Being a Child Again

IMG_1277When Addie and Palmer first came home from Africa, we had to teach the kids a “boo-boo” routine. When they got hurt, we had to teach them that they needed to come to us, sit on our lap, let us oooo and ahhh over their injury, no matter how minor, kiss it and let them sit with us until they felt comforted.

We had to teach Addie and Palmer to need us. To seek comfort from us. To ask us for help.

DSCN0022Without such instruction, they were daredevils who felt no pain. They would scale tall structures fearlessly, fall and hit their heads, or ride their bikes into spectacular crashes, and they would merely get back up, go back to what they were doing, and pretend it didn’t hurt. It was particularly frightening watching Addie, who had rickets and osteoporosis, play recklessly. Palmer had even more of a wild streak — taking off his training wheels and jumping his bike over curbs — the very first day he learned to ride.

2012-01-12 13.25.38Because they had been in an orphanage with minimal adult influence, and even less compassion, they had learned to fend for themselves. Even before they were in the orphanage, the kids were remarkably independent. Addie was still young enough to not have achieved premature adulthood in the Congo, but Palmer would go shopping by himself, go to work, and care for younger siblings when he was no more than 6. We tease that he seems like a little old man, because he especially learned independence at a very early age.

2012-01-12 13.33.41We have had to teach Palmer to be a child again. We had to teach him to ask for help.

This Christmas season, God has been teaching me about humility. The most difficult part of the missionary journey for us has not been the thought of giving up our possessions, learning new languages, giving up clean running water, or living at the edge of a desert. It’s not risking our health and security in a more primitive part of the world. It’s not sharing Christ’s love with Muslims, treating AIDS patients, or moving to a brand new field where we will be alone as the first Global Partners missionaries.

The most difficult part of our missionary journey is asking for help.

Ken and I have three master’s degrees between the two of us. We have diversified our skills so we would always be employable. We have lived with no extended family nearby to depend on for our entire marriage. The vast majority of holidays: Just the two, or now four, of us. Our first objection to going to the mission field was that we didn’t want to have to be dependent on others. Yet in The Wesleyan denomination, missionaries raise all of their salaries and living expenses, plus their operating and administrative expenses. If God wasn’t so clear on what He wanted us to do, we wouldn’t have even started the process.

But He is clear. He spoke through our children, He healed my lungs, He showed us first-hand how our skills would meet the needs of the Ghanaian and French-speaking people of Africa.

God is teaching us to be children again. He is teaching us to ask for help.

We are asking for people who will partner with us in prayer by making a prayer commitment here (Yes, we need you to sign up!), and for people who will partner with us financially in faith promises or donations. We cannot go until we are 100% funded and supported in prayer. At this point, we are at less than 10% for each, and have many opportunities for people to invest, not in what we are doing in Ghana, but what God is wanting to do in Ghana through us. Moving to Ghana, ministering to pastors, healing the sick, and teaching others about the good news of Christ is simply too big for only four people to do on their own. What God is doing in Ghana is so amazing, we know that He is calling hundreds of others to be a part of what He is doing there as well. We are called to go, even more are called to send.

This Christmas season, I am putting into practice what God has been teaching me, as I humbly ask you to consider partnering with us to be a part of our sending team, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves — be one of 400 prayer partners, and be a part of our financial partnership team. We are not asking you to give what you feel what you can afford, but asking you to give what you feel God is asking of you. We’d love to have you on our team!

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A Christmas of Questions

I scratched my head in frustration as I tried to make a Christmas list this year. With our upcoming move to Ghana, I’ve realized that tangible gifts are a bit silly. A new sweater? What will we need sweaters for? We’re going to be living at the edge of a desert! New roller blades? There won’t be paved roads to use them on there. A new panini press?  Are we really going to pay to ship a panini press all the way to Ghana? When I’m about to give up the vast majority of our worldly possessions, why buy more?

As I’ve looked for Christmas gifts, or even around the house, I’ve realized that we have a lot of “stuff.” I feel a bit nauseated not only what we have, but how much we have to get rid of in the next year. Knick-knacks, decor, furniture, electronics, books, toys, bicycles, clothing, shoes and on and on.

All these are things we cannot take with us to Africa.

Ultimately, none of us can take tangible things with us into eternity either.

photo (18)How is it that the season of celebrating the Divine descent of humility has ended up a celebration of excess? Spending too much, accumulating things we do not need, trying to find the perfect gift for that someone who has everything. While Christmas certainly celebrates the greatest Gift of all, would not a more appropriate celebration be expressions of humility rather than gifts of extravagance?

In celebration of Christmas this year, I’m reflecting on the humility of Christ by asking these questions:

  1. Do I consider myself better than others?
  2. Am I joyful that all of my possessions, physical health, and vocation belong to Christ and are merely on loan to me?
  3. Do I feel pride when I help someone poorer, less educated, or in a lower socioeconomic status? Do I use the misfortune of others to feel better about myself?
  4. When I have a misunderstanding with another person, do I find it difficult to apologize for my part?
  5. Do I feel annoyed when I do something nice for someone else, and no one notices?
  6. Do I face hardship, failure, and challenges with an attitude of resistance or with  submission?
  7. Am I able to admit to and laugh at my flaws, or do I try to hide them from others?
  8. Am I seeking God’s will earnestly in daily reflection in His Word, or do I find myself too busy for Scripture in order to avoid its challenges to the way I want to live my life?
  9. Do I meet God’s call to be generous to others with hesitancy or with joy?
  10. Do I care more about what others think than what God thinks, especially when He asks me to do things that others would consider foolish?

In Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I’ve never quite understood how being humble of heart would give me rest for my soul until I began to look around at all of the things that I have to rid myself of in order to follow Jesus to Ghana. I’ve heard it in the voices of others around me as well. People say to me every week, “I could never do what you’re doing!” or “Better you than me!”

Why is it so hard for us to follow God’s leading into hard places?

I now realize that the houses, decor, furniture, and knick-knacks we possess often shackle us to our own plans for our own lives. Indeed, I see the truth of the statement that it is easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. The humility of allowing God to say, “Go,” or “Give,” or “Tell”–without having to worry about the logistics of how to make our lifestyle accommodate what He asks of us — should be liberating. When we love Jesus more than our stuff, the burden of worrying about how we will follow His call is light. Saying yes to His call becomes easy.

The most difficult part of following God’s will is exchanging what we want for what He does. And that is the heart of humility– the obedience exemplified by the Son as He said, “Not my will, but yours.”

May God bless you this Christmas with the feather-light yoke of humility, questions to challenge your heart, and the freedom to say yes to whatever He asks.

Matthew 11:28

A Glimpse of Heaven From a Corduroy Recliner

Celia* cowered in fear in her chair as I walked in the door. She had seen people in white coats with stethoscopes dangling around their necks and she knew what that meant: something was going to hurt.

The tragic irony in seeing Alzheimer’s patients is that the rules are very similar to seeing pediatric patients. Slow. Cautious. Take the focus off of the doctor-patient interaction. Harmless as a dove. Wise as a serpent. The healing serpent that symbolizes the medical profession. The serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness for the healing of God’s people.

I looked around the room that Celia now called home. Pictures of her and her husband and children graced the dresser next to her recliner. Poinsettias for Christmas. A happy birthday balloon hovered over her head.

I sat on the bed on the opposite side of the room and waited to earn trust. I asked about the handsome man in those photos, the man who now came in the evenings to lovingly feed her so that she would continue to eat. Everything is better coming from the hand of someone who loves you.

Celia told me a story about her handsome husband in the photos in what only could be described as word salad– a mixture of intelligible half-words with unintelligible expressions of passion. Though the words were incomprehensible, the sentiment was not. They were still in love after all of these years.

As her eyes and mouth danced through the memories of years gone by, I approached quietly on my knees to the side of her corduroy recliner and sat and listened. I responded as if I understood every word she said, because in a way, I did. The years had been hard, but good. Her husband meant the words of his vows more than 50 years ago, when he promised, “In sickness and in health.” She hated what her body had done to her, but his tender love still carried her through the darkness and confusion.

I took out my forehead thermometer, and showed it to her. I made it dance like a puppet, then touched it to my forehead. The puppet thermometer danced again and touched her forehead.

Beep. No fever.

My O2 saturation monitor was the friendly alligator who danced and hugged my finger. The O2 sat then danced and tried to hug her finger. She pulled back in anger.

I had violated her trust. How could I let an alligator bite her finger? Shame on me.

I recoiled, and sat back down on the floor next to her recliner, knowing how much physical exam I had to do, but also understanding our relationship was still fragile.

“Silent night, holy night” I began to sing. Her eyes darted around her mind. This was familiar. Was it good? Was it bad? What was she feeling?

“All is calm, all is bright . . .” Her darting eyes met mine and locked on. Her mouth made chewing motions but was silent.

“Round yon virgin, mother and child . . .” Her mouth began to form the very words I was singing — the first intelligible words of the visit.

“Holy infant so tender and mild . . . “ Her eyes darted away from me. The vulnerability was too much.

“Sleep in heavenly peace . . .” Her eyes came back to mine. There was something in that phrase she liked.

“Sleep in heavenly peace.” With her eyes still locked on mine, she reached up and caressed my cheek.

“Yeeessssss,” she muttered. Sleep in heavenly peace. Yes, that does sound good, Celia, doesn’t it? Life on earth is hard. Heaven is close, but still just too far away.

I sang Silent Night to her again as my hands examined her. I paused between phrases to listen to the sounds of her heart, lungs, and abdomen. And the friendly alligator stayed on her finger long enough to read her oxygen saturation and pulse. When I sang the final line, “Sleep in heavenly peace” again, she was resting, holding my hand, and looking at me with a tender love that can only come from God. And I loved her right back. Everything is better coming from the hand of someone who loves you.

More than 2000 years after God Almighty wrapped Himself in the flesh a tiny Jewish baby boy, the songs inspired by that night allowed me to share a holy moment with my sweet patient Celia. Thank you Jesus, for connecting our hearts and minds. And thank you Celia for reminding me that even though our earthly bodies may bring us to the brink of hellish suffering, heaven is just a song-glimpse away.

“Dearest Lord, may I see you today and every day in the person of your sick, and, whilst serving them, minister unto you.

Though you hide yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognize you, and say:

“Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve you.”

Lord, give me this seeing faith, then my work will never be monotonous. I will ever find joy in humoring the fancies and gratifying the wishes of all poor sufferers.

O beloved sick, how doubly dear you are to me, when you personify Christ; and what a privilege is mine to be allowed to tend you.

Sweetest Lord, make me appreciative of the dignity of my high vocation, and its many responsibilities. Never permit me to disgrace it by giving way to coldness, unkindness, or impatience.

And O God, while you are Jesus my patient, deign also to be to me a patient Jesus, bearing with my faults, looking only to my intention, which is to love and serve you in the person of each one of your sick.

Lord, increase my faith, bless my efforts and work, now and for evermore, Amen.”

— Mother Teresa

*Name changed to protect her privacy

Shea Butter Story

Much of the shea butter of the world is produced in the region around Tamale, Ghana, where we’ll be moving. I loved this touching video showing how Fair Trade purchasing of shea butter by The Body Shop gives women not only jobs, but it also builds clinics, schools, and wells for the rural communities around Tamale. (And it makes a great Christmas gift!)

I also am falling in love with the faces and voices of the women in northern Ghana. I remember meeting a woman in college who was from Ghana, and falling in love with her accent. I could sit and listen to her for hours, and always wanted to work with her in groups, just so I could hear her speak. I can’t wait to be around Ghanaian English every day!

Indignation at the Incarnation

Last year at this time, I was gathered around with a group of friends at a Christmas party. The fireplace was crackling, coffee was brewing, desserts were digesting, and we were reflecting on how God was speaking to us at Christmas.

For me, it was the Incarnation. Why in the world would an omnipotent God wrap Himself in flesh to be born as a baby in a stable? Imagining the situation anew is almost offensive. Jesus, please, not in a manger, there’s donkey drool in there. Please, Jesus, at least a small palace or the temple, not in a temporary shelter away from the comforts of home– anyone’s home. No Jesus, not born to a poor teenage girl from Nazareth — at least choose a family with some clout or prominence.  Your message is too important, Jesus, to not bring it to a better platform than a poor homeless baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough.

Today, I’ve still more comfortable with a Jesus who is not quite so humble. The Divine nature, I’m satisfied with. Healing disease, casting out demons, walking on water, ascending into Heaven on fluffy white clouds with crowds standing in awe — that’s a Jesus who is easy to get on board with.  It’s the mucking around with fishermen and tax collectors, hiding out as a refugee in a foreign land, starving in the wilderness that doesn’t sit well with me. The Creator of the nighttime stars depending on the kindness of strangers for a place to lay His head at dusk. Letting snotty little kids climb on His divine lap while He tousles and parts their matted hair with the same hands that parted the Red Sea.

It’s just, well, distasteful, Jesus.

While I am comfortable with the divinity of Christ, the indignity of the Incarnation is difficult. Why? Because if the Creator of the Universe is as Humble as He is Divine, there is no room for my own pride. My arrogance stands in stark contrast with a glorious Savior who chose humility when He deserved everything but.

If I am striving to be like Christ, I cannot only be comfortable with the trappings of His blessings, I need to embrace the trappings of His humility as well. I want Jesus to use me to heal and to teach because I love the splendor of His omnipotence. But if there a place I will not live, an indignity I will not endure, an economic status I will not tolerate, or a death I will not die for the sake of His kingdom, my pretense flies in the face of the humility of the Incarnation. After all, Jesus,

“Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!”

Philippians 2:6-8, NIV

Jesus, it would be so much easier if you were born to a wealthy public figure in a sterile maternity ward, lived in a 2500 square foot house with a couple of cars, and never spent a hungry or homeless night!

Two weeks ago, I explained the Incarnation to Addie and Palmer over dinner — how Jesus left the perfection of heaven to come and live on stinky earth. And even though Jesus deserved so much more, sometimes Jesus was hungry. And sometimes Jesus didn’t have a place to sleep at night.

The kids were wide-eyed in awe. “But sometimes in Africa we were really hungry and we didn’t have any food or know where we were going to sleep. Jesus knows what that’s like?”

There was no place He would not live, an indignity He would not endure, an economic status He would not tolerate, or a death He would not die for the sake of His kingdom.

Indeed, I’m blessed to embrace the Divine wrapped in the indignity of the Incarnation.

Nativity with text

Straining Toward What Is Ahead

Academics has been my love for a long time. I started teaching at the university level 13 years ago, and I knew that it was a great fit for me. I love college student, I love teaching, and my profession is medicine. I’ve always called myself “half pastor, half professor.” It’s not that I don’t like practice — I do. But my issue with practice has always been the unnatural pace.

As annoying as it is for patients to have to wait to see a medical provider, it’s so much worse being a provider. In a typical appointment, I have to:

  • Review the patient’s chart, all their past diseases and treatments, allergies, family history, etc.
  • Interview the patient, letting them talk for at least 2 minutes, uninterrupted
  • Negotiate a plan for the visit, based on their needs, and what I need to cover
  • Finish interview
  • Do physical exam
  • Put all the symptoms together with the exam and make a diagnosis
  • Determine patient’s need for treatment or testing
  • Determine what needs to be done for health maintenance (routine bloodwork, testing, etc.)
  • Order testing and write prescriptions, calculating dosages and checking for drug interactions
  • Educate the patient on what they have, what needs to be done, and any side effects, expectations, etc.
  • Document all of the above
  • Code the visit for payment, assigning numbers which quantify the visit

Sometimes I’ve gotten 12 minutes a patient. Sometimes I’ve gotten 20. It’s really hard to do a good job while being efficient, personable, thorough, yet unhurried. It’s nearly impossible to truly look a patient in the eye and be present. And if one patient is running late, it sets the whole schedule back. It’s really hard to make up time when I barely have enough time to begin with. If a patient needs to be admitted to the hospital, then there is no hope of staying on schedule. All the while, you know that in spite of doing the right thing, all of your patients are going to be angry for the rest of the day, and long after they are home, you’ll be working on charting, call backs, hospital rounds, prescription refills faxed in from the pharmacy that have to be found in charts, and on and on.

I felt like patient care was getting reduced to clock-watching and a panic-driven pace.

When we moved to North Carolina, I applied for a license to continue to practice medicine here and discovered something unusual about PA practice in North Carolina. If you are not actively practicing for 2 years, your license goes under review and you are required to apply for re-entry into practice. The process is not clearly defined, but the only PA I knew of who had gone through it had to shadow a physician for 6 months before being granted a clear license to practice. That means no income for 6 months. Because I stopped practicing when I became Program Director, my two years is up in the next few months.

So I had a decision to make: stay in academics and lose my license to practice in the next few months, or go back into clinical practice.

In September, I got a call from the practice that is the gold standard of physician home-visit practices in the nation.They see adult and geriatric patients in their homes and in assisted living facilities. There is no time crunch to see patients, as patients are seen within a window of time, as they wait in their own homes making dinner, reading a book, or watching their favorite TV show without being exposed to other sick people. I would see the same number of patients in a week that I have previously seen in a day. I’d work out of my home, but I’d have lab and radiology staff, and an online support team. I’d carry my “office” with me in a rolling doctor’s bag with everything from vaccinations to suture kits. The schedule would be flexible. It reminded me of John Wesley and how when he made pastoral calls, he and his fellow ministers would care for a person’s physical health as well. I think it’s the way Jesus would practice medicine too — going where the needs are, seeing people in their own homes, taking time to look a patient in the eye and listen.

At the same time as deciding whether or not to move to Ghana, I had to decide whether to stay in academics and lose my license to practice, which would make it very difficult to get a license back, here or anywhere else, including Africa.

Or I could leave academics and go back into clinical practice, which would help prepare me for the mission field by refreshing my skills, and allow me to maintain my license, while practicing in what I feel is a God-honoring way.

DSC04420 - Edited

One of my favorite residents at Mercury Courts. I miss them all!

After praying about it and consulting with mentors, I am transitioning back into clinical practice. I will still continue to do some guest lectures in the PA Program here, but my focus is going back to clinical practice. I have already started seeing patients one day a week, and I absolutely adore my patients. They remind me so much of the people at Mercury Courts that I worked with and loved for 6 years in Nashville. I love the fact that I have enough time with each patient to appreciate who they are. And I get to live out the gospel through medicine among the geriatric population in preparation for living out the gospel through medicine in Africa.

We had no idea when we moved to North Carolina that God would have so many changes in store for us. The things we thought we loved and depended on are rapidly changing. Jobs, our house, our friends, our financial security — the things we have had any dependence on — are fading in importance compared to the ultimate goal of following where God is leading us.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:7-14, NIV

Six Months to Surrender

What started as a simple conversation at a Sunday lunch 6 months ago has culminated in our appointment as missionaries to Ghana, West Africa. How exciting it is to be asked to be a part of God’s work!

It certainly wasn’t an overnight surrender, but a process of clarifying what God was asking of us:

We realized that during our adoption, we had never considered living incarnationally, going to where our children were most comfortable, rather than bringing them where we are. God challenged us to consider moving our children back to the culture of their birth, where they would be in the majority, and we would be in the minority.

We discovered that the needs in both of our ministry fields were tremendous in the region of northern Ghana. There is one physician for every 93,000 there. Only 4 ordained ministers serve the more than 50 Wesleyan churches in Ghana, and one of the fastest growing areas for Christianity is just across the border in French-speaking Burkina Faso.

Addie and Palmer have had important voices in our decision, and both of them have let us know that they have hearts for those still in Africa. They have prayed about it and understand that God has asked us to move there. Almost every day, the children ask about Africa, and are excited to have an experience in Africa with an intact family, food in their bellies, and Jesus in their heart.

God confirmed His call through them, and also through the healing of my asthma. I’ve been off of asthma medicines for four months now, when previously, I could not go more than 24-48 hours without a sense of suffocation. What tremendous freedom I have now to breathe deeply and easily, and now I want to use my new-found breath to carry His healing to Ghana!

After traveling and seeing the needs up close, we decided we will be living in Tamale, in northern Ghana, approximately 100 miles south of Burkina Faso. I will be learning tropical medicine with the intent to both practice and create sustainable health practices in Wesleyan churches in remote areas where access to medical care is limited.  Ken will be helping to develop pastors and churches in French-speaking Africa, especially Burkina Faso, and also in English-speaking northern Ghana. Addie and Palmer will be developing friendships and sharing the love of Jesus with kids their own age. Because they won’t have so many of the cultural barriers that Ken and I will, and they know what a difference Jesus has made in healing their hearts from their wounds of the past, we think the kids may be the very best missionaries of all.

Now, it is time for us to begin the process of getting there.

We will be spending as long as it takes for us to raise a team of supporters who will partner with us in prayer and in finances so we can answer God’s call. We know that God has already begun to call people to surround us — many of them, if not most, read this blog.

Has our story challenged you? Inspired you? Made you excited about what God is doing? If so, we believe God is speaking through our story, and inviting you to be part of our partnership team.

Here is what we need:

  1. Prayer warriors. We need 400 people to sign up to support us at least weekly in prayer. We will be calling on these people to pray for us in changing circumstances, and give praise to God when He chooses to work through us.
  2. Financial supporters. We need churches and individuals to partner with us financially, especially in faith promises starting now and for the next four years. Faith promises are a demonstration that you believe that God will provide for you financially in order to support us. You are serving as a conduit of His blessings, and get the joys of being a faithful manager of His resources. Often, faith promises stretch a person beyond what they feel comfortable with financially — that’s where the “faith” comes in! We need:
    1. 17 churches to partner with us at $500/month; or
    2. 170 individuals to partner with us at $50/month; or
    3. 340 individuals to partner with us at $25/month; and
    4. One time financial gifts to help us with our start-up costs, since we will be the first Wesleyan missionaries to Tamale!
  3. Opportunities to share our story. We know that the Holy Spirit speaks through what He has been doing in our lives, and the more we share our story, the more others are drawn to Him and what He wants to accomplish in hearts in America, Canada, and Africa. We are available to speak at churches, retreats, conferences, etc. and would love the chance to tell how God is working miracles to bring more people to Himself.

If God has spoken to you through our story, we believe He is calling you to be a part of our team. To sign up, please click here. Know that if you join our team, we will pray for you, share with you our updates, news, and prayer requests, and communicate with you through newsletters, emails, and even snail mail on a regular basis. We are fully aware that we cannot do this without you!

Thank you for reading our story. Is it your turn to be a part of it?

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Making a Dent: Plans for Medical Ministry in Ghana

As we drove past the 339-bed Tamale Teaching Hospital in our Global Partners van, I was amazed at the size and beauty of the structure. The hospital campus was buzzing with patients and providers. Clearly it had been, and is continuing to be, renovated, including the addition of a neonatal intensive care unit. The hospital welcomes students from all around the world to train there, and was voted the best teaching hospital in Ghana in 2013.

My first thought was to of course admire the hospital resources available in the community. Perhaps the medical care situation in northern Ghana wasn’t as dire as I had thought.

Then I started to do some math.

Tamale Teaching Hospital serves the 2.5 million people in the northern region, 1 million people of the Upper West, the 1 million people of the Upper East, as well as part of the region of Brong Ahafo and its 2.3 million people.

It also serves the countries of Togo, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso as the regional referral hospital.

More than 6 million people. 339 beds.

Can you imagine a city the size of Toronto, San Francisco, or Philadelphia having only one hospital? Can you imagine trying to get care there?

Even as I looked at the beautiful facility before me, I began to feel the suffocation of health care shortage.

The ratio of physicians to patients is one for every 93,000 in the northern region of Ghana. The question is not as much what will I do, but how will I manage to make a dent in the overwhelming need?

In Ghana, earning the right to practice medicine is an interesting blend of paper and tribal processes. I will need to meet with the Chief District Medical Officer, and first ask to learn about medicine in Ghana. I cannot come in as an expert who is ready to practice. Though I have taken a missionary medical course focusing on treatment of diseases of Africa, I know that there will still be a steep learning curve to understand not only the different diseases that exist there, but the treatments that are available in Ghana. After a time, I will need to return to the Chief District Medical Officer to ask permission to practice.

photo 3My desire is to learn alongside the physician working at the SOS International Children’s Village in Tamale. Not only do they treat the orphans that live in their orphanage, but the health center is open to the community. Since the only physician there is male, and Tamale is predominantly Muslim, I look forward to ministering to the health needs of the Muslim women who are prohibited from being touched by a male physician. When we visited the SOS medical center, the waiting room had dozens of people waiting to see the one physician. When I asked if I could shadow and volunteer, a look of relief spread over the face of the administrator. The answer was a relieved, “Yes.”

My heart though, is still working to address the health care needs beyond just myself. I simply cannot meet the needs of 93,000 people by myself. I can barely make a dent.

My dream is to eventually move beyond making a dent to helping develop sustainable programs to address medical needs, especially in rural areas. We have learned much from the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone about the need for training community health leaders who can disseminate information, treat basic diseases, and know when to refer to larger medical centers while they can still be treated. I hope to use the networks of The Wesleyan Church in Ghana to raise up leaders to help meet the health needs of their communities. In the future, I would also love to welcome students, medical personnel, and other volunteers from the United States and Canada to help provide training and practice to meet the enormous medical and spiritual needs in northern Ghana.

In some ways, I realize that this may sound less than spiritual. But as I look to scripture, I am fascinated by the role that healing the sick played in Jesus’ life and ministry.

Matthew 10:7-8 says, “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”

Jesus’ commands as He sent out the disciples were overwhelmingly about healing the physically sick, not just declaring spiritual truth. One fifth of the gospels is dedicated to the healing miracles of Jesus, far more than any spiritual conversion stories.

Healing the sick is Kingdom work. I may not ever fully understand why medical work is so close to the heart of Jesus, but I am so thankful that I can live out the gospel in such a tangible way.

Ultimately, I will be focusing on ministry through medicine in Ghana, learning and eventually practicing medicine in the northern region of Ghana. I will also be developing programs to improve health outcomes in Ghana utilizing the networks of The Wesleyan Church to decrease transmission of infectious diseases, reduce child morbidity and mortality from preventable diseases, and improve women’s health outcomes.