QOTW #14: Why Medical Missions?

March 6, 2018

Vincent van Gogh’s painting ‘The Good Samaritan’

There are innumerable resources available, especially in recent years, on missions. Missiological studies, missionary profiles, research on unreached people groups, the impact (both good and bad) of missions on the populations they have gone to serve and disciple.

But, you would be hard pressed to find much written on medical missions. Traditionally, medical work has been seen as a recent add-on to mission.

In fact, Medical Missions, as we know them have only been around since the 19th century. But, I believe that medical mission has always been part of the ministry of the church.

First, the Bible is clear that sickness is not a purely naturalistic matter. Jesus interlinked preaching and healing throughout his ministry. Some examples are found in Matthew 8:16, 9:35, 12:10, 12:15, 14:14, 14:36, 15:30, 19:2, 21:14, Luke 4:40, 5:15, 5:17, 6:18, 9:11.

The story that stands out most to me is the parable of the Good Samaritan, who, when religious leaders passed by a man who had been beaten and robbed, a lowly Samaritan loaded the man on his donkey, took the man to an inn and payed for him to remain there until he was healed.

There are many examples of how interlinked ministry and healing are throughout the new and old testament. So if ministry and healing were so interlinked in Jesus’ ministry, then there must be an element of healing that is important for the purposes of reaching people with the gospel.

Often you will hear of medical mission as being the “tip of the spear” in world missions. I believe that this is for two reasons, first, medical care is a global need. There are doors that a medical professional can enter that a pastor may not be able to, this allows Jesus-following medical professionals to sometimes be the pioneer missionaries to a region. The second reason I think the analogy of the spear works is that seeing to the physical needs of a person pierces to the heart of their need. Physical maladies aside, the real true healing we need can only come from the promises of the gospel.

Medicine may provide the life-saving so that the person with receptive to the soul-saving.

QOTW #13: What Does Togo Look Like?

February 27, 2018


Google map of Hopital Baptiste Biblique

I am asked frequently if I’ve ever been to Togo (or even Africa). When I tell most people no, the look I get, for a split second usually appears to be saying, “Are you kidding me?!”

I know, it seems crazy to move somewhere as a family for a year without ever having set foot on the continent. I totally get it. You wouldn’t move your family to Nashville for a job without first checking the town out, touring some schools, visiting a few churches and checking out some homes. I wouldn’t either.

But this is different, kind of. At first, I was adamantly against moving my family somewhere I had never been and fully intended to spend a few weeks there first. And there are days still where I want to take a week off from work to travel to the hospital for a shrot fact-finding mission. And, who knows, I still might.

But the really cool thing is that we have the internet, and we know people there. We have contacts who have raised three generations of their own families there. We have talked to people who have lived there for anywhere from 6 mos to the last 20 years. We know ABWE, our mission organization, has been in the region for 100 years, and missionary family have been living on the mission hospital campus and in the surrounding town for 30 years.

Check it out for yourself… please. I’d love to hear and see what you’ve discovered about Togo, the towns of Tsiko,  and Adeta and the surrounding region.

The link above will take you to the hospital’s coordinates in Google maps, and there is also a 360-degree panoramic shot of the hospital campus (I literally just discovered this, and it is gorgeous!).

The Old Man in The Airport

February 12, 2018

“Honestly, you can’t blame anyone for the condition of this place,” I tried to console myself. I was hot, hungry, exhausted and more than a little cranky. I had, after all, been sitting on that hot pavement for more than 4 hours without so mcuh as an announcement on the overhead speakers. The airport was just a few miles from the epicenter from a recent earthquake. International aid workers corwded ever square foot of the half-collpased airport. You could tell because they all had their credentials on their sleeves and hanging by lanyards around the necks. I hadn’t heard anyone speak English since I said goodbye to my team earlier that morning.

By noon, the terminal was stiflingly hot and humid. We all stunk. The whole airport smelled like a lockerroom. I could tell most of the aid workers, gripping tightly to their boarding passes and passport and sweating through the apparent uniform of the day, khaki short sleeve button up shirts and wide brim hats, hadn’t been able to bathe in days. I kind of stood out, wearing a blue t-shirt and loose khaki pants with surf mocs. I took a shower, a very cold, gravity-fed shower the night before, but I still stunk just as bad as everyone else.

I was trying to block out the chaos and heat by getting into a new book, but from a distance, I could see a Haitian man, in a suit, weaving his way through the crowd toward me. I pretended not to notice him until it became obvious that he was trying to get my attention.

“Excuse me sir,” he smiled warmly. He exuded the calm confidence of a politician, “are you going to Miami?”

I think it took me a moment to respond, taken a little off guard by the English fluency.

“Yessir, can I help you?”

I still was really uncertain of my surroundings. I’d spent the better part of the last two weeks in the aftermath of this earthquake struggling fruitlessly to find anything familiar about the beautiful Haitian culture and the amazing people that called it home.

“My father is over there,” he pointed to the oldest person, probably in all of Haiti. “Can you help him get to his car in Miami when you get to the airport? They will be waiting for him outside the terminal.”

The old man looked friendly enough, he smiled with a toothless grin from a distance, raising his black plastic bag that he was using for a suitcase. He was wearing a blazer and a tie with mismatched slacks and black leather shoes shined to a high gloss.

I shrugged, “I don’t know. I guess I can.”

“May I?” he grabbed my copy of God’s Smuggler, a gift I’d received from my gradnma only a week before I had left for Haiti. He opened the front cover and began scribbling down his name, address and phone number.

“Are you a believer, sir?” he asked me. His eyes felt like they were probing my very soul.

“I am.”

“Then, when you return home to your church, send them greetings from their brothers at the Baptist Bible Church in Port-au-Prince. Tell them that we know that they are praying for us, and tell them that we lost more than half of our congregation, but we are filled with joy and hope because of their prayers.” He punctuated his sentence by shoving the book back into my hands.

I could feel a tear start running down my cheek.

His face softened, “are you okay?”

I tried to smile. I wiped the tear and summoned the strength to answer without choking up.

“It’s been an emotional couple of weeks.”

He nodded like man who had knew sorrow.

He motioned for his father to come over. He seemed concerned by the solemn looks on our faces. Pastor Jean and I both quickly recognized his discomfort and smiled intently.

He didn’t speak a word of English and I only knew a few phrases in Creole.

He said goodbye and moved past the ticket counter, and the pastor was quickly lost to us in the sea of aid workers and UN troops. The old man, whose name I can’t remember anymore, held tightly to my backpack as we wove through the surging crowds. When we got to our gate, the flight had been delayed 3 hours, so we found a place to sit, and waited. I must have become engrossed in my book, because at one point I looked up, and the old man was gone.

I was entrusted with ONE THING and I blew it before even boarding our plane. I stood upon a chair to look around the terminal for the old man. As I was looking one direction, felt a tug on my leg. it was the oldest living man in all of Haiti, and he was holding two warm, skinny, foil-wrapped sandwiches, both at least a food long, and handed me one, proudly. To this day, I cannot figure out where he got the food. That place was a circus, but I did not see any place in the half-collapsed terminal where weird hot sandwiches were being sold.

He grinned as if to say, “looks who’s taking care of who.”

I’d never seen a sandwish quite like this one, though. It appeared to have slices of deli ham, some kind of melted white cheese, wilted green onions, cabbage (I think it ws cabbage), and, of all things, ketchup.

It was almost 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I hadn’t eaten anything all day, and what I had been eating was mostly dry tuna from cans for the last few days, so I enjoyed it anyway.

Minutes later, I spotted a vendor seeling cold bottles of coke. I bought two, gave one to my new friend, and we sat silently until our flight boarded.

Somehow, this old man got first boarding privileges and argued with the person colelcting boarding passes that, since I was with him, I also got to share the privilege of boarding first. So I boarded first.

All I can remember from the flight was showing him how the seat belts worked and how to aim the air vent away from his head when he got cold.

Once we got off the plane, I had to figure out how to get him to his ride, who I was assured would be waiting for us, and would know us before we knew them, and timing it right so that I could make my next flight in less than an hour, which meant I had to go through customs and immigration first.

I took the old man to the immigration line. He reluctantly walked to the booth with his Haitian passport in hand. The old man seemed to be frustrated and was pointing excitedly at me. I can just remember thinking “please stop pointing at me”. At that poitn, the INS officer motioned for me to come talk to him too.

“Do you know this man?” the INS officer asked, obviously exasperated.

“I just met him in Port-au-Prince. His son asked me to stay with him and make sure he made it safely to his ride outside.”

The INS officer spoke to the old man in Creole, then addressed me again.

The agent explained the situation: “He wanted you moved to the front of the line with him. I have been trying to explain that you go through a different line if you’re and American, but since you have another flight to catch, I’m just going to let you through so you can help him find his ride.”

I was humbled. The old man somehow knew how to work the system better than I did.

Within minutes, we were outside the Miami terminal, two really big, Haitian-American men walked up to him, took his bag and took him by the arm. One of them smiled, shook my hand and said a thickly accented “Thank you.” The old man appeared to know who they were, and they appeared to know who he was. He smiled and waved.

That was the last I saw of the old man, but I think about him and his son, the pastor who lost more than half of his congregation in that 2010 earthquake, often.

This is just one of the hundreds of examples of how God strategically places us, in strategic positions, to help one another. And how He somehow can make our blessings to another person become a blessing to us. It’s how God works things out for those who trust Him.

QOTW#12: How do donations work?

February 6, 2018

First, allow me justify the sense of urgency in our updates an letters. We need to get to the mission ASAP. With a patient load of about 20,000 patients per year in the clinics and more in the hospital, there are currently only two doctors working there. One is a family practice physician and one is a pediatrician. There is also a surgeon there, the only surgeon, who cannot possibly keep up with the need for surgery, and he is also the hospital’s administrator, which leaves much less time for anything but emergency surgeries. Recently, the hospital just lost a physician after their daughter became ill. This hopital desperately needs a full compliment of healthcare providers like doctors and PAs of at least 5 or 6. Samaritan’s Purse has recently taken notice of the need as well and is sending out emergency requests for physicians, PAs and NPs to come to the hospital immediately.

This is an emergency need, and one that you can help with.

There has been a deal of confusion on how our funding works, so let me explain how this works for missionaries.

We have a target amount that we have to reach to be fully funded in order to leave in July of this year. BUT July is not our deadline to raise these funds. Our deadline is more like the end of March. 

Here’s why: to move overseas requires a lot of preparation. The majority of that preparation, and estimated $10,000-$20,000, most of which is coming from our own savings, goes toward getting there, it’s called passage. That includes plane tickets, shipping costs, visas, needed equipment and other living expenses. Most of that comes directly from our pocket. So this comes a significant personal expense (and one that we don’t consider to be a sacrifice considering that we are investing in God’s work, obviously). But, these expenses, for the most part, these are not refundable expenses. In fact, we cannot even leave until we are FULLY FUNDED!

So, in order to GO, we must be SENT. If we are not fully funded by the end of March we are probably not going. That doesn’t mean that the monthly payments start coming in immediately, it means that we have about $5000 of monthly promised income from supporters. Currently, we have about $175 in currently monthly support. We are expecting some lump sums, about $15,000 from The River, $2,500 from another church in Oakdale, and we have a meeting with one more church today.

We will apply for visas (which may take up to 3 months to get) once we are 50% funded. Currently, we are currently about 29% funded. We have a LONG way to go.

One time donations are expected and very welcomed! We need them. But we also need monthly support, and we need it soon.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support.


Warmest regards,


Zach and Elizabeth Greenlee


QOTW#11 – How can I be praying for you?

February 1, 2018

The following is from an email I sent out to those who have already signed up for our prayer group. If you would like to sign-up as well, there is a link at the end to sign up for the prayer group list.

Elizabeth and I are so grateful to have so many sign-up to be a regular prayer resource for us. You might have already received an email from us if you signed up for our email updates. This group is different. While I will try to send out about 1-2 of those “mission update” group emails per month, I would really rather only send personal correspondence to those of you in this group. We had about 50 people sign-up for this group, and most of you also left your phone number with us.

While you read the rest of this email, if you could find a quiet place to sit without distraction for a few minutes to consider what being part of this group means, it would warm our hearts.

I hope you can find a quiet moment in your day to imagine with me what it is like to pack up 10 suitcases with everything you and your family of five will need for 1 year in an African country.

Imagine leaving your job, leaving your extended family, your friends, your church, your pets, your home, and everything that is familiar to you to go somewhere you’ve never been, that is so different that you couldn’t even read the street signs, if there are any at all to read.

Imagine answering God’s call to move someplace where animals like deadly black mambas and leopards roam the night, where you don’t recognize a single plant, or insect, and have no idea what is safe or what is poisonous or aggressive.

Imagine what it would be like to take your family to a region known for malaria illness, in the heart of a tropical jungle landscape, where heat and humidity both range in the 90’s simultaneously nearly year-round.

Imagine going somewhere where you know absolutely no-one, not even the other missionaries.

Imagine going a year without your favorite soda, food, access to a quick snack, and you have to bleach all of your fruit and vegetables before you can consume them.

Imagine not knowing if you will have a job waiting for you when you return home.

Imagine the effect of the chaotic and completely alien culture that these three children, Elizabeth and I will be frenetically trying to navigate. Imagine the culture shock when returning home after a year away from electronic media, friends, the news, or the evolving culture. That’s a year of birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, 4th of July, Easter, New Years and other important life events from funerals and weddings, to the birth of babies and illnesses of friends and family.

Consider the daily task of having to ask people, hundreds of people, few of whom even respond, for money to make this happen. Imagine having to raise $70,000 while applying for visas, getting immunizations, arranging to rent out your home, pack up your belongings for storage, figure out how you will be educating your kids, while also not being able to stop working the typical 50-60 hour work week, and continuing to follow through on family obligations.

If you can imagine any of this for just a second, I’m sure you can see why we are seeking prayer partners.

Over the next several weeks, either Elizabeth or I will be giving you a phone call to set up a time to get some coffee, dessert, or even sit down for dinner. To Elizabeth and I, this is the most important part of preparing for this huge leap of faith. And we look forward to developing a praying community and having regular opportunities to talk, pray and discuss this mission and everything that goes into it.

Thank you for signing up for this group. You are about to become the most important people in our lives. And we pray a thousand blessings for you and your heart for seeing the gospel spread into West Africa through the ministries of healing, service, and discipleship.

Zach Greenlee

Sign-up for the Togo Mission Prayer Fellowship

Sign-up for email updates (1-2 emails per month)

QOTW #10: Can you come speak at my church?

January 26, 2018

Really rural Haiti in 2015. Elizabeth and I were all over the Haiti countryside setting up mobile clinics with a small team of ABWE missionaries

Can you come speak at my church? (or, alternatively, how can I arrange for you to come speak at my church?)

I will answer this question from two perspectives.

For the church attender/member:

We would love to. If you are a member of a church and would like me to come speak there, or think that your church might be interested in hearing from us about the mission, please pray about it, then talk to your pastor. Give them our contact information and let us know that you have done this so that we can follow up.

Pastors face a lot of competition for pulpit time. There are so many causes, events, and announcements that are vying for a congregational address that it can be hard for pastors to work in a missionary talk. While, from a missions perspective, I find this a lamentable mis-prioritization of the mission of the church, it is a reality that I am also sympathetic too.

A church may decide to have us speak to the congregation directly during a service, have a special missions event on a weekday evening, have us just simply attend a service and be available in the foyer with our mission information and prayer cards, or to mention this mission in their announcements. Whatever the church believes is the most efficient and impactful way to partner with us as missionaries, we are open to

For Pastors:

We would love to meet the congregation of the church. We are not just looking for financial support (although, right now, at our currently funding level, this is a very high priority), we are looking for a relationship and to be in community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We desire to expand our network of prayer and bolster the sending – and going – culture of fellow followers of Christ.

If you would like to have us visit your church, on a Sunday, for a missions dinner, for a missions Bible study, or just be available after a service to have conversations about the mission, we would be more than happy to oblige. Just this last week, I spoke to students at a small private school about our past missions and our future mission, and why Jesus commands us to go and to send.

Some ideas on how we might involve your church:

  • Attend a missions/prayer meeting
  • Hold a special bible study on missions
  • Attend a small group
  • Give a presentation during the service
  • Attend a luncheon
  • Spend an evening with some missions-minded folks from the congregation

Please feel free to contact us at: [email protected] 

-or leave a comment 🙂


January 19, 2018

It is an interesting question, and I understand the reason I get this question so often. Often this question is preceded by “Are you going with a religious organization?”

What is ABWE?

ABWE is a decidedly “religious” organization. In fact, it is a missionary agency that has over 900 missionaries in, last I heard, 70 different countries. ABWE stands for Association of Baptists for World Evangelism. There are hundreds of ministries conducted through the agency, including theological education, evangelism, church planting, and my personal favorite, medical missions. Among the three hospitals that ABWE has built and operates worldwide, there are also clinics and short term medical assignments where “mobile clinics” are temporarily established for the purposes of health education, vaccination programs and even a sort of urgent care service. I’ve been on three of these short term medical missions with ABWE in the past.

One thing I love about ABWE is how responsible they are with their medical mission work. While some less reputable agencies may be accused of medical tourism, ABWE consistently employs the internationally accepted best practices for short term medical missions by supporting and augmenting indigenous medical services, when present. ABWE seeks to support responsible mission stations in-country through their medical missions, and always has well trained leader with years of experience working in austere and cross-cultural medical environments. One of my major concerns, when selecting an agency, had to do with their approach to medical ethics. ABWE has a long history of responsible medical mission management with top notch medical and surgical care regardless of the austerity of the region. And ABWE is incredibly transparent. That’s of critical importance in global health practice.

Baptist though?

Well, yes. ABWE has baptist right there in the name. However, they are not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, or, to my knowledge, any other baptist denomination. The theology of the organization is solidly baptistic, and so are Elizabeth and I. We had to affirm ABWE’s doctrine statement to be commissioned by the agency, which we did without reservation. Read it here for yourself. However, ABWE has nearly always crossed denominational lines, working with sending and supporting churches from a number of denominations because we all have the same mission in mind and are ecumenical (insomuch as ecumenism is defined in this case by the move toward unity among Christian groups) in nature.

ABWE also frequently works with and provides needed support to other mission agencies when the need arises and has been seamlessly supported by other mission agencies like Samaritan’s Purse, World Medical Mission, and Missionary Aviation Fellowship. Our sending church is non-denominational, and some of our other supporting churches are also independent non-denominational or from the Christian Reformed tradition. Interestingly, I’m still working on getting some baptist churches on board with us, which is kind of complicated since many of them give substantial financial support to the International Mission Board directly, a great mission organization affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

You still haven’t answered the question… WHY ABWE?!

Well, there’s no reason to get upset…

Actually, I just wanted to discuss another important reason, and this heading is a lazy way to segway into that.

ABWE has a hospital in Tsiko, Togo that is strategically located to reach and be reached by people from the three countries surrounding Togo for medical and surgical care. As a result of this, lives and hearts are touched from several different people groups, religions, cultures and, as a result, lives are changed every day. Through the ministry of healing, the soul-saving news of the gospel has reached into and is reaching into places that have never heard it before. There is a need for my specific type of training as a surgical and emergency medicine physician assistant. I want, more than anything, to ease suffering and liberate people from the bondage of illness, chronic pain, and spiritual darkness. This specific mission hospital, this specific ministry, this specific opportunity provides just such an opportunity for you and me to do just that.

The three things we won’t do when raising funds.

January 15, 2018

I was just recently asked an interesting question about how we are raising funds for this mission. Maybe the question wasn’t quite so interesting as was the way it was asked. The person who asked was a surgeon I work with and it was a reaction to shock at my methodology. He asked: “So you just ask people for money and they GIVE it to you?!”

I had to think for a second about my answer, but essentially, the answer is “yes, that’s exactly how this works,” but that’s also not JUST how this works. I’m straight forward though. I don’t think I’m asking for anything that I wouldn’t joyfully give myself. In fact, Elizabeth and I have been supporting missions in different ways for several years. Unfortunatley, only a few times have we had the opportunity to give directly to someone going themselves.

There are three things that I never do when asking for money though.

  1. We won’t beat around the bush.

There is just no reason to. People usually know within the first few seconds of talking to you whether or not they see the value in the endeavor enough to give any substantial amount. Besides, everyone knows that funds are an important part of sending. We all know that it is needed, and that it is necessary. Those of us who are inclined to give financially do it for the joy of giving. And there is a lot of joy that comes from giving, as I’m sure you already know.

  1. We won’t use guilt or try to persuade you.

Again, this is a worthwhile thing that we are doing, one that a financial supporter has a stake in. We all, as followers of Christ, have a vested interest in seeing the sick made well, the injured helped and the lost saved. Supporting such a worthy, Christ-honoring cause as supporting medical missionaries to West Africa should be and is a great joy, not because we feel good about relieving guilt for having so much and the people we are serving having so little, but because we derive joy from sharing what we are blessed with because that’s how we are wired as God’s children.

I totally ripped this photo off from the ABWE website. It was originally titled, “Children Who Showed Up During The Mobile Clinic.” What I loved about it is that this isn’t one of those sad-faced adds like the SPCA that uses emotions to trick you into giving. These are happy kids. They are just like our kids. They play, laugh, and misbehave sometimes. They aren’t starving, they haven’t seen warfare. They are just real kids without many resources, who we are meant to love as if they were our own.

  1. We won’t apologize.

We are all in this together. This is not just Elizabeth’s calling, my calling, my kids’ calling, but it is the calling of all believers to go or send. There is nothing to apologize for when asking for financial support. This is a good thing to have something so personal, so good, so Christ-honoring to dedicate our resources to.

I’m going to be honest with you, we need financial support, and we need a lot of it, but we need to have a Christ-honoring view of what that means. Our mandate, as followers of Christ to care for the sick and see to the needs of the poor goes hand-in-hand with the Great Commission, and is a key to experiencing the joy of obedience, and in being part of God’s work in a tangible way that will unfold before all of our eyes.

The reason Elizabeth and I give and have given

to missions is because we love to be part of something that blesses others and honors God. Why would we beat around the bush, give guilt trips, or apologize for being partners with you in this endeavor?

We want everyone who gives financially to share with us in the joy that comes from being part of this work. So if you think you might be interested, please give me a call, write me an email, or send me a message. I want to tell you about this opportunity, give you all of the details, tell you exactly how the funds will be used and bring you into our inner circle of trusted friends and family who are all equally part of this amazing mission.

My phone number 1 (209) 918-4044

My email: [email protected]

My Facebook messenger user name: m.me/Zacharia.greenlee


Supporter Presentation – We need your partnership.

January 9, 2018

Below, I’ve linked our PowerPoint presentation that we present to potential supporters. Would you consider helping us get fully funded? Ideas, referrals and financial donations are appreciated! Thank you for partnering with us and continue to pray for us as we are looking for churches and individuals to reach out to.

I’m not much of a public speaker, sooooo… you get it. 🙂

supporter presentation



QOTW #8: How do you prepare for a mission like this?

January 5, 2018

Elizabeth and fellow short-term missionary carrying supplies to our mobile clinic location deep in the Haitian Mountains in 2015

This question came to me from a surgical resident I work with. He was enthralled with the idea of spending a year working in a different cultural context from a medical perspective. So his question had more to do with preparing for the medical work than personal preparation, but I think the professional preparation cannot be separated from the personal, mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of this kind of transition.

I am, by no means, an expert on this. Every bit of this answer has been gleaned from the wisdom of other. Since I have done some medical mission work in austere environments, I do bring a small amount of personal experience to the table, though, it is insignificant in comparison to the sage wisdom I’ve received from mentors like Dr. Jack Sorg, Dr. Bob Cropsey, and too many others to list over the last several years.

  1. Read, a lot.

What to read? There is so much awesome material out there, it’s hard to distill this down to a few good pieces.

  • From a medical missions aspect (and this one is even good for cross-cultural mission work evenif you aren’t in medicine), Medical Missions: Get Ready, Get Set, GO! by Bruce Steffes is a treasure trove of excellent information, checklists, personal and vocational preparation and, well… et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
  • In 2011, I was still just a paramedic, and, although this was my second trip to the region in a medical capacity, I was unprepared to be an actual clinician. Dr. Sorg was going to be unavailable to travel with us to an outlying village deep in the mountains of southern Haiti, so it was going to be just me and a Nurse Practitioner who had worked in The Gambia for years. He handed me Handbook of Medicine in Developing Countries by David Palmer and Catherine E. Wolf. This remains one of my most cherished textbooks (among the dozen that now sit on my office book shelves). It is surprisingly exhaustive, and is available in spiral bound or as a Kindle download. Granted, it was published almost 2 decades ago, but it still contains really excellent insights into how to deal with medical issues in an austere environment in a quick reference format that is still useful.
  • This next book is required reading by ABWE for missionaries into the field. It is useful from a cross-cultural medical perspective, but is easily one of the most approachable and easiest to read primers on various aspects of just surviving in a different culture. Foreign to Familiar is written by Sarah A. Lanier, a Cultural Anthropologist with extensive travel as an academic researcher. Every single page is just drenched in with valuable lessons and entertaining stories on how to avoid cultural faux pas, deal with culture shock, and flourish in new cultural contexts.
  • Radical by David Platt is probably a book you’ve at least heard about (especially if you’ve spent any time talking to me about missions and discipleship at any point over the last 7 years). It spent months on the New York Times Best Seller List and has become my generations siren call to the mission field and a missional lifestyle. I don’t recommend this book unless you want your world completely shaken. Platt uses narratives from his own experiences in missions, from other people living missionally both in the cross-cultural context and at home. At it’s heart, the book is a love letter to the church of Christ to live a life of radical, self-less, and sacrificial dedication to the mission of Christ, to share the gospel and His deep love for humanity through discipleship. If you read only one book from this list, let this be the one.

There are many, many more books that I could recommend on this, but this post would go on for volumes if I did, so I will make another post in the future on some more for those who would like to dig deeper.

  1. Get into a Group

You can call it a small group, a discipleship group, a bible study group, your God squad, whatever… but the importance of having a steadfast community of like-minded people to support you (and each other) is absolutely critical. You need a group of mission-minded believers to gather with regularly, because perserverance, especially in the emotionally, physically, and spiritually challenging environment of missions requires it. I’ll let scripture speak for itself on this issue:

19Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ~ Hebrews 10:19-25 (NIV)

  1. Develop a Work-out Routine

It’s not what you think. Although being in good physical condition is important, because you don’t want health issues to impede your ability to function in the field, and you certainly don’t want to be a burden to those with whom you are working, that is not the primary work-out I’m alluding to.

If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters,[a] you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. ~ 1 Timothy 4:6-10 (NIV)

Your training starts now. Coming from a guy who has had times of excellent condition and times of embarrassingly poor condition, in every sense of the word, I can tell you that this is a constant struggle. Our spiritual health begins with daily time with God, spent in His word and in prayer. But we need not be only hearers of the word but also doers (James 1:22).

Preparation may start at home, but growth as part of the community you are embedded with continues daily in the field

  1. Find a Conference

If you have the means, go to a missions conference. If you don’t have the means, talk to your pastor, friends and your discipleship group about finding a way to get you to one. For three years, I went to the Global Missions Health Conference, held annually in Louisville, Kentucky. Thousands of like-minded medical missionaries gather, network, learn, lecture and advise each other. Dozens of mission organization are there, so it’s a veritable smorgasbord of medical mission perspectives an opportunities. The knowledge that I gained from the break out sessions on everything from medicine to fundraising was overwhelming, but I came back so ready to charge ahead after being refueled and inspired by the stories of normal people, like you and me, who just wanted to do something, even if they didn’t know at the time what that something was.

Some other great missions conferences to consider:

Urbana, held annually in St. Louis, MO

Mission ConneXion is a free annual conference in Tualatin, OR with some serious heavy-hitters in the missions world like Francis Chan (Pastor and best-selling author of Crazy Love), Peter Greer (President/CEO of Hope International), and Samuel Stephens (President of India Gospel League).

  1. Find a Mission Organization

Medical mission work, for me, has been a daily adventure and one of the most challenging experiences of my life

There some really good ones out there, and some not-so-good ones. Do some research, write letters, talk to representatives, and talk to other missionaries. The mission organizations, in my experience, have been very responsive to people even passively exploring the idea of doing some mission work.

  • The organization that I’ve worked with for several years now is ABWE. They have short term trips, internship opportunities and several long-term positions open.
  • SIM is a huge non-denominational mission organization that is involved in just about every form of cross-cultural missions possible from micro-finance, to church planting, and from community health to orphanage ministry. They also have a ton of short-term mission opportunities.
  • Samaritan’s Purse is just enormous. Like SIM, only exponentially bigger, they do everything! Just some of their ministries include disaster response (noth local and international), refugee crisis response, medical/hospital ministry, Operation Christmas Child, Veterans ministry and logistical support for other mission organizations. If you can’t find a place you fit in any other organization, this one is sure to have something that fits you well.
  • I’ll finish with this one, although there are hundreds to choose from and this is far from an exhaustive list. Mercy Ships is one of my all-time favorite ministries. They are a hospital on the water and, although the bulk of their work is done in Africa, they provide free medical care all over the world. They don’t just accept medical personnel either. There are so many opportunities to serve with this organization that I’m not even going to try to list them.


I hope this has helped. If there is anything that you think I should have included in this list, please leave a comment and I’ll go into it in more detail.