Monthly Archives: April 2012

Burning Bridges!

Well, there’s no going back now.  After 17 years, I’ve turned in my pager at St. Charles Hospital.  This has been a week of saying good bye to long term friends and co-workers.  My time at Desert Orthopedics, Bend Surgery Center, and St. Charles Hospital has been unbelievably rewarding, but that chapter has drawn to a close. Tearful good byes, feelings of dislocation and sadness mixed with excitement and anticipation.

Our house is under contract, with a very nice couple from Texas schedule to take possession on May 25th, pending a few things.  This house, too has been a long term friend, and will be a sad parting in the not too distant future.  Right now, though, we’ve really already said good bye to the house, and are looking at the mountain of stuff growing in the garage.  A pile for Kenya, a pile for Goodwill, and a mystery pile of stuff we’re not getting rid of, that will wind up in a container sitting somewhere.  By the time we leave Bend, we’ll be down to what we can fit in our overstuffed, overweight, oversized suitcases.

Ann and I are really feeling like the little grain of wheat that has to die to come to fruition.  Letting go of all these things we love, all these things that are normal, all these things that give us security, feels like a little bit of death.  With that, though, we also look forward to blossoming in the next chapter that God has in store.

Sometimes I get a little uncertain, a little doubtful, about the work in Africa.  Maybe I won’t be qualified, maybe I won’t be able to handle it, maybe it will just be too hard.  But then, while reading a colleague Dan Poenaru’s blog, I saw a picture of a girl in a Kenyan refugee camp, completely crippled, and brought to clinic in a wheelbarrow like so much garden refuse.  Then I know that none of my little worries, insecurities, and limitations matter at all.  What matters is that there are millions of people suffering terribly in the world, and God has given me the ability to do a little something for a tiny percentage of them.

So the bridges are burning, but we can’t look back.

‘Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”(Luke 9:62)  I don’t think that He wouldn’t want you there, it would just be pretty hard to find your way if you’re looking back all the time.  Through the hardest struggles, it’s so important to keep looking forward, keep “plowing” ahead, until the day when the Master exclaims, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”The bridges we’ll carefully maintain are the relationships with the amazing friends we’ve made here.  Ironic that the best group of friends I’ve ever had in my life, and now I’m leaving.  My mountain bike buddies are all meeting in Moab for one final mountain bike extravaganza.  Probably a bad sign that we’re being sponsored by one of the local breweries.  It’s really sad to think about leaving friends, but we’re hopeful that at least a few can come over at some point to catch up, maybe work a little, and experience some Kenyan culture and sights.We continue to be humbled by the enthusiasm, faithfulness, and generosity of our support team.  Financially, we’re already approaching 2/3 of the way to funding the first five years of work!  Thank you for all of your prayers, encouragement, and support.  We’ve had the opportunity to make new friends, and deepen relationships with people who were previously only acquaintances.  We’re really excited to be representing a team of such great, fun, enthusiastic and purposeful supporters.

Our tentative plan at this point is to depart from Bend around the third week in July, and Ann may or may not have been convinced that driving a motorhome to Colorado via Yellowstone is both more economical and way more fun than flying.  We’re schedule to begin a three week cross-cultural training program in Colorado Springs on  July 30, followed by a brief visit to the World Harvest Mission headquarters in Philadelphia, before boarding the plane for Nairobi in late August.  Thanks for visiting the blog, and be sure to “follow” with the link at the left if you’d like to be notified of post by email.

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Raising Support

Neither Ann nor I come from missionary-type backgrounds, so this whole process has required a pretty steep learning curve for both of us.  Bursting with enthusiasm and energy, we were accepted into long-term overseas missions last December by World Harvest Mission. Within an hour of accepting a five-year commitment to serve in Africa, we were presented with our monthly budget, given a hearty slap on the back, and told to go out and “raise support.”  I think my exact response was: “huh?”

In fairness to our esteemed sending agency/new bosses, that’s not at all what happened!  We have, however, had to get our heads around some concepts which are distinctly different from the way we were raised, and perhaps even at odds with some aspects of Western culture itself.

The basic concept of “raising support”, or living off of support, is this:  the one who is sent is really just an emissary, a representative, of a large group of people who are committed to the work being done.   As such, the one being sent is as much in the service of those sending him as he is to those in his host country or project.  Our role is to be the “boots on the ground” for a group of people who believe in what we’re doing, but are not in the position at the moment to do it themselves.

There are both spiritual and financial components to living off of the support of others.   The great Polish pianist Ignacy Paderewski is quoted as saying “If I miss one day of practice, I notice it.  If I miss two days, the critics notice it.  If I miss three days, the audience notices it.”  We feel that way about prayer.  We can’t go a day without it.  As stumbling, broken, imperfect followers of Christ, we depend on prayer.  Our motivation, our energy, our reasons for what we do, are spiritual. The most vital role of our team is praying for Kenya, for us, and for each other.

Raising support also fills a very pragmatic role.  As you read this, there are thousands of people serving around the world  in developing countries.  Whether they are teachers, preachers, pastors, doctors, hydro-engineers, or agricultural experts, they all have in common that they’re working at something that doesn’t inherently allow them to make a living in their host country.  Some work for non-governmental organizations, some for government agencies, some for faith-based agencies.  All of them, however, are supported financially either by others’ generosity or tax dollars.

This alone is a strange concept:  living off of others’ generosity.  This doesn’t sit comfortably with such tenets of western thought as rugged individualism, autonomy, self-sufficiency, and success.  We’re told from a young age to pull our own weight.  Our definition of success almost always includes financial independence.

Conversely, the formation of a team of benevolent supporters pushes back against some of the greatest ailments of our society:  isolation, boredom, loneliness, and purposelessness.  As humans, we’re inherently social creatures, and many feel the calling to be associated with something larger than ourselves.  Faced with natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, or famine in Africa, many are moved to respond to help those in need.  As we move to Kenya, we take seriously this role as emissaries of those who send us.  We look forward to maintaining a dynamic relationship with our support team.  We believe that inter-dependence is a higher calling than independence.

All that being said, we are continually humbled, amazed, and encouraged by the outflow of prayer, enthusiasm, and generosity we encounter.  Only a few weeks after making our needs known, our budget is already 45% funded for the next five years!  In the middle of an historic recession, with homes in negative equity, and no one feeling particularly secure about their future, many have already recognized a way to reach out to those with less.  We’re hoping to be 100% funded in the next 4-6 weeks, which will allow us to depart for Kenya in early August.

I’m a big believer in the Jewish concept of “Shalom.”  Far beyond our usual translation as “peace,” shalom refers to individuals, societies, and nations being in harmonious relationship with one another and with God.  We’re hoping that our support team represents a tiny manifestation of Shalom in this world, and we welcome you to join us.

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