Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thoughts on Support Raising

Thoughts on Support Raising (at the request of my sending church, Port City Community Church)

Please allow me to preface this by saying that I am in no way qualified to be an authority on support raising. I am simply one individual who has had a few different experiences. I have been on four mission trips, ranging from ten days to nine months. I raised support for all but one of these trips (the ten day trip to Kenya). So take the words that follow for what they are: the musings of a 25 year old would-be missionary.
I would also like to begin this essay by saying that I have not always loved the idea of support raising. Let’s be honest: I don’t like asking people for money. It feels awkward. Not only that, I come from a family and a profession where I could easily pay for the trips myself, either through cash on hand or through loans. Why burden others? God has already provided, I tell myself. In the end, if I can be honest, my real reason for trying to avoid support raising is pride. I don’t want to have to admit I needed anything. I don’t want to feel responsible to anyone. I don’t want to have to put myself at the mercy of others. I want to be my own master. This is the very heart of pride. The sooner you and I can put this sin to death, the better off we will be.

So, with that said, why raise support?

1.       Prayer
The first reason for support raising is to gain a prayer base. I assume you are reading this because you are going on a Christian mission trip. If that is true, then you are going to do the Lord’s work. As such, you are going to do a work that, ironically, you are unable to do. That’s because it isn’t your work. It is the Lord’s. You are simply following His calling to join Him in it. In the end, the success or failure of the work rests not in your hands, but in His. You cannot save anyone. Not only that, but there is an Opposition who would prefer that your trip, and the Lord’s work, fail miserably. And this Opposition is not a theoretical idea, but rather a powerful force that has already led a rebellion on a celestial scale. He is not greater than, or even equal to, Christ, but he has power none-the-less. Thus, you need all the help you can get. This is where prayer comes in. I am not in any sense of the word a theologian, nor do I understand how exactly it is that prayer works, only that it does. Throughout the Old and New Testament, you can see countless examples of the power and value of prayer. Talking with many missionaries has only reinforced this fact. I would venture so far as to say that the building of your prayer base is the single most important factor, outside of your own relationship and obedience to Christ, in determining the success of your trip. I don’t have any scripture to back this claim, so please take it with a grain of salt.  Just know that many missionaries would support it.
2.       Partnership
It’s not just about you. Hard words to hear, but they’re true. The trip the Lord has called you to take is first about His glory, and secondly, about the people He is calling you to serve. It is easy to think that this only includes the people at your destination. It doesn’t. There are people you are already in contact with that the Lord is calling you to serve. How? I’m glad you asked. There are countless Believers you already know who love Jesus and want to see His Kingdom furthered across the globe. They see the same hurt, pain, disease, and brokenness that you see. Only they, for reasons over which God alone is sovereign, cannot go. That is where you come in. You are going to address the needs that they see. You are going to the places that their hearts hurt for. They know and trust you. Invite them to partner with you. Take them with you through prayer letters, blogs, and email updates. Show them the needs that their prayer and their resources can help address. You have no idea how badly people who have been changed by Jesus want to partner with you. They are just waiting for you to ask. Don’t rob them of the blessing of doing the Lord’s work by letting your pride keep you from asking them to join your team.
3.       Community
I love people. I love meeting new people, and I love catching up with old friends. I recognize that not everyone is built the way I am, but everyone has relationships. Support raising is an excellent opportunity to form new partnerships, strengthen existing relationships, and revive old friendships that have grown cold from distance and time. I cannot tell you how many amazing conversations I had with people who had either been mere acquaintances or with whom I had grown apart, as a result of the support raising process. It gave me an excuse to invite them to dinner, take them out for coffee, shoot them a facebook message, or give them a call. It allowed me to hear about their dreams, their lives, and how the Lord had been at work since I had seen them last. Caveat here: if you are only looking to these people for their money, forget everything I have just said. Support raising will be a miserable experience for you. If, however, you are looking to form a team of co-laboring friends who will partner with you in your work, then I can assure you that the Lord is faithful. He will provide. And you will be blown away as you watch people step up in big ways that you could have never anticipated. And, as a bonus, you will likely walk away from the whole experience with deeper, richer friendships then you had when you began.
4.       Calling
This one is probably the scariest of them all. It is the real reason why I was so afraid to raise support in the beginning. You see, raising support puts the trip firmly into God’s hands to give the final ok. If the funds come in, you can be more confident that the trip really is part of the Lord’s plan for your life. On the other hand, if the funds don’t come in, it requires you to take a long hard look at whether the trip was the Lord’s idea or yours. I, for one, don’t like giving up that control. But, if you can overcome the hurdles of pride and fear, the end result is quite wonderful. The confidence that the Lord raised funds you could have never raised gives a sense of peace that is priceless when things get tough on the field and you start doubting whether you should be there at all. Not only that, but you have a collection of people who have affirmed your call (and continue to do so) by giving of their own resources. These people often provide the reaffirmation of that call through email and phone conversations at times when it is most desperately needed. This support alone is worth all the awkwardness and inconvenience that support raising can bring.

To conclude, raise support. Just do it. Stop making excuses. Don’t give in to the faux-noble temptation to “not burden others.” You are going to the front lines of a war for the eternal destiny of souls. You need cover. You need support. You need a team around you when things get tough (and by the way, they will get tough). You need encouragers to remind you why you volunteered for this in the first place. You want those people to be invested. Christ made it clear, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And you want people’s hearts with you, because where their hearts are, their prayers will be also. Those prayers are invaluable. You are doing what you as an individual, and we as the Church, have been created to do. Go do it, but don’t forget to take others along with you. Remember that it is the Lord who goes before you. Godspeed.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Quick and Dirty Update

So, I had dreams of writing this great blog post to summarize my two weeks here at Galmi, then I got a viral upper respiratory infection (aka a cold)...then it became a viral GI infection (I think you know the kind I mean). So, instead, a list in no particular order:

1. We flew from Niamey to Galmi two weeks ago in a little six-seater plane. It was wonderful. This is by far the best way to be introduced to a new land.

2. I arrived in Galmi, and immediately was taken to my apartment. It is bigger than my apartment in Greenville, NC. This fact does not upset me.

3. I began work in the hospital  a few days later. This consists of rounding at 7:30 am on the 25 or so patients that the surgeon I am working with, Dr. Starke, has on his list. Around 8:30 we go to "La Bloc," which is the OR. There are two surgeons here: Dr. Starke and Dr. Sannoussi. One operates the whole day, and one operates till lunch. I usually assist Dr. Starke the whole day or until he leaves, then if there are more cases, I will stay and do those with Dr. Sannousi. We generally do between 4 and 8 cases including every area of surgery except neurosurgery. A list from my first day goes as follows:

Perforated Typhoid Repair
Perforated Peptic Ulcer Repair
Ex-Lap revealing Tuberculosis Peritonitis
Removal of a Axillary Cystic Hygroma (Wikipedia it)

This is a pretty standard day. We usually finish around 2 or 3 pm, at which time we break for lunch, and return to the outpatient department to do outpatient clinic until everyone is seen (usually around 6 or 7 pm). This is the schedule 5 days per week. So far I have had the weekends off. Last weekend we rode camels through town and took a hike to a village about an hour away. Soon I will start taking every third night call and working weekends. This will limit my dream of becoming a professional camel rider, I think.

4. It is really hot here, though there have been days where it rained, which cools things down. It is generally somewhere between 85 and 95 degrees F. The OR has AC. This is another fact that does not upset me.

5. People die here. Sometimes you will come into the hospital in the morning, and there will be an empty bed where your patient was yesterday. No one calls in the middle of the night to tell you your patient is crashing. There is no M&M conference to figure out what went wrong. You just move on. Usually it is because people here wait waaaay too long to come to the hospital, and by the time they arrive, they are too far gone. Sometimes we don't really know what happened. Some are severely malnourished. You need food to heal wounds and fight off infection, and without it, the chances of survival dwindle. Many of them have chronic illnesses like TB, HIV, or cancer. Almost all of them have malaria. I am only beginning to react to the death around me. For the first few weeks, I could tell my mind was treating it as if it wasn't really real. Now, I am beginning to face it. This is a huge prayer need.

6. I have the tendency to be a critical person, especially of myself. I am also a people-pleaser. These two character traits combined to make my first few sleep-deprived, jet-lagged days in the OR very difficult. My hands shook. My mind was not very clear. I made countless mistakes I would not usually make. I got frustrated with myself. I made more mistakes. So on and so forth. It was not fun. That being said, it taught me and important truth: I need to give myself grace. God created me. Christ died for me. Neither of those were mistakes. If God created me to be a surgeon for His Glory, so be it. If not, then I want to be what He made me to be. This realization has allowed me to relax. Relaxation in surgery is key. Things have gone much better since, praise God. Turns out I might be able to do this after all.

7. I love orange Fanta straight from the bottle. They make it with real sugar here. I have already had about a case-worth. I have missed orange Fanta.

8. Fun fact: Dr. Sannoussi was born and raised here in Niger. I spent today with him rounding and in the OR. He is a product of PAACS, which is the organization I came here to investigate. He is also an awesome dude. I am excited to get his perspective on life here, missions, PAACS, etc.

9. If you ever travel in Africa, and iPad is a great thing to have. Just trust me on that one. Mine currently carries approximately 200 pounds of medical and surgical textbooks and another 50 pounds of fun reading, not to mention the few thousand songs. Thank you, technology.

Well, my stomach is growling, so I am going to attempt to put food in it...we'll see how that turns out. Thank you all sooooo much for your prayers. I have needed them desperately over the past few weeks. The spiritual opposition here is real. Your prayers are part of combating that. So, thank you.

Until next time....