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Medical vols: Don’t let barriers trip you

ROCKVILLE, Va. (BP)–After participating in 10 medical mission projects -– from Southeast Asia to Ukraine to the jungles of Peru –- Larry Wallin knows all the reasons Christian doctors give for not going on mission trips.

Some are valid; others are lame (or unbiblical) excuses.

A 50-year-old pediatrician and neonatologist, Wallin has offered some of the excuses himself. But God keeps telling him to go.

One of his favorite Bible verses is Matthew 25:40, where Jesus tells His disciples to care for the “least of these.” That includes the premature babies struggling for life that Wallin often treats in his medical practice.

“I feel the same way about the lost,” he said.

A member of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., Wallin led a workshop called “Championing Medical Missions Strategy in your Church” during the Global Medical Alliance mobilization conference at the International Mission Board’s International Learning Center in Rockville, Va. The July 16-22 conference connected IMB health-care missionaries with some 200 Southern Baptist doctors, dentists, nurses and other medical professionals from churches across the nation.

“One of the most effective ways I’ve seen in getting doctors involved in missions is by personal invitation,” Wallin said. “I always try to invite someone who hasn’t gone before.”

Wallin readily admits he has the luxury of working in a hospital-based practice that makes it easier for him to take time off for overseas trips. His medical partners support his mission ministry and work hard to cover for him when he’s gone. He returns the favor when they go. Many doctors and dentists in private practice face enormous financial and time pressures.

Still, where there’s a willingness to serve, God will make a way. Wallin tells medical professionals not to let these eight barriers stop them from getting involved in missions:

1. IGNORANCE — about missions, missionaries or how to plug into medical strategies. A wealth of information is available to any medical worker interested in service.

2. FEAR — of illness, AIDS, danger, terrorism or other hazards. Psalm 31:23 says “The Lord preserves the faithful.” Does that mean medical missionaries and volunteers never get harmed or killed? Of course not, Wallin said. But God is the Master of life and death –- something Christian medical people should understand.

3. LOST REVENUE — You cannot serve God and money. If He tells you to go, He will provide a way that doesn’t create financial havoc. “You have to be practical,” Wallin said. “Let’s say a dentist doesn’t have a lot of financial surplus and is facing the trip cost plus the time off. It might be best on that first trip to go somewhere that you can get there and get home quickly.”

4. ANXIETY — Medical people like to be in control, to have all the facts, Wallin said. Mission projects almost never unfold that way -– and often are chaotic. But God uses the chaos for His purposes. Give Him the glory and the control, be flexible and see what He does, he said.

5. FATIGUE — “We have a lot of tired medical personnel in the United States,” Wallin admitted. If you know a Christian physician, dentist or nurse who has no time to take a mission trip, what can you do as a colleague, fellow church member or friend to help them take the plunge?

6. ETHNOCENTRICITY — “Why would I want to go there?” you may be saying (or thinking) about the bizarre location you’ve been invited to visit as a volunteer. To answer that question, read your Bible, Wallin said. Start with Acts 1:8.

7. FAMILY ISSUES — Everyone, even career missionaries, experiences seasons of life, illnesses, children’s needs and other things that make mission service temporarily difficult or impossible. But when you are able, be available.

8. “WE HAVE LOST AND NEEDY PEOPLE RIGHT HERE!” — OK, so when was the last time you reached out to them, Wallin asked? God calls us to serve at all levels and in all places (refer to No. 6). You have invaluable skills as a medical professional. Don’t withhold them from God, who can use them to open doors to the neediest places on earth.

    About the Author

  • Erich Bridges