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Mother-son teams share skills on WMU-sponsored missions trip

SARAJEVO, Bosnia (BP)–Events sponsored by Woman’s Missionary Union very seldom bring together a mother and son to work on a common project, but a recent medical missions trip to Sarajevo did just that — twice.
National WMU president Wanda Lee led a team of 12 nurses from seven states to work in Sarajevo Aug. 17-31 under the auspices of WMU’s Volunteer Connection. The trip was part of WMU’s partnership with Southern Baptist personnel in Bosnia through its Project HELP: Violence emphasis.
Lee and Hawaii WMU state president Deanna Aoki have been friends for a long time. Lee, a registered nurse, and Aoki, a dental hygienist, became prayer partners in 1994 when Lee was state president from Georgia and Aoki joined WMU’s executive board as the new president from Hawaii.
When Lee began to put together a team nearly a year ago to fill a request from Bosnia for a medical team, she mentioned it to Aoki. She made the commitment to participate soon afterwards.
In those initial months of planning, Lee’s son, Matthew (Matt), told her he would like to go and experience medical missions. He is a senior pre-med student at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and wants to become a doctor and donate several weeks each year to missions work. He thought the Sarajevo trip would be a good way to get his “foot in the door.”
Lee would not consent to let Matt go because she felt that his being the only male on the trip would be awkward. However, earlier this summer she changed her mind when a male nurse made contact with WMU’s Volunteer Connection about going on the trip. “When James [Davis] signed up to go, I went back to Matt. He said he had felt all along that he was supposed to go.”
Matt began to work on his finances for the trip by working extra hours at his job as an ER tech at a Columbus, Ga. hospital. He also petitioned the missions committee at First Baptist Church, Columbus, Ga. and the members agreed to give him most of the money for the trip.
In the meantime, Lee told Aoki that Matt was going on the trip which prompted her to think of her son, Joseph, who is a third year biology major at University of Washington in Seattle. She approached him about going and after praying about it several days, the family agreed it was the right thing for him to do. His family and church helped pay his way too.
“I think Matt has benefited greatly from this avenue of service,” said his mother. “And both he and Joseph were great and eager helpers on the trip. They were the muscle when we needed it, and the typist and whizzes on the computer when we needed it. And they certainly made an inroad into the community where we stayed because they had the energy in the afternoon after our clinics to play ball with the children.”
“It was beyond my belief to have Joseph on the trip with me,” said his mother. “It was very special for him to be able to help me with the dental care presentations about brushing and flossing, especially with the kids. They really responded to him.
“It also was wonderful that his love compelled both of us to go to Sarajevo,” she continued. “We saw the decay on their teeth and in their lives without knowing Christ. It was so important to teach them not only how to have good dental health, but also how to know Christ and life abundant.”
The mothers also spoke of the new dimension that the trip added to their relationship with their sons.
“One of my prayers when both of my children left home was that I would somehow as a mother, make that transition from being a mom to having an adult relationship,” Lee shared. “I think this trip is another step in that development of a relationship. To see Matt experience what I do and what I have been a part of all these years in missions and overseas trips through WMU means so much to me.”
Matt and Joseph also were greatly impacted by sharing the medical missions experience with their mothers.
“It was a great opportunity to go some place I’ve never been before and help meet medical needs,” said Matt. “It was also very overwhelming to see all the needs that the people had.”
As for working with his mother, Matt said, “I grew up knowing my mom as a nurse and going to the floor at the hospital to visit her, but it was never to see her at her work. To be able to see her actually use her nursing skills has been wonderful.
“I learned to appreciate the fact that she has put her whole life into nursing,” he said. “It was great working with her and to be able to watch her and learn from her.”
Joseph said the trip taught him a lot about yielding his life to God and living by faith.
“I thought I needed to have that safety net of being in the United States — to be where I am comfortable,” he said. “I think God challenged me to make this trip as a step of faith and to trust in him.
“This trip was such a blessing,” he added. “I got to know my mother so much more and to appreciate the gifts God has given her. I would watch her with the patients and she was always so loving and patient with each one of them. I’ve really gotten to appreciate that so much more about her.”
*Name changed for security concerns.

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  • Tanya Dawson*