Last night, my wife Rachel and I stood together in our kitchen here in rural Burundi, putting dinner leftovers away.
Though we have both worked as medical missionaries in Africa for over ten years – 2020 has been a particular challenge.
In addition to the same pandemic challenges that the whole world has been experiencing, our team has known violent robberies and a season of national elections, which has historically been associated with instability.
But this night, we were remembering with thankfulness all the years that we have been able to provide medical care in the name of Jesus to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
We thought about the professionals that we have trained and the impact that they are making even now.
We thought about the home that we created in which our kids are growing up.
“You wouldn’t be here without me,” Rachel said with a smile.
She was right, and she knew it.
In addition to the mutual support we give each other, she was the one that was already committed to overseas medical work when we met. I was interested, but still checking it out.
What led me into medical missions?
In 2003, at the invitation of my fellow second-year medical students, I decided to participate in the Global Missions Health Conference (GMHC).
I wanted to know more about the Christian faith and how it intersected with medicine, as well as what Christian medical professionals were doing to serve the world that God loves.
After my first breakout session (about bioethics and, because it was 2003, Lord of the Rings), a medical student from California came up to me, shot me a beautiful smile, and introduced herself.
After seeing my name-tag, she wanted to know if we had friends in common (which we did). That conversation led to several more throughout the conference, mostly centered on Christianity, medicine, and missions.
After returning to Michigan, we started emailing regularly. We started thinking about a future together, which was the catalyst for my decision to commit to long-term medical missions.
I might not have been one hundred percent sure exactly where God wanted me to serve people with my medical training, but I was quite sure with whom He wanted me to do it.
About eighteen months later, we were married.
After residency, we moved to Kenya, and then to Burundi.
Fifteen years after our meeting at GMHC 2003, we were invited to lead a session at GMHC 2018 entitled “Missions and Marriage.” At least we knew what our opening remarks would be.
I am tempted to conclude that the moral of this story is “Go to GMHC and maybe you’ll meet your spouse!” – which I suppose isn’t the worst interpretation one could posit.
But we would probably do better to step back and remember that our Heavenly Father is at work.
God weaves our unsuspecting decisions and ordinary events together into something that is so much more than the sum of its parts.
He is, in particular, at work in our lives – in mine and in yours.
Even more particularly, He is at work in ways that we do not see and that we are not expecting.
What is He doing in your life? Be curious.
What story is He writing in the life of the person sitting next to you?
We don’t know, but we are confident that it’s bigger than what we see, and that is a reason for hope.
We are confident that, in the end, it will be for his glory and not for ours, and that is reason for repentance, praise, and in the end, gratitude.