Being "On Mission" Changes Hearts, Save Lives
There can be little doubt that an essential part of living for Christ is to be "on His missions," seeking to share the gospel message with those who would otherwise be lost. There is no disputing that being on mission doesn't require world travel; in fact, one need not look further than your own neighborhood to discover meaningful ways to meet the needs of others, and in so doing, sharing Christ. For some, however, His work does involve world travel to a mission field that, in addition to the Good News of Christ's love-desperately needs health care, education, sanitation, and basic resources for survival.
In March 2009, Ohana Christian Fellowship of Seventh-day Adventists (West Linn) and Portland Adventist Academy joined and co-sponsored a mission trip to southern Ethiopia. Thirty-four participants engaged in a multifaceted outreach of evangelism, construction and development of an Adult Literacy Center and spent significant time extending the hands of Christ by offering expert medical and dental care to the residents of Awassa and Tula. Each evening, the group conducted two simultaneous open-air evangelistic services in both locations. Students from PAA preached to over 1,000 people in Tula and Ohana Pastor Doug Franzke preached to approximately 1,500 to 2,000 people in Awassa.
As one of the leaders on the mission, PAA Chaplain Gregory Phillips experienced how acutely life saving the provision of a common US medication can be. In addition to preaching to massive groups, Phillips also spent time providing health instruction, and assisting Drs. Franzke and Mackett in their clinic.
After dispensing medications in the pharmacy, Dr. Franzke brought a fifty year old patient to Phillips, and he vividly recalled, "The left side of her face was obviously deformed, and pus ran out of her left nostril. It was also evident that pus was coming out the side of her nose just below her left eye. Dr. Franzke explained that she suffered from chronic maxillary sinusitis, and her case was so advanced that the infection had eaten through her maxillary bone, and had caused the side of her face to collapse. Further, the infection had eaten through her ethmoid bone, and created a fistula (opening) through the bone and the skin of her nose. I gave her two grams of Rocephin, and then dispensed a 60-day supply of Septra and urged her to consult with a physician in Hawassa. In reality, we likely saved her life, as the next step would have been a brain abscess and death." With experiences like that, where a common and relatively inexpensive medication literally saves a woman from certain death, one begins to understand the wealth and provision of the western world, and how important it really is to be in the hands of Christ among those in need.
Another life changing event occurred when the group left Tula and made their way to the hotel for lunch. As they neared the hotel, several in the group noticed that the taxis were swerving around something laying in the road. As the group drew closer, they could see a man was sprawled on the pavement with blood flowing from his nose and mouth. Although he was more than six feet out from the curb, cars were barely slowing and swerving to narrowly avoid hitting him.
Phillips remembers, "We instructed the driver to pull over, and Drs. Franzke and Mackett quickly got out to examine the victim. After Dr. Franzke examined him, and could find no signs of vehicular damage, we decided that he had likely been crossing the street when he suffered a seizure, causing him to fall and hit his face on the pavement. Removing the man from the highly trafficked road, the ground found him a taxi and sent him on to a clinic for additional treatment. I think we were all a bit amazed that no one else had stopped to help the man. I wonder what would have happened if we hadn't come along."
The health message was offered as part of both services by Portland surgeon Dr. Mackett, Pastor Phillips, and ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Ron Franzke, along with some of the students. The response to the call to commit to Christ was overwhelming. On the last Sabbath before the group returned to Oregon, 560 souls were baptized in a local hotel swimming pool. Bibles were purchased for those who were planning to be baptized, but the response and desire for the Word of God was so great that more Bibles needed to be purchased!
Pastor Doug Franzke remarked, "I think short term mission trips are a great way to gain a little perspective. I'm always amazed by what I see and experience when participating in these trips and I never fail to see lives changed.
Simple supplies, simple interventions, and a simple message add cumulatively together to create an opportunity for lives to be saved and changed. With the urging of the Great Commission in our minds, isn't it time to find some ways to be "On Mission" for Him?