From the Field

The Kingdom of God, Suffering, and How He is making all things NEW!

From the Field

The Kingdom of God, Suffering, and How He is making all things NEW!

By November 9, 2021No Comments
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Editors Note: Medical missionaries are showing the love of Jesus through hands-on medical care in some of the most remote locations on Earth – including rural Burundi – a small country in East Africa where access to medical care is extremely limited. In this post, one missionary doctor explores what it means to practice medicine in a world full of brokenness and suffering.

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Your kingdom come

Suffering

He is making all things new

What do these ideas have in common?  

I realize that not only have I thought a lot about these ideas/topics in the past year, but they also have helped me answer my own question: Why should we practice and teach medicine in Burundi?”

A few years ago, a dear friend sent me a link to listen to a talk given by Eric Mclaughlin about “Medicine and the Kingdom of God.”  (Side note: At the time, I didn’t even know Eric, and I certainly had NO idea we would be working with him after later deciding to move to Burundi!!)  I listened to his talk and really appreciated the insight Eric brought to the topic of medical missions. 

During his talk, Eric referenced Mark 1:14 “…Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’ ” 

But what is God’s Kingdom? Arguably it is “all of life under the gracious rule of God.” That means, if you are in the Kingdom, you are in the domain of the King. 

Little did I know at the time, but these words would be so helpful as I experienced (not personally, but rather witnessed) so much suffering this past year. There’s been a huge change in my worldview after moving from one of the wealthiest countries in the world (in which we were extremely comfortable) to one of the poorest.  

Living in a country where people are wondering where their food will come from, living off of less than a dollar a day (for those who actually have employment), and most living without running water or electricity can lead one to feel and think many different things.

Initially, it was overwhelming, and to be honest, many days I still am overwhelmed by the sadness and hardships by which I am surrounded. 

And these circumstances are just their baseline, let alone what people go through when they or their children are ill or in need of hospitalization. 

When a child is born in Atlanta, GA with some sort of cyanotic, congenital heart disease – which is deadly in the first few months of life if not corrected – this child may receive surgery and live an (almost) completely normal life – minus checkups, possible mild sequelae, etc.) 

When a child is born in Burundi with the same exact defect – there is no one here to fix this. And there is no way the family could ever afford to travel to the capital, let alone Kenya, where there is possibly someone who could fix this. I know that this baby will die. 

Sometimes it’s worse knowing what could be if this child were born somewhere else. This is suffering. Injustice. Knowing that children here suffer and die from congenital diseases and malformations that are easily treated and corrected in developed countries. It’s a daily mental battle that all but forces me to long for the Kingdom which is yet to come.  

I have always believed that my hope is in the Lord, but in this past year, that truth has become solidified in my daily thoughts and actions.  My hope rests on His faithfulness, His promises, His never-ending love, and the promise that one day Jesus will return and He will make all things new. 

Honestly, I’m still working through the ability to articulate exactly what I’ve been processing since our arrival to the mission field. But I’ll take a few points straight from Eric’s talk because he has stated them in a straightforward way – 

  • Medicine is a tangible way to testify that God cares about the sick and suffering.  
  • By allowing God to use me and my skills to help treat those who are ill shows a little bit of what life is like under God’s rule.  
  • Disease and sickness are being taken away and when Jesus comes back again, will be banished for good.  

So while we are not personally capable of bringing God’s kingdom to earth, I am able to pray – 

“God, your Kingdom come. May I surrender to your leadership and not lose sight of whose Kingdom I am working for.  Forgive me for the times where I am working for my interests, my ‘kingdom.’  

Help me to see the injustice and pain that is happening around me as part of the ‘not-yet’ Kingdom – as I long for your kingdom to fully come at which point all pain and suffering and death will be wiped away. 

Holy Spirit, work through me to bring God’s Kingdom to earth until that day when Jesus returns and all is made new.”

 

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Are you passionate about showing forth the gospel of Jesus through medicine? Join us this month at the Global Missions Health Conference (GMHC) in Louisville, KY from November 11th to 13th.  This year, GMHC will be both a live AND virtual event – so you can join us from anywhere!

There will be more than 150 breakout sessions, including a few hosted by Serge missionaries from E. Africa and S. Asia. Learn more and register >>

 

 

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*Photo by Scott Myhre
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Jennifer Harling

Jennifer Harling

serving in Kibuye, Burundi