I wouldn’t have become a missionary doctor by chance. A pair of surgeons from the church that raised me encouraged me to pursue medicine instead of nursing, and gave me my first exposures to missionary medicine, helped me learn where to volunteer, and wrote letters of support for scholarship programs. Besides equipping me to thrive in medical school, my college gave me mentors who were strong and capable women people who were able to demonstrate what it meant to be an excellent scientist and a compassionate Christian. Doctors who invited me for short-term trips opened my eyes to meaningful, sustainable impact strategies, and missionaries who went before me taught me how to navigate culture and find my vision. My first missions organization taught me the basics and got me to Africa right after training, and my current organization supports me through all the unexpected twists of this life.
I’ve been on the mission field for four years. Suddenly I’m a long-termer. Most like-minded doctors from my training programs didn’t end up going, or didn’t end up staying. But I know I’m not here alone. Dozens of believers pray for me every day – some have known me all my life, and others met me just for a few minutes before joining me in this ministry. And some of the most incredible people from my journey stand with me here – an incredible dermatopathologist lets me send pictures and descriptions of rashes I can’t understand; a caring psychiatrist works with me to find the locally-available medications to assist some of my most difficult cases, and also supports me when times are tough. I have been blessed beyond measure with friends and family who care for me in ways tangible and intangible. Even yesterday, when I was nervous speaking to a big group, my fellow missionary who oriented me years ago gave me the resources I needed to answer hard questions, and an incredible Malawian nurse prayed for me constantly.
I feel like I’m still beginning with this work - I have roots, but they are as fresh as the tree I planted yesterday. Yet now I have the opportunity to invest in others, to help them in their journey toward healthcare missions. Intersecting on my path are undergraduate students, students about to start medical school, new interns and fellows. Sometimes it’s only a brief conversation, sometimes I help with research or rotation experiences; sometimes they let me speak into their lives as they are dealing with difficult decisions. But what an honor it is to walk alongside this next generation, just as so many people walked alongside me. I still have hundreds of people lifting me up, encouraging me along, inspiring me. What an honor it is to be that type of person in the life of someone who will come to do much more than I ever could.