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.

Sincerely,
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 🙂


QOTW#9: Why ABWE?

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.


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.


QOTW #7: How can I help support you while you are overseas?

January 2, 2018

This week’s question has been music to my ears lately. Elizabeth and I are so excited to be in a position to help you make a meaningful change in the world, and bring the love of Christ to the sick and injured in West Africa. First things first, we believe that God hears our prayers, and answers them. Please, please pray for us, the mission staff, and the lives that we will become part of in the coming year.

While fundraising is the part of the process that missionaries routinely hate the most, it is no less a very necessary part.

I know I don’t need to go into all the reasons why sending our resources to the poorest and most underserved people is somethign every Christian should love doing. I know that, if you are already on this web page, you are already the type of person who wants to do good and make a difference in the world. I am already aware that you care deeply about mission work, and that you understand the absolute neccessity of medical missions and the incalculable impact they have on the lives of the people they serve. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your love an support.

We have abig task ahead of us. We need to secure about $68,000 to be completely funded. I’d be happy, in another post, or in person to break down how these finances are used, but I’ll give you a quick overview. Living in a place like West Africa is not expensive, but supporting a hospital is. The financial support we raise goes directly into our account. From that account we provide support for the services that I bring to the hospital, it feeds and houses our family. It pays for our medical care, and helps our children continue their education. There will be no extravagancies for us while we are there, but travelling, living, eating, educating and volunteering in the hospital requires financial resources.

The best way to set this up is through this link. Your tax deductible support goes directly into our account. We have some big expenses coming up soon, including buying airline tickets, applying for visas, and equipping ourselves with necessary items to spend a year living in an rather austere environment. There is an option for a one time sum, or for monthly giving. We need both. Monthly support is the primary means by which we will be surviving month to month while we are there. This is where we hope the bulk of the support comes from. One-time lump sums are also important, especially right now as we encounter some of the bigger expenses before departing in July.

If you are not already, please prayerfully consider helping us financially to not only serve the sick and injured, but to show the love of Jesus in a profound, life-changing way that the light of God’s glory may seen through our generosity.

And please pray for this endeavor. We trust the God’s resources are inexhaustible and that those who can and desire to, will partner with us in prayer and through financial support. This is an exciting opportunity to support some homegrown medical missionaries and make a global impact right from your home, and my initial fear and trepidation about asking for hand-outs has been changed into delight that, through this medical mission we all are being given the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the world.


QOTW #6: Why Togo?

December 21, 2017

The front of our prayer card that is going to print this week.We just approved our final proof for the prayer card. There is still so much to get done before we can go that it is entirely overwhelming when I sit down and really spend much time thinking about it. Right now, though, just putting one foot in front of the other, trusting God with each step, is all we can really do.

In 2013 I attended the Medical Mission Interface conference at ABWE headquarters in Harrisburg, PA. At that conference, we heard all sorts of synopses of the various medical ministries that ABWE was involved in. Although I was interested in them all, the one that stood out to me was the Southern Togo mission hospital. At the time, it seemed like almost everyone at the conference (there were probably 40 of us there at the time) was also looking to go to the Southern Togo hospital, known as Karolyn Kempton Memorial Hospital, officially, locally as Hopital Baptiste Biblique, and coloquially as just HBB.

Not wanting to go somewhere where there was plenty of helping hands already, I explored several other hospitals all over the world, but my heart wanted to go to the HBB. At that time, foundations were being layed for another Togolese hospital in Northern Togo, called Hospital of Hope. Since that time, most medical missionaries seem to be heading in that direction, meanwhile HBB has been cruising with, at least according to the World Medical Mission profile, 1 family practice physician, 1 pediatrician, 1 OB/GYN, and 1 general surgeon.

Then I realized that this is the time and the place.

Speaking a few days ago with some local hospital administrators, I was asked why Togo again, and they wanted hard numbers on how many patients were seen there, how many beds they had, how many surgeries, etc. So i started doing some hard research.

The most up to date data I could find is below:

Hospital and clinic patients seen annually: 18,000

Inpatients seen annually: 2,200

Surgeries done annually: ~1,500

Number of hospital beds: 40

Number of US Boarded physicians: 4

Number of surgeons: 1 (who is also the hospital’s administrator)

That is the very definition of an underserved area, and that’s where our hearts are, serving the underserved.

So, there are so many reasons that we are going to take a year to serve in Togo, but one reason surpsses them all, we are being obedient to God’s call on our lives to serve the forgotten and udnerserved. I read James chapter 1’s admonishment to be not only a hearer of the word, but a doer, also. The goal is to serve, and through service, love, and in love, share, and through sharing bring new life and new hope to God’s children, in Jesus name.

It really is that simple. The people served by the HBB is the place that God has given our hearts a desire for, and the time seems to be now.

Thanks for reading, please keep those questions coming. I really enjoy the feedback.

And please let us know if you would like to partner with us in this endeavor. We need your help, no one can do this on their own.


QOTW #5: How can I make a global impact from home?

December 9, 2017

Question of the week #5: How can I make a global impact from home?

It seems like there are a lot of people who look around themselves and at the state of the world and sincerely wish they could make a difference in it. We have been fatigued by the 24-hour news cycle, and can’t seem to muster the emotion to have compassion for every worthwhile cause. Social media blasts us daily with a new reason to mourn, something else to pour ourselves into, a new issue to protest, and yet another egregious act of immorality to be angry about. Social justice has become a religion in its own right, and our hearts are earnest in the desire to make lasting change.

But we are exhausted, right?

I remember a time in my life when I was constantly involved in some sort of outreach to marginalized and suffering people. That was seriously one of the happiest times of my life. And I shamelessly reveled in the “goodness spotlight” that was shined on me for my efforts. Then I went to PA school. Life has changed dramatically in that time. I had a debilitating spinal injury that had me periodically paralyzed and left a lasting handicap (although, thankfully, the only thing that I can’t do is run and jump. Since I was never a basketball player anyway, I suppose I can deal with that). My job requires a much greater percentage of my time than any previous position. I am again in graduate school. My kids are getting older and with greater age comes exponential increases in busyness.

But, if you are like me and millions of others in similar positions where they are overwhelmed by the state of the world, want to make a lasting change, but lack either the time or resources, there is still an answer, and it isn’t necessarily packing up your family to work in a West African hospital.

The Happiest Time of Your Life

Think back to a time when your heart just beat more palpably. Try to really remember a time that you were excited to wake up every morning and take on, with vigor, whatever the Lord had in store for you.

Now, try to recall, who were the people in your life at the time?

Let me explain the reason for this question.

For 4 years I was involved in a homeless outreach with a dear friend of mine, Michael. I was working the night shift as a paramedic in Stockton and going to school during the day. Stress levels were high because there were a lot of demands on my time. But every Sunday, Michael and I would head down to a park early in the morning with probably 3 gallons of hot coffee biscuits and breakfast sausages. We would sit at the picnic tables by the river, or set up some lawn chairs, and sit and talk with several men and women who became our friends over time. Granted, many of our unhoused friends were strung out on drugs, ex-convicts, on probation, and mentally ill, but we really cared about each other and became a community like the Island of Misfit Toys from that one Christmas movie.

We saw to each other’s needs. Someone would always start a warming fire in the colder months. Someone would voice a need for socks, a sleeping bag, a new shirt, a few extra dollars to get some sinus medicine (or sometimes to buy cigarettes, which, yes, sometimes we would even help with that… I know, FOR SHAME!). But we were a community, albeit an odd-looking one. These were the least judgmental people I had ever had the honor of befriending. I can’t even begin to describe how many times these men and women ministered to me in my stress. God was present in our Sunday morning meetings in a profound way.

That was, until another church showed up. It started with them just setting up a microphone and bringing some guitars for a morning worship service about the time that Michael and I would wrapping up. But our group of 15-20 people initially resisted this “Church in the Park” to stay with us. But over time, this church started showing up earlier and earlier to set up shop for the service, because their set-up became more and more sophisticated with tents and even a stage. Before we knew it, we were being pushed out. And I have often wondered if their efforts to bring their favorite flavor of truly awesome worship music, excellent preaching and all the extravagancies of American Churchianity was actually accomplishing what they hoped it would accomplish.

The Value of the Local Community

I can think of another time when my heart was so full of love and passion for life and especially on fire for the Cause of Christ was as a member of a small community of other families like ours where we met weekly and talked, prayed, read the Bible and generally enjoyed each others company. That group was ended far too soon. And we never quite were able to recreate those intentional connections.

On Friday evenings, Elizabeth and I open up our home for these intentional relationships. Honestly, its hard because everyone we know is so busy, but we have some consistency in who comes. And, my goodness, are our conversations deep sometimes. Sometimes the topics are light, and filled with laughter to the point of tears as many of us come from different walks of life and have a lot of fun exploring cultural differences and similarities. There are children everywhere. It can be loud and distracting, but, come one, they’re kids, right? We center our conversations around the gospel, and the joy that fills our home on these Friday nights is palpable. Even in times of sorrow, joy permeates our interactions.

Local Community, Global Impact

So how does this all relate to having a global impact?

I think it’s all about a fractured and disconnected society. Seriously, google the term “social media effects on society” and you will find article after article about the negative effects of the medium on community. When we supplant real intentional interaction with a digital, disconnected version, we are short changing ourselves. We are not having the impact that we really desire, in spite of our sharing of links for causes and outrage over immorality. This isn’t to say that I believe that there is anything wrong with use of social media for that purpose, but I want to propose something much better.

Regular intentional meeting with small groups of people, even up to 15-20 if there is some regularity to the meeting, creates significant societal bonds. Those bonds are like carbon-fiber matrices, they strengthen the individual by strengthening the group. A single person, despite all of the inspirational quotes you hear and read, rarely makes a large, lasting-impact on the world. However, a community of people with a shared vision does, especially when the gospel is at the center.

Matthew 18:19-20 (yes, I am removing it from it’s context a little here, but bear with me, this is not eisegetical): 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

There is power in community, more so than there is with the lone wolf. This isn’t about having a discipleship group, community group or whatever your church calls it, that last for the duration of a 8 week topical Bible study. This is about meeting regularly for meaningful fellowship with fellow believers around the promises of the gospel, and centered on Christ.

The Lasting Impact May Not Be What You Are Expecting

The dangerous thing that happens here is that our dogmas are challenged. We are forced to look at things from different perspectives. We are stretched and our hearts may find some rust getting shaken off as we become sensitive to the plight of our neighbor, who is probably going through some seriously challenging things that you never realized. You will be shocked that your fellow believers struggle with some of things that they do. You will find yourself being more honest than you’ve ever been in your entire life, with yourself and with others.

As these bonds are fortified in prayer and love, people sometimes notice that their previously unacknowledged self-centeredness is shed away, piece by painful piece, and their hope for the world actually becomes something besides a dismal entropic outlook. And many people find themselves plotting ways to improve the world, in ways that require faith, and that very few would attempt without having a community of fellow world-changers with linked arms holding them up.

It is such a beautiful thing. And you and I both need it.

Please, consider joined Elizabeth and I on Friday evenings for our get togethers. Bring your kids. Don’t worry about showing up on time. And don’t plan on going home early. You won’t want to.

 

 


QOTW#4: What are you going to be doing over in Togo?

December 4, 2017

This is the team of surgeons, nurses, doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, and others that I traveled with to the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission in January of 2017. As you can tell, the surgical environment looks a little different in other countries like Haiti.

I have been uniquely trained as a PA. Not just to be a PA, but with a specific set of skills that lend themselves well to the mission hospital. It started several years ago as a paramedic working in the urban environment of Stockton, CA. As a busy paramedic, working consistently among a very underserved population, I gained experience and insight into the unique medical problems and circumstances that arise when people have limited access to medical care. I was able to leverage that experience to find a purpose working in Haiti several times starting in 2010, shortly after the earthquake that rocked the country.

Working in makeshift clinics in the rural environment of Eastern Haiti, I gained not only clinical experience in dealing with the harsh conditions and poverty that lead to unique health conditions, but also insight into how to function as a health care provider in an austere environment.

Shortly after graduating from the Stanford University PA program, I worked in a few different positions, including emergency care, family practice and a general surgery practice to providentially finding myself at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton in a unique role for a PA. I was initially hired to primarily be a first assist for multiple surgical specialties, gaining experience in general/abdominal surgery, orthopedic surgery, neuro surgery, gynecologic surgery and even some trauma.

Over the following two years, this role evolved to include leading team of fellow healthcare providers to accomplish quality measures, which is hospital-speak for projects to improve a specific area of patient care. The hospital eventually sent me to an ultrasound procedure course to learn not only how to use an ultrasound, but how to capitalize on the convenience of these systems to do otherwise risky procedures that helped certain groups of patients avoid the risks inherent with having to do the same procedure under general anesthesia.

All of these experiences and additional training have been part of what can only be described as God’s plan to provide me with needed knowledge and skills to work in a mission hospital. While I still have much to learn about operating in Africa, I bring with me a skill set and knowledge that will make that transition into such a hospital a much more fluid one.

The role of the PA in these settings is highly variable and may change through time. I expect to be operating and assisting with surgeries, seeing patients admitted to the hospital, and working in the ER. In a hospital, like the one I’m going to in Togo, there are a few fulltime career missionary surgeons who have little time for anything besides surgery, and still may have to turn away patients due to the light staffing so inherent in these environments. I will free up valuable time and will hopefully prevent patients who could otherwise be turned away, from not having potentially life-saving surgeries.

This will open up opportunities for gospel witness that might have otherwise not occurred and allow for families in the mission to have access to their moms and dads who are worked so hard and with so many hours to be able to leave the hospital for a time, knowing that there is another qualified health care provider available to care for people during their needed periods of respite.

Please pray for the staff already there and for me to be prepared for the arrival of my family, for wisdom and that I gain the needed knowledge to be a source of relief and that through this many more people will be healed and might enjoy the joy and hope of knowing Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.


QOTW#3: What are you doing about the kids and their education?

November 25, 2017

 

What are you doing about the kids and their education?

This was one of the first questions we asked ourselves too. Short answer: we will homeschool them.

Liam (14) will be in his sophomore year of high school. We are still sorting through the hundreds of different curriculums for him right now, and Elizabeth is waiting for some input from his current high school, which has a number of recommended curriculums for embedded missionaries. There are also quite a few teachers at his school who have prior experience in education of missionary kids. We have a great support network for him, and his school is very supportive of this experience.

Owen (11) and Maeve (7) will be doing charter school curriculum through a school that Liam attended junior high at.

So Elizabeth will be a busy lady, teaching our kids along with teaching me French (which is no small challenge).

Keep those questions coming!

Cheers!

Zach and the rest of the Greenlee family


Question Of The Week #2: What are you guys doing with your house?

November 20, 2017

QOTW#2

What are you guys going to do with your house?

 

Sorry about the late update, it was a busy weekend for the Greenlee family.

We built a chicken run for the chickens that Liam is supposed to be raising for his FFA project. Which is kind of complicated considering that we plan to be leaving in July 2018. So that kind of leads into the question, what are we going to do with our house while we are away for a year? Anyone want some chickens next summer? 🙂

We plan to rent it out for a year, for a good price too, if you’re interested. We would love to rent to someone we know if possible. The actually more complicated question would be, what are we going to do with all of our stuff while we are away?

Ideally, we could just leave it all in the house, but in reality, we will probably have to find some storage for our belongings, unless you know someone who is looking to rent a furnished home for a year.

So two requests we have for our partners in this medical mission (all of you!): If you know of anyone looking to rent a house, furnished or unfurnished, and/or if you know anyone who might be able to help store our household items in a safe, dry, preferably rodent-free place, we would be extremely appreciative.

Thanks for reading. Keep those questions coming!

 

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

The Greenlee family.