Saturday, October 04, 2008

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

It started out like so many other trips to Logan airport. There was a cheerful cab driver who picked me up from my apartment. He talked about how slow Tuesdays were, and provided some polite conversation about current events especially the recent presidential debates. I arrived at the terminal, checked my bags at the ticket desk, and breezed through security with great efficiency allowing me some time to relax and grab something to nibble on before the flight. I boarded the plane, and got my usual window seat. My neighbors were an older married couple, but seemed like the quiet type, so I settled in for what was looking like a comfortable flight. The plane took-off over Massachusetts Bay like every flight out of Logan, but this time something different happened. The 747 never changed direction, it just kept heading East…
While the heading the plane took did not actually surprise me (since I knew the destination before we left), it was that moment when I actually realized what I was doing. It took the unusual flight path over the Atlantic Ocean to jar my mind and make me realize what I was embarking on. Suddenly, I said to myself, “What have you gotten yourself into Chad?” I was traveling far away to a small rural town in the middle of Africa for nine months to practice surgery in the most challenging of circumstances. I gasped quietly as my mind was filled with doubts about the wisdom of this decision. There was so much uncertainty that awaited. So much distance from the people and things that seemed safe and comforting. So much to lose. After planning this trip for more than a year, I suddenly felt very unsettled. I wanted the plane to turn around and take me back to what was easy, comfortable, and known…instead of what awaited in Kenya that seemed difficult, uncomfortable, and unknown.

Fortunately, this moment was brief. My nerves had gotten the better of me for just a moment, before I was able to re-center myself by remembering what got me here in the first place. The opportunity to travel, to learn, to grow, and to help those most in need which is the most professional fulfilling thing a physician can do. I began to pray, and ask God to keep my mind in peace about the trip. To not allow anxiety to writhe its way into my mind. Eventually, calm came over me, and I was once again eager to arrive and experience all that Kijabe Hospital has to offer.


I suppose this is not the last time during this mission trip that I am going to wonder what I have gotten myself into. I’m sure it will happen again as I face all types of unusual and adverse circumstances of working in a new environment. It’s human nature to second guess any decision we make that puts us at risk or takes us out of our comfort zone, whether it be moving to Africa to take care of the sick, starting a new business, getting married, or becoming a new parent. We all share these moments of paralyzing anxiety from time to time. But there is very little worthwhile that can be achieved without some risk of failure, hurt, or harm. Each of us has a part of our personality that is completely risk averse...that does not want to lose money, get embarrassed, or suffer a fall. While we all need “survival instincts” to keep us from taking unnecessary risks, what makes us human and not animals is our ability to overcome our natural inclinations, and strive to accomplish great things...things that serve our fellow man and not just our own wants, needs, and fears. The human spirit is what causes someone to overcome their own “survival instincts” to run into a burning building to save a baby or even just to extend a helpful hand when one sees their neighbor struggling.
The apostle Paul described this duality to the human condition when he said that “the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit lusts against the flesh” (Gal 5:17). Paul went on to say that the two parts of every human are in conflict with one another. He pointed out that no one is inherently “good” or “bad”, but that we all have two sides. If we choose to feed our flesh, we will reap a harvest of "fleshly" things including hatred, bitterness, selfish ambition, envy, discord, and rage. But he also pointed out that we feed our spirit we will reap the “fruit of the spirit” including love, joy, peace, patience, and gentleness.
Whether you are a Christian or not, most of us can identify with the internal conflict Paul describes. We all have our selfish moments and we all have our selfless moments. What I have learned, in my own experience, is that these selfless acts do in deed yield “fruit” that bring internal contentment. And while these endeavors sometimes cost us personally, the price is always worthwhile when compared to having inner peace.  It’s not that we should should strive to be “saints” or being willing to suffer in vain.  Living a spirit-fed life will bring happiness. The happiest people in the world are not the ones serving themselves…they are the people serving others. The only difficult part is overcoming those selfish instincts that try to prevent us from putting ourselves at risk…overcoming that “what am I getting myself into” moment and moving ahead in faith knowing that peace and joy await those who serve…not to mention improving our fellow man's circumstances.

I know the next nine months are going to stretch me…but I am prepared to be stretched a modest amount if it means that someone might have their health restored who otherwise might not. My discomfort is a small price to pay for the comfort of a mother whose child who has a life-threatening problem that I have the expertise to treat. When I think about the next 9 months from that perspective, I have no lingering doubts or uncertainty about this trip. In fact, I am certain that it will be fulfilling, life-changing, and well-worth the sacrifice.

Happy about what I have gotten myself into,

"A man does what he must - in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures - and that is the basis of all human morality."
~John F. Kennedy


At Thu Oct 09, 10:00:00 AM, Blogger Nola said...

Chad i'm so proud of you! And you made be cry reading your thoughts and emotions..... every word touched my heart. Take care and i look forward to reading more about you stay Africa. I Love You and i will make copies for Aunt T. i will be giving her a small Birthday Party Saturday, October 18th. Your Mom and Marion are planning to come to Ames. Take Care. Love You Always.

Nola Celeste

At Fri Oct 10, 05:15:00 PM, Blogger Vondalyn said...

I don't really know you personally but the fact that you are an "Eagle" makes you family in and of itself. The journey you are embarking on is truly amazing. So my prayers are definitely with you.
Paul was definitely one to know what he was speaking of when speaking of flesh vs. the spirit. Being the main Man to deny Christ 3x's before coming into his own transformation to bring others to who Christ truly is was definitely experiencing the 360 turn around from operating in the flesh of selfishness to operating in the spirit of selflessness. So good quote.
Nonetheless. My prayers are with you and the other doctors as well as the community of Kenya as a whole.
Take Care

At Fri Oct 10, 06:09:00 PM, Anonymous Kevin (c/o 92) said...

Hey Chad! Congratulations and I hope that every moment you spend in Kenya is well worth the choice you have made to answer the call of service.

We recently met with a representative from Alarm Ministries - about the possibility of us traveling to Kenya for a short time to serve in ministry within the next year. They have a wonderful ministry training Christian leaders and helping to bring reconciliation among the tribes.

Wouldn't it be great to travel halfway around the world and one day see a familiar face from back in the day?

Continue to be blessed my friend so that you may be a blessing to those in need.

At Wed Oct 15, 06:52:00 AM, Blogger Zach said...

Good going Chad most times when we embark on a mission God calls us to do that fear of failing feeling does come into play. I feel that the enemy uses that to second guess ourselves so we can never step out of Faith. I'm happy that you stepped out on faith to begin your journey Gods plans for you always has a reward God Bless ya.

At Fri Nov 28, 09:26:00 PM, Anonymous Tiffany Maultsby said...

"He is no fool who loses what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." -- Jim Elliot

I am late to the dance...just finding out what you've been up to in Kenya. I've been a missionary in Philly for two yrs and can keenly identify with the "what have I gotten myself into" question, as well as thinking through the differences between this culture and my own. (I thought it would be easier since the language is the same, but I'm finding more and more layers of Philly culture the longer I'm here!)

May the Lord bless you as you bring God's shalom (peace) to that part of His world. I will pray for you, Chad.


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