It began when I saw a film that exposed a new world to me. A world where people will walk for days just to get medical care for reasons such as their child having a tumor in their mouth or stomach the size of a melon. Where clean water is rare, where there is only 1 doctor for the millions of people, and 1 meal or just a cup of tea some days is the norm. I began to read any book I could find on social justice only to discover that slavery still exists today in human trafficking, that children in Uganda and other African countries were being kidnapped and trained to be soldiers, and that AIDS was destroying families. I would exchange notes with a friend in class and wonder why we had to sit and wait and stay in high school or go to college when all we wanted to do was go to Africa and save the world!
That's when God called me to Nursing, a way I felt I could really make a difference in places of great need. Being generally horrible at and hating Science (for as long as I could remember) I promised God that I would do nursing, but that He would have to provide me the grades to make it. It was through Nursing school that I really saw that God is the one who gives us the ability to do what He has called us to. And He sustained me through Nursing School.
During Nursing school I went to Kenya where I spent 2 months each summer building friendships with children living in poverty. I saw the reality of what I'd read about. The poor nutrition and lack of clean water that made the children in the school unable to focus on school work and frequently become sick. A child discovering he is HIV positive. The children who lived at Shunem home because they were from abusive homes, or were orphans or certain to become orphans because their family members had AIDS and could no longer care for them.
But I also began to see JOY in the midst of this poverty. Joy that didn't come from having the securities and comforts I took for granted, but a joy that came from salvation through grace and faith in a loving God. They had their fears, the uncertainty of when their next meal might be, but they believed God would provide. It was the joy of community, of caring for one another so that no one went hungry or felt alone in their fight against AIDS. They reminded me that God simply wants us to live in dependence on Him- He is all we need, the source of our life. As a nurse I saw that people not only need physical healing through medicine and money, but they need Jesus who proclaimed, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor" (Luke 4:18-19).
There is that tension between what I believe and how I am living and questions which sometime come in the middle of the night, waking me up and challenging me: Do I live like Christ is all I need? Will I sacrifice living according to my wants and desires so that the Gospel might go out and the compassion of Christ shown to the needy? Will I go outside of my safety net of Christian friends to reach out to my neighbors whose lives look good on the outside, but need Christ to change their hearts? Will I live below our means so that I can give more to those who really need and so that the Gospel can go out to the nations? Will I remember those children in Kenya who are joyfully living even without clean water and full bellies?
Or will I live the life of comfort and ease that the United States has to offer? Will I ease my conscience by thinking that the poor in places like Africa have adjusted to that life of poverty or that they don't know any better? That it is okay to buy what I want, because everyone else has it and I have the money.
But in my heart I know that God has called me to more than a life of pursuing my wants and my pleasures. I look to Jesus who lived in full dependence on God for everything from where he rested his head to his next meal. Jesus sacrificed his very life out of great love so that we might live for Him. The Great Commission calls us to go out to our neighbors and to the ends of the earth to share Christ's love and his salvation that is for all people. When that becomes my focus and purpose, all worldly comforts and pleasures become unimportant. The tension of how I spend my pay check to how I spend my time and with whom requires that I give all of these things up to God who gave them to me in the first place.
It does not come easily and although I know in my heart it is good, I struggle to obey, to do what God is calling me to do. But He has not given up on me and I pray that He would continue to remind me that there is nothing more important than Himself in my life.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
II Corinthians 4:16-18
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."