by Will Rogers
We're going to continue our theme on the blog of encouraging medical missionaries. Today's guest blogger is Susan Post. Susan is the Director of Esperanza Health Center, a bilingual primary care center in North Philadelphia. She lives in the community where she serves and is integrated into the lives of neighbors who are also patients and friends. Many of the people in her community face significant difficulties related to poverty, and Susan has a unique perspective to share with us today.
The readers of MedicalMissions.com are diverse in age, profession, stage of life, and geography. You might be a student considering medical missions, or maybe you’re seeking God’s calling on your life, or maybe you’re like me and you’ve been in ministry for a while. Wherever we are in our lives, we need to consider sustainability and how God helps us to stay faithful to Him in the places He calls us. People often begin ministry enthusiastically and then get surprised when difficulties arise and they’re unprepared to face them. Sometimes people even leave ministry because they have difficulty addressing sustainability.
I come to you as a fellow journey person, together with you asking God to show us how to find and strengthen our ministry sustainability during these times when the work is uncertain and often difficult.
In the book of Philippians, Paul describes the suffering of Christ and the power of his resurrection. Lately I find myself dwelling on what it means to “share in the fellowship of his sufferings”. Typically, we move on to talk about the power of His resurrection, but I have been feeling the need to be honest about how hard it is to share in suffering. I began to see that the sharing of God’s sufferings – my neighbors, patients, and even mine, were integral to the power of the resurrection that we all long to see. These are not polar opposites, but rather complementary. The overall picture, even including our own weakness, leads us to see our Savior’s glory in a magnificent way. Sometimes our trials are actually the route to experiencing God’s resurrection glory – a route we wouldn’t want to miss, and, if it were up to us, we might try to avoid.
Once I started talking with colleagues about suffering, some honest conversations began. Tears were often shed as we discussed the pain of failures the wounds from serving. It was a privilege to hear their stories and see their sacrifice, but in many cases, on the brink of brokenness themselves. I realized then that there is something vital about going deep in our ministry, but also going deep in sustainability. It’s not a matter of having our own inner strength to just move on. In fact, sometimes I think it is the opposite. As the years of ministry go by for me, I see how God is at work in the difficulty. He sees well before I do my own weaknesses, places of potential, and actual failure. I see how His glory is always tied to weakness and He is at work in ways I often cannot see. If I can move with Him during the difficulties of ministry, His glory will be more realized and I will find the sustainability He has already set in place for me.
We are broken people, serving broken people, in a broken world. We all need healing. And when things get difficult, we may begin to doubt. We doubt our calling, we doubt ourselves, or even doubt that God is good. One passage of scripture that has given me a glimpse into how God sees this can be found in the book of John, chapters 13-17.
These chapters resonate because they portray Jesus as he faced his most difficult days at the end of his life. He knew he was leaving His father’s work in the hands of his disciples, and that this would be his last time to talk to them before the traumatic events that lay ahead. We can look at what God did to prepare His followers on earth for “difficulty in ministry”:
3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.
Jesus stepped back to remind himself of the truths He knew – The father had given all things into his hands, He had come from God, and was going back to God. Reminding Himself of who He was and what God had called him to do gave Him the strength, fortitude, and humility to move forward – to wash the feet of those He knew would deny and betray Him.
Peter balked at Jesus washing his feet. It makes sense that Peter would not think it proper or right for his teacher, his messiah, to wash his feet. Peter declares, NO, Lord, you shall never wash MY feet! Jesus responds kindly to Peter saying, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but afterward you will understand.” Is God perhaps saying this to you right now? We need to trust Him and give Him a YES, even if we don’t understand right now. Who am I to think I have a plan that is better than His?
We certainly know this in our heads – we go into ministry to participate in God’s work in our world.But it is very easy to forget when the ministry gets tough or when you feel you need to add more of yourself to make it work.I think Jesus knew our propensity for this and so he told his disciples, and us, over and over again in these chapters that we are doing His Work, and in that there is great joy, love, and grace.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 15:4
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 15:8
We serve in ministry because we are built to be involved in God’s purposes and plans for His kingdom.What Jesus shows us in these scriptures is that this is .He lovingly expresses this until His last breath in the book of John.
John 14:1-3“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
I used to read that scripture and think, wow, I’m going to go live in a mansion that Jesus prepared for me.But it’s not about the it’s about being with Him.It is about a beautiful intimacy in which we will never be alone.
There are a few things that can help sustain us as we seek to live out sustainable ministry in light of God’s love.
What brings you rest and refreshment?