Christy Lee is a missionary OB/GYN doctor serving in Cameroon through the Post-Residency Program, a segment of World Medical Mission. While in the field, she was visited by a Samaritan’s Purse spiritual care team.
I first wondered if the investment was a wise use of financial resources. Sending a couple of people halfway around the world to encourage us sounded questionable. Wouldn’t an email or a phone call be cheaper? And what does “spiritual care team” mean anyway? Should I put up some extra Bible verses and a cross on the wall to make sure they know I am a decent missionary? Do I need to prove to them that I am healthy and adjusted? Should I hide my frustrations while they are here so they don’t think I have a bad attitude? Am I getting secretly graded or a note in my file back at headquarters? Some questions I asked half-jokingly, others a bit more seriously.
But here they came. The Nicholls piled into my little house and shared life with me. They, too, were a couple of ordinary people who loved the Lord. In fact, they were normal and goofy like me in many ways. It put me at ease. I laughed to myself, joking that if they turned in a questionable report on me, I was going to turn one in on them too. Actually, though, they had been missionaries for years and had much perspective to give and encouragement to share. Together with the other Samaritan’s Purse staff at our location, we broke bread, studied the Word, and had deep fellowship. But it wasn’t just the “holy” stuff –they played with the kids, accompanied us as we cared for patients, cleaned the dishes, and engaged with each of us as we walked down the normal dirt paths of life here.
I realized how important it was to have people like them. In a mission setting, just like the majority of other places in life, there are few people who want to really engage spiritually. It is always easier to have a “coffee and donuts” type fellowship than to really care about how people are getting along deep down in their souls. It is hard to ask, “Are you hearing from God?” or “How are you doing in your heart?” Perhaps this is even more the case when so much of life revolves around the stressful situations of providing care in a setting of never-ending need. There is so much going on all around that truly is important, it is easy to put off the depths of our own spiritual needs in order to meet the demands of the physical all around us. Relief work, medical mission work, or disaster assistance–they each put strain on the service providers that can be unseen to those around. For a good, long while, one can serve well and keep pushing on, even while they are withering away on the inside.
But that is where the spiritual care teams step in. Each person may receive what they offer differently. Some may just be encouraged by the sweetness of fellowship as they are reminded that people really do care for them. Others may find refreshment for a soul that was weary and tired. Another may find the focus shifted again to what matters most, remembering why they came to serve in the first place.
It seems obvious. They were the “spiritual care team.” They cared for our spirits. Now, what they did may be a bit harder to really explain. It doesn’t have the goal oriented, numbers based type of measurable outcomes that I have been trained to appreciate. They won’t return home with a report of how many people came to know Christ or how many physical lives they saved on this trip. But their work is just as important. Indeed, what is unable to be measured here on earth is probably among the weightiest of things measured in heaven. They have brought great encouragement for serving in the present and a refreshing time to once again focus on why and where the journey leads. May God be glorified as members of these teams continue to lend strength and support to those who serve around the world.