Simply saying that my Ghana medical mission trip was “good” is an absolute injustice to the work that was accomplished and a failure for me not to share the amazing love that God has for every one of us, and for all the people of the world.
This was my third trip to Ghana, West Africa. For the first trip, I went for 3 main reasons. First, curiosity (what will this foreign place be like). Second, Christian obligation (serving on an international mission will make God love me more…how foolish!). Third and mostly, because Mindy wanted to go and I didn’t want her to go by herself. That first trip was a little overwhelming because of how different Africa is than the US, because of the numerous comforts that had to be given up, and ultimately because of the lack of spiritual maturity that I possessed at that time. I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to go back because I was too near-sighted on my comforts and my feelings, but luckily Mindy wanted to go back so I went too. And am I glad I did!
Fast forward to this trip. Curiosity turned into joyful expectation, and Christian obligation turned into loving obedience to Jesus’ commission to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Going into this trip with this better attitude allowed me to look past my comforts and feelings to see the bigger picture of what God can do through the work of His people.
So what does our team do there? Our team is comprised of physicians, PAs, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, nurses, and also non-medical people who simply love Jesus and want to serve. On clinic days, we set up mobile medical clinics at local villages where we can see anywhere from 200-350 patients per day. Every patient has their vitals checked at intake, is examined by a physician, and then leaves with medications from the pharmacy. Questions that we are frequently asked by other people and also questions that we struggle with internally include: Q. Do we do good medicine? A. To the best of our ability. Q. Do we “fix” the medical problems of these people? A. No; most of the people we see have chronic conditions that require medications we don’t have and follow-up that we cannot provide.
So why do we go at all? We go because we have a tremendous platform to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to an unreached people group. When we travel to a village, we draw a massive crowd of people who not only want to see a doctor, but also people who want to be part of the community event. This allows local pastors to preach to the crowd and it often leads to church plants in those villages.
Why else do we go? I’ve often heard that short-term missions are as much for the missionaries as it is for the people we are trying to reach. I couldn’t agree more! I have never been more spiritually challenged, moved, convicted, rejuvenated and driven in my entire life! Our team was awesome. The spiritual maturity and wisdom of many of our team members is something I desire to possess someday. Their faith and obedience is mind-blowing!
So what does this mean for me? I hope that this fire and conviction that I feel now will carry over into my everyday life in the US. Based on my previous experience, it’s shocking how easily it is to come home from these trips and just slip into first-world comforts and the daily grind and forget the spiritual lessons that I learned. But I don’t want to forget this time! I don’t want to just go back to my everyday life.
Am I a changed man? I hope so. Am I still a sinner? Absolutely. Will I still lose my temper at work? Probably, but hopefully not as much. Do I still need Jesus? More than ever! Am I going to cram the gospel down people’s throats? No, but I will tell anyone reading this that there is a real God, and a real heaven and hell, and a real Savior that makes us right with a holy God. And that Savior is Jesus! Consider this an open invitation to talk with me about Jesus and about your relationship (or lack thereof) with Him.
I know that I often don’t act the way that I should, and say things that I shouldn’t, but don’t let my failures discourage you from “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). I love you all. I missed you! I am excited to share anything from this trip that you want, just ask.
- Jay Strawser