>Looking back at the two years I spent in China, I think God had me there to learn three main things:
1) I need some sort of common ground for developing relationships. Walking up to students and asking them if they speak English seems fabricated to me. I can’t understand why they’d want to be my friend and hear of Jesus. As much as that works for some people, it taints my relationships because I feel like I’m lying to them about why I want to get to know them.
2) I am not a visionary and try as I might, I get lost in the details if I’m not working alongside with someone who keeps sight of the vision and reminds me of it daily.
3) I can’t live by myself. I shrivel up into a depressed empty shell when I live by myself. It’s a vicious cycle: I spend too much time by myself –> I get depressed –> I don’t go anywhere because I’m depressed –> I spend more time by myself –> I get more depressed….. it isn’t good.
God has provided abundantly for these three weaknesses. In the 16 months of nursing school, He has given me the common ground I need to develop relationships with people. In taking care of people’s physical needs, often in doing the dirtiest and lowest of jobs for people, relationship becomes natural. Patients open up, as if they’ve been waiting for someone to listen to them. Conversation naturally flows into spiritual things and I’m able to tell them of the Great Physician – the One who wants to heal their souls. I have found my niche. I have been equipped to go into so many different situations, whether it’s with the old men at the VA or in Africa and as I care for people, I am given opportunity to share the Good News.
Not only did nursing school provide a platform for sharing the gospel, but he also gave me a friend and a partner in ministry. Enter Mandie: alike in vision, goals, desires and upbringing, but completely different in personality. She is my visionary, the one who keeps me on track, and the one who needs a details person in her life. We are kindred spirits and now share a vision for the next few years. Not only does she answer the second weakness, but also the third.
What does all this mean?
One month ago this weekend, Mandie and I were sitting at Panera in Charlotte with Patty and stumbled across Katie’s blog. We don’t know Katie, or even the path we took to get to her blog. But here we were, fascinated by her life in Uganda, Mandie to the point that she emailed Katie to ask her if she needed a nurse. Mandie and I have had many conversations about nursing overseas and adopting children, but at that point, I had no idea when I would go back overseas, and I assumed it would probably be back to China. Little did I know that I was at the beginning of something completely new, completely unexpected, and completely supernatural.
Mandie and I have both applied to the pediatric nurse practitioner program at MUSC. It’s online and we thought the first year didn’t include any clinicals. On a whim (at least I think it was a whim), Mandie suggested we go talk to our favorite faculty and ask her if it was possible to do the first year overseas. We were blown away by her response: “why just the first year? If you want to work overseas as PNP anyway, why not do the whole thing overseas?” WHAT??? I was so not expecting that. She cautioned us that we’d have to find a qualified and US licensed health care provider to sign off on our clinical paperwork, but she said other than that detail, it should be feasible. Her advice was to wait till we were officially accepted to the program before we went and asked for permission. We said ok, and went home to dream about the possibilities. In the meantime, she did not heed her own advice to us and talked to the Director of the DNP (under which the PNP falls) and the DEAN of the College of Nursing and got them on board with our idea. So, we had permission to pursue living overseas, but nowhere specifically to go.
Since Katie had inspired us with her work in Uganda, we started thinking about the possibilities there. We knew people that had been to Uganda on short term medical missions trips through Palmetto Medical Initiative started by a couple of people from Charleston. A friend of Mandie’s put us in touch with the founders. We met with them for coffee a few days after having met with our instructor to ask about the possibilities that Uganda had for doing long term medical work there. We knew they took short term trips there, but were surprised when they told us of their plans to build a hospital in Masindi, Uganda. Not only were they building a hospital but they needed health care professionals to staff it! They were even willing to sign our clinical paperwork for the above mentioned graduate program. One week after giving Mandie a dream to go to Uganda (and me by proxy), we had a specific place and a specific ministry.
Thus, the third step was to find a sending agency. At this point, we aren’t sure PMI is big enough to facilitate us going. Mandie has experienced how hard it is to go without a sending agency and I’ve had a good experience with PIONEERS International, so we started communicating with PI to see if they’d be willing to send us and allow us to work under the leadership of PMI. Mandie is working on the application and planning to go to the March Orientation and I’ve begun the process of emailing Member Care and the East Africa PI leadership to find out if we would fit into their vision.
So…all this to say, a month ago I was discouraged by having applied to 30 jobs and not having found one. The Lord seemed to have something better in mind and has opened doors I did not know existed. Now, we’re pursuing Uganda until the Lord shuts doors that only He can shut. He has provided for the weaknesses He and I both knew I had. I was sharing all this with a friend who was not at all surprised and commented: “on-a-dime turns are the way with the Lord.” Just like that God has changed my direction.
The timeline so far:
- January 9: Find Katie’s blog and start dreaming
- January 14: Meet with Dr. Bennett to ask about the PNP program
- January 17: Meet with Matt and Ed from PMI about their hospital in Uganda
- January 18: I go home and talk to my parents about it in depth…they’re on board so far, provided Uganda is politically stable
- January 19: At a meeting about a trip to Honduras in February, Mandie runs into a man who is going on the March trip to Uganda with PMI. When he finds out Mandie is planning to move there in August without having gone on a survey trip, he offers to pay for her to go in March
- January 22: Mandie has her phone interview with PI…it doesn’t go as well as we would like, but we aren’t discouraged yet. In the meantime, I’ve emailed the Africa Member Care person who has directed me to the East Africa Regional Leader.
- January 23: Mandie leaves for Honduras on a medical mission trip. We are happy to learn she has internet access once she gets there so that we can communicate.
- January 26: the Africa Regional Leader emails me back to tell me he likes our vision for Masindi. He’s in the process of appointing an Area Leader and that they’ll get back to me towards the end of February to discuss details.
- February: Find a job in Charleston or Hilton Head that will pay bills, pay student loans, and contribute to my life overseas.
- February 1: PMI’s board meets and Matt presents our bios and resumes. They are as serious as we are about it.
- February 2: I meet with the Member Care Director. She’s really encourages me and is excited by the vision we have. She says she’ll be our advocate down at Headquarters and explain our vision to the Africa Member Care person.
- February 3: I met with the Elders of Grace Community Church. They’re excited about the future and have asked to be my sending church…well, I hadn’t planned on anyone else…so it’s good that they offered. They’re seeing a lot of things happening in Uganda and are excited about how the Lord is moving people that way.
- February 6: Mandie returns from Honduras and we start working out a time to meet with Matt in the upcoming week.
- February 8: Michael and Amanda O’Neal are moving to Uganda to oversee the building of the hospital.
- February 10: We’re meeting Matt for coffee to talk about the details of going to Uganda. ** UPDATE – we were able to start talking about logistics of moving there. Matt asks me to go to Uganda in March with the team. He says we’ll figure out the funding! I have a ticket to Uganda
- February 19-26: Mandie is going back to Honduras to show a documentary she filmed during the first trip.
- End of February: Hopefully we’ll hear that our vision fits with PIONEERS vision and that they’ll help us get there….then we can start raising support.
- March: Hopefully find out we’ve been accepted to MUSC’s Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program
- March 5-15: Mandie and I are going on a medical mission trip/survey trip to Uganda with PMI.
- March 21-26: Candidate Orientation Program at PI headquarters in Orlando…I’m confident they’ll take Mandie…she’s not so sure.
- March 31-April 14: Mandie is going to Brazil with her grandparents.
- Summer: Raise support, prepare for Uganda, work on my Bible Credit requirements for PI, work, enjoy relationships
- August: Lord-willing, move to Uganda for at least two years…who knows….it might last longer.