I was unable to see and visit with during my time, and for that I am very sorry.  You will surely be among the first I see on the next time back in the US! Please continue to pray for the Hospital of Hope and all of our national and ex-pat staff serving here. 

Stay tuned….



saying good-bye at the airport with
Emma, Luke and Mary

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Shadows and Light

“Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon…what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. I do not know You God because I am in the Way.”-
Flannery O’Connor

I came across this quote recently while reading Prayerby Timothy Keller. It made me think of small children clamoring to see a show-a-tell, all the while blocking each other’s view in an attempt to get the best view. Eventually, all the children climb on top on one another, closer and closer to that which they want to see, but all the while, blocking their view further and further until the object is covered from view by small, sticky hands and even larger heads on small bodies. How often, in our attempts to get closer to the Lord, do ours faults and the faults of those around us get bigger and bigger and our focus is lost. We can only see the shadow. Worse yet, we block the view for those around us, and all they are left to see are our unattractive derrières! 

While my time at home was filled with family, friends, travel, work and rest, it has been a time of stepping back from the shadow of myself in order to better see the light of Christ as He works, not only around the world, but in me. As missionaries, we always want to make sure we are focused on those around us. Missions isn’t about what I can get out of it, or how I can look good, or maximizing my own experience. We try to emphasize this with short-termers as well as ourselves as we all can fall prey to the wrong things when we come to a place to serve. 

While these things are true, they only paint a partial picture. Missionaries do not come to the filed sanctified! (shocking, I know!) If we believe that the Lord’s focus is merely the people groups around us, and somehow not equally on ourselves, we miss the beauty of who Christ is and who we are as His children. If we believe that Christ died so that we can be partially sanctified, or be made “good enough” for missionary service then left alone, we don’t understand his Love for us or His holiness. “It’s not about me” is a correct view of our missions work because “it’s all about Him”. It’s about His redemptive relationship with His church, which is us. But this isn’t some distant “church” idea, where we can only be thought of as a whole. The Lord’s power and wisdom is able to sanctify His church as a whole, while working in each of us as individuals. If we believe that He loves us, it can only be this way. We cannot wish for a calm life or one without suffering or pain or conflict, for “His power is made perfect in our weakness” and “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

No one on our team would have sought out the experiences we had as a team or as individuals during these first few years on the field. But I have no doubt that the Lord has done a sanctifying work in each of us and will continue to do so, while continuing to establish and expand His church throughout our community.


Being far from Togo has allowed me to watch what the Lord does without me!  These things are constant reminders that all things depend on Him alone!

-42 people were baptized from our Faré village group and several others from our house groups scattered around Mango
-A new full-time doctor and family have moved to the field (Dr. Steve and Lisa Wreeseman)
-A new full-time MK teacher, Megan McKenzie, has arrived on the field
-Our Post-Resident, Christine Bies, faithfully completed her 2 years of work and ministry through Samaritans Purse. Pray for her as she re-enters US life and seeks out what they Lord may have for her in the future. Pray that the ministry she had here continues through the Holy-Spirit continuing to water the seeds she planted here. 
-A new Med/Peds Post-Resident, Ben Randel, arrived on the field to begin 2 years with us
-HOPE RADIO has finished construction on the station and started broadcasting


I want to highlight another project that began while I was still in Togo and has continued to grow and still needs YOUR help! Our hospital has the privilege of having a Fulani couple who serve as chaplains at HOH. This faithful couple had a ministry in Burkina Faso and were sent as missionaries to us, in order to reach their fellow Fulani people here in Togo. We have partnered with FULNET (Fulani Ministries in Burkina) to launch a Fulani Center in Mango that may serve the many nomadic Fulani who come https://myaccount.abwe.org/p-2788-fulani-center.aspx


Lastly, I am on my way to Bangladesh to serve with Samartans Purse at their clinic in the Rohingya refugee camp. Please “google” Rohingya news” and learn more about what is happening and how you can pray. I will be there until August 23rdbefore I come home and spend a couple weeks with family before returning to Togo around September 2nd

Thank you for your continued prayers, even during long months of blog silence. I appreciate that I was able to see many of you during my time at home and hope I can see a few more of you before I head back to Togo. I pray often for the day we can spend eternity together before the throne. 



Thursday, February 22, 2018

fear

There is a song on the radio that sings:

            “Fear, he is a liar
            He will take breath
            Stop you in your steps
            Fear, he is a liar
            He will your rest
            Steal your happiness
            Cast your fear in the fire
            Cause fear, he is a liar”

I think about what it is that I fear. I agree that fear is a liar and deep fear likely motivates me more that I realize. So, what is it that I fear? It is not an easy question to ask myself. My first reaction is answer, “nothing”. I am not a fearful person, and I think most would agree that, from the outside, I don’t seem to be. But as I contemplated the idea more deeply and introspectively, it didn’t take long to find the answer.

Uselessness.

This life is fleeting and short—but a vapor. I cannot hold back tears when I consider my arrival at the feet of Jesus and the possibility of being shown how I could’ve been used for the Kingdom but wasn’t; how I could have been daring for the Lord and didn’t; how I could have given more to the mission but wouldn’t.   

Christ poured himself out for us so that fellowship with Him may be possible. The idea of pouring ourselves out as a living sacrifice is a necessary one, and more importantly, a biblical one. Setting aside convenience, comfort, and balance for the sake of sacrifice, service and sharing of God’s word is not a life wasted.

So where does the lie come in?

A drive against uselessness equals a motivation towards usefulness. On the surface, this sounds only good. But as Satan has done from the beginning with Eve, he takes good truth from the Lord and twists it just enough to make it both believable and debilitating.

            “If you want to be useful, do more”

There it is.
DO. MORE.
which means
YOU’RE NOT DOING ENOUGH.

In the movie Inception, people can go into each other’s dreams, even without them being aware. The goal is to plant an idea deep inside their subconscious so they not only believe the idea, but also believe the idea come from within themselves. The idea ‘You’re not doing enough’ continues to takes hold, no matter how much more you do. Eventually, you’re beyond exhausted and spiritual depleted.

When we, as believers, are not constantly checking our thoughts and “taking them captive”, weighing them against what God actually says to us, we accept the twisted version of the truth from The Liar, and simple ideas can drive us—drive us way from Christ’s intentions for our lives, from our relationship with Him, and frankly, drive us mad.

So, what is the truth?

The Lord does not call us to be useless for the Kingdom. But the Lord is not saying, “Do more for me”, He is saying, “Be more with me”.
Doing more for the Lord without regard for instruction and guidance from the Lord becomes a “chasing after the wind”—even when those things are inherently good things. You can become the one wandering sheep finding your own green pastures, but what good is that if the Shepherd isn’t there with you?

In the end, we all have to look at what we are doing for the Kingdom and examine our own hearts of motivation. The Word says that “obedience Is better than sacrifice”.  Are we empowered by He who has already done the work for us? Or are we listening to the Lie that says the good we do will never be enough? And it won’t be.

What we do can never be enough which is why Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice for us. We must lay down the lie that says “Do more” and pick up His yoke, the light yoke, that says “Be more”. For why do long to be and do what we were created to be, and created to do—yet we try and do it without the one who created us, The Creator.

During my furlough season here in the United States, I am learning how to lay down “Do” and pick up “Be”. There are lyrics to another song that have been so great for me lately. It’s called The More I Seek You:

            The more I seek you
the more I find you
            The more I find you,
the more I love you

            I want to sit at your feet
            Drink from the cup in your hand
            Lay back against your and breathe, feel your heart beat
This love is so deep, its more than I can stand
I melt in your peace, it’s overwhelming

I pray that we can all learn how to live in this sweet moments of being with the Lord, laying our head against him, breathing and feeling his heart beat. Only this will allow our hear to beat with His and go forth in His power, with His flock to do His work.
           




Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Facebook Missions

I suppose there has been somewhat of a blog silence in recent months. It’s never intentional when huge gaps of time go missing in writing and updating, and there’s an owed apology to those of you who faithfully read and pray for me and the work in Togo.

The problem is—what do you write when there aren’t “stories” to write about? Don’t get me wrong, the stories themselves are there, they exist of course, but are they “shareable”? Since January we have once again had a Lassa fever outbreak, a dear child that I loved and cared for died the weekend of anniversary of Todd’s death, and I’ve come back to the US to take a 2-month break. The majority of blogs, from medical missionaries especially, can write themselves. Lives saved, lives lost with blood, sweat and tears marking the trail. Who wouldn’t buy that book?

But Some stories can never to be shared because any attempt to write about them immediately cheapens them. All of the details can never be described in a 300-word blog entry and maybe it’s a violation of trust to take the darkest (or brightest) moments of someone else’s life and share it for the world to see for people to click “like”.  


Other stories can’t be shared because no one posts “I had the worst fight ever with my husband last night and my heart is too self-focused to forgive him yet” or “spanked my child harder than I should have today” or “I’m jealous of my friend to the point of coveting her life”. And we would all probably agree that these shouldn’t be posted to the Facebook forums of the world.


More and more I see some Facebook “confession” posts trying to battle the tendency to only post the most perfect parts and pictures of our lives: loads of laundry undone, dirty dishes in the sink, child tantrums—attempts to be transparent that our lives don’t actually have Facebook perfection. I’m not sure that it’s accomplishing its intention, but even so, it’s a start. But is the missions world ready for this? Are churches ready? And Supporters? What about the missionaries themselves?


Some may be thinking, “but Kelly, you write about hard moments and sad stories all of time. Your blog isn’t overflowing with the roses and sunshine of missions life,” and that would be true. But there is a pressure, even with those things, to wrap it all up with a big bow labeled, “it is well with my soul.”


What would happen if missionaries started sharing the things that aren’t “well with our souls”, or should I say “aren’t YET well with our souls”? Maybe we don’t even admit these things to ourselves. Whispering thoughts of, “how can I be a missionary and think that? Would my church, my sending organization pull me off the field? Would my supporters doubt their investment?”

There’s a secret in missions that many won’t tell you—an unwritten truth that you often choose to ignore if your trip is only 1-month long or even 1-year long, but impossible to ignore once you live somewhere: Missions is messy and so are missionaries. 

Each of us comes with preconceived notions and expectations of ourselves, those around us, the culture we are coming into. We also come unsanctified; we are in-process for sure, but far from the finish! We enter the journey with different training, different styles of work, different coping skills and personalities, and most of all different struggles with sin. Missionaries aren’t those that overcame all of the sin in their lives and moved overseas after achieving perfection! And for some strange reason that I have no yet figured out, the Lord decided to put large groups of us together and say “GO! Make disciples...together!”


WHAT?!


What happens when compassion looks different to me than it does to you? What happens when I’m still grieving over the loss of a patient when another one dies? What happens when I’m pushing the plow forward but the mud is up to my neck? What happens if there are people who think your work is not even ministry?  What happens when a short-term helper comes to lend a hand, but then spends time judging you and why you seem so “burned out”? What happens when the culture you came to serve is getting on your very last nerve? What happens when you feel disappointed not only in others, but in God?


I’m as guilty as anyone. I want myself and my co-workers to be super-human. I want us to Jesus Himself: perfectly compassionate, loving, merciful, righteously just and forgiving all at the same time. And when I’m not, or they aren’t, I judge them, and they judge me. We likely, and simultaneously, judge ourselves. Can I risk even to say that we can get stuck judging God Himself. How could HE write the story this way?!


And while we know the end of the story-restoration, joy, and healing--there is an in-between. The moments, the weeks, the years that come between the doubt and the joy. 


Are we ready to meet one-another in the in-between?


There is someone who isnot judging us though—The Judge Himself. “Come to me, all who are weary, and I will give you rest.”  While we are busy trying “fix” everyone around us and people are busy trying to “fix” us, Jesus offers us rest. Rest from the messiness. Rest from the expectations. Rest from bearing the load that was never ours to carry, because He carries us through the in-between.


And From rest comes freedom.

True freedom.
Freedom to post “it is not well with my soul”…..for now.