The last week of Mission Institute at Andrews University this last summer Bekki and I were given our missionary credentials. Cards that identified us as official missionaries of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As I shared with our Mission Institute group Friday night at communion, those credentials mean a lot to me, even more than my medical license. From the time I was an earliteen in Thailand I have wanted to be a missionary. Now I really was a missionary, and getting to go over the seas to a foreign land to tell the natives about Jesus, to teach and train them.
I guess I had this vision in my head of the picture on the front of the old mission book “Singer On the Sand”. The missionary in the white pith helmet and picture roll who also was able to cure (with God’s help of course) the chief or someone in his family of their deadly disease. Another classic example are all the Eric B Hare stories. But as many times as I have been in the mission field I would think I would have had a more realistic outlook.
Since being here I have found out that the native Adventists really don’t need me to teach them much about the Bible. From what I can tell from their worships and the discussions in Sabbath School on Sabbath morning they have as good a Bible knowledge as I do, with a fairly mature understanding of Bible truth. Besides that my French is nowhere good enough to participate in the discussions or give a worship talk. I still sound like a poorly educated 5 year old.
Furthermore we have been so busy with medical work that there is not much time to even think about doing evangelism, you know what “missionaries are supposed to do”. And so now after being an official missionary for a few months I have found myself wondering, “What does it mean to be a missionary? What does a missionary do? How is it different from being at home in the US?” So it has been a great struggle in my mind, “What am I doing here? What is my mission? What am I, what are we doing for Jesus?”
I went up to spend some time with Olen Netteburg in Bere, and on Sabbath morning went out with them to a Nangere village where they held a Branch Sabbath School. That was really cool. That fit my vision of being a missionary. But what are we doing in Moundou? And it bothers me greatly that we seem to just fix peoples bodies, but give them next to nothing for their soul.
With that background you will understand how we felt last Friday evening when we actually got to do something of an evangelistic nature, what real missionaries do. Bekki brought back with her the Jesus video (a 2 hour DVD on the life of Jesus based on the book of Luke) in several languages, French, Fulani, Tchadien Arabic, and Ngombaye (the dominant language of our area, nearly everyone speaks Ngombaye, pronounced gum-bye). She also brought our projector with her, so Friday evening we set it all up and showed the Jesus video on the outside wall of the women’s ward. It was great, patients and families loved it. Those that could came out of the wards in wheel chairs and on crutches to watch the life of Jesus.
One really cool story is about Olivier. He is recovering from a badly fractured femur, and just the day before he and Bekki had a major argument over getting out of bed. He flat out told her he was not getting up for a month, so there. When the video started he wanted to watch it. So we got “Mr. I am not getting out of bed for a month” out of bed and he walked over to watch the video using a walker, including hopping a curb. It was a Friday night miracle of healing.
Bekki sat by a Muslim woman who probably had never seen or heard the story of Jesus before. Bekki was impressed by her reactions especially as she watched the scenes of the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. We prayed for the Holy Spirit to be there with our patients and families, and we believe our prayer was answered. Our plan is to show the film in a different language every other Friday night. The other Friday nights we want to show a nature video that speaks in all languages.One of the neatest evangelistic tools we have is our Godpods. Many of you already know about them and have donated money for them. Bekki brought a number of them back with her this time as well. Godpods are little MP3 players that have rechargeable batteries in them with solar panels on one side to recharge the batteries. They have anywhere from 10 to 360 hours of playtime and come with the Bible, or Bible stories or anything else we want to program on them. They are immensely popular. In fact it is so cool, everytime we go into the wards we hear the Bible or Bible stories in French or Tchadien Arabic or Fulani. We had one in Ngombaye but one of the patients took it home. Although we tell them we are loaning it to them, many of them find their way out of the hospital. This is not altogether a bad thing as without the right cord and software they cannot change what is on it, and the whole idea is to get them out to where people can listen to them.
So I am happy that we are getting to do “missionary” things now. But at the same time I have come to realize that the whole missionary stereotype is a fantasy that we have built up from when we were in Kindergarten singing about going overseas to a mission land and the little girls wore paper nurses caps and the little boys wore paper mirrors on their heads. Not that emphasizing missions is bad, but we have to understand that we are all missionaries, or I should say, all Christians should be missionaries. Everything we do should show the love of Jesus to those around us, no matter what country we are in. So even though it is great that we can show the Jesus video in 4 different languages, and pass out MP3 players with the Bible on it, if I don’t show the love of Jesus in everything I do, in surgery, in rounds, in consults, when I drive the ambulance, then it is just a hollow gesture. Being a missionary is not something we just do in a foreign land, it what we are every day no matter where we live.
For those of you new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital, where we initially were to be. Soon there will be a new video about Moundou. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. You will also find links to other missionary blogs such as Olen and Danae Netteburg, Jaime and Tammy Parker and others. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us. For our Francophone friends there is a French translation of our blog that you can find at http://gardnersenafrique.wordpress.com.
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