March 31st marked my 1 year anniversary in Togo. In some ways it seems silly to mark a 1 year anniversary because, well…it’s only “1”. In light of so many missionaries who have come before me and even those with whom I serve alongside marking 20, 25+ years on the field, “1” seems silly. But of course, to get to 20, you must pass through 1.
Like any anniversary it causes someone to pause and look back and what has been accomplished (or what hasn’t been accomplished). And it’s only natural to think about how I got here in the first place.
The only answer to explain how I got here is God, and His hand of orchestration and direction. But a more specific answer to how I got here: a break up.
I wasn’t planning on coming to Togo, and honestly, I wasn’t planning on doing missions until after I had done a Pediatric Heme/Onc fellowship, gotten married and found someone to do job sharing with me, so that I could split my time between the US and somewhere overseas. That was the plan. THE Plan. MY plan. I had no doubts about this plan, and I was sure that God approved of my plan as well. Why wouldn’t God approve of this marvelous plan?
Oh how to look back and read our own foolish minds! Sigh
My retrospective 20/20 vision allows me to see that although there was nothing evil or sinful about THE Plan, it wasn’t HIS plan. And if I had been honest with myself and the Lord, I would’ve admitted that sooner. Because years before, I had been to a medical missions conference and knew that God told me to ‘GO’. It wasn’t a secret. He didn’t hide this plan from me. It was clear—very clear.
But as time goes on, so starts the bargaining process. “I will go, but AFTER my fellowship.” “I will go, but as a frequent short-term missionary.” “Of course I will go, but only when ‘he’ is ready.”
There is a Parable in Luke 14 called “The Parable of the Great Banquet” where a man invited many friends to a great banquet but they all gave excuses involving the cares of the world and wouldn’t come. So the man told his servant to go out to the streets and invite the poor, the lame, the blind and anyone else who would come.
Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and is referring to the kingdom of God, but I think the parable applies to any situation where the Lord invites us, or calls us, to be a part of His ministry and we find excuses to go our own way.
Sometimes the Lord allows us to go our own way, follow our own Plan for quite some time. And sometimes, in His great mercy, he breaks our Plans…. breaks our Spirit even, in order to show us a better Way—His Way….HIS Plan.
The Lord gently did this for me through the break up of a relationship. It was quick, unexpected, unwelcomed, and painful. But even before the dust of my heart had settled, He showed me the Path that I had stepped off of in efforts to pursue my Plan and not His own. And He gently said, “I don’t want you to wait 10 years to go overseas. That may be the plan I gave Him, but I told you to go NOW.”
There is nothing wrong with relationships. There isn’t anything sinful about pursuing further training in a career. There is only sin in disobedience. And it is possible to pursue Good Things and build relationships with Godly people while being disobedient, if it isn’t what the Lord asked you to do.
So when God saw in my heart that I was more willing to follow another person than I was the plan God had already given me, it was time to step in.
It just so happened that the following week was the Global Mission Health Conference in Louisville, KY—a conference I had attended for the past 6 years—the conference where God had shown me clearly that I was to be a medical missionary.
And on the last day of the conference, as all the booths were shutting down, a friend mentioned Samaritan’s Purse and their Post-Residency Program. I ran back to find their booth and a wonderful lady was there packing up materials. I asked for an application and the rest is history, as they say.
The following year, at the same conference, I had already been accepted into the program and two representatives from ABWE Togo took me to lunch and told me about what the Lord was doing in Togo, and the vision they had for the Word of Christ to reach those who needed Him both physically and spiritually. I walked away from that lunch knowing right then that I was moving to this small West African country.
I would love to say that every single day here has been amazing, and most of them are. But, there are days that are extremely tiring, lonely, and discouraging. Still, every day here is a GIFT and a reminder that His Plan is always the BEST plan if we are seeking His Will and His Name to be known among ALL people. I wouldn't trade this last year for anything.
Many of you have been with me through this entire process and I cannot say enough about the impact you are having on my life and the lives of the Togolese—from prayer to financial support, e-mails, cards and packages. A huge THANK YOU to Jeremy and Karrisa Wilson who came to visit and work her for 2 weeks, Monika (my roommate from Switzerland) who spent her 3 week vacation here visiting, along with my parents who were willing to travel on Christmas Day in order to come out and see me! Thank you to Sojourn, my home church, and the community groups there that are always praying for me and helping take care of my Louisville life. And thanks to all of my friends and family who have always encouraged me to follow Christ, even if it means moving half-way around the world. The list can go on and on. So Happy 1 year Anniversary to…..YOU, and your willingness in joining the Lord’s work in Togo!
I miss you all greatly but, may this be the first of many more Togo anniversaries to come.