Many people have asked how we got to this point. Here is a brief synopsis.
The Foundation 1991-1995
Heather and I actually met on a mission trip to Brazil in 1991. That kindled our relationship, and four years later, we were married. Since the beginning, we have together felt a calling to overseas missions.
Trinity: A Call to Medical Missions 1996-1998
After Heather finished nursing school, we moved to Chicago where I began graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I had been wrestling with my career choice, whether to pursue medicine or ministry, and I hoped seminary would help me decide. However, God used our time at Trinity to integrate these two visions into one unifying purpose: international medical missions. At that time, we committed our lives to this calling, if God should open the doors. So we applied to medical school and I was accepted to the Ohio State University (go Buckeyes!).
OSU: Medical School 1998-2003
After graduating from Trinity, we began medical school at OSU in Columbus, Ohio. Our time there was very good. Our young family grew; we lived in a great house that we built ourselves with the help of my dad; and we attended an excellent church with a strong emphasis on missions. During my final year of med school, our vision was still medical missions, but in what context? I considered general surgery, emergency medicine, internal medicine, and family practice. But after scrubbing my first total knee replacement, the decision was easy…orthopedic surgery.
Mayo Clinic: Orthopedic Residency 2003-2008
Despite the fact that Heather said she would be willing to go anywhere for residency except Minnesota, we ended up at the Mayo Clinic in…Rochester, Minnesota! This was a challenging move for us in many ways, to a new place, new friends, etc. But we were both convinced that this was where God wanted us; and it was a great experience. Honestly, our vision for missions had wavered at times during the tough years of residency. But through it all, God was faithful, and sovereignly intervened at just the right times. This was especially evident in 2006, as we made plans for a short term mission trip to Kenya. While planning for this trip, we met Russ and Beth White, missionaries at Tenwek Hospital, who were visiting Rochester while on furlough. They invited us to come to Tenwek during our planned trip to Kenya, and see the orthopedic needs there. Samaritan’s Purse assisted with the arrangements for this trip, and in September 2006, we spent two weeks in Kenya working with Tim Mead at the CURE Children’s hospital in Kijabe, and with Mike Chupp, director of the orthopedic department at Tenwek.
A Different Path 2007-2008
After this trip in 2006, we were ready to go. However, to get board certified in orthopedic surgery, the Board requires a minimum of two years of practice in the States after finishing residency. Many people advised me to finish board certification before leaving for Kenya. Others warned about individuals they knew with a call to full-time international missions who lost that vision after starting practice.
Although I sensed God calling me to trust him with this issue of board certification and just go, I instead took a different road, and made plans to join an orthopedic practice in Shelby, Ohio after finishing residency. It looked like the perfect job because it was near my family in Ohio, and provided a month of mission sabbatical yearly. The thought of earning a good income while doing part-time mission work greatly appealed to me.
But, as the year progressed, we became aware that this was not God’s plan. Why? Because while at Trinity years ago, we made a commitment to full-time international missions if God opened the doors, and I was straying from that commitment. And God had to discipline us to keep us on track. Proverbs 3:11 became personal: “my son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
A Step in the Right Direction May 2008 - Current
In May 2008, we started over, and began to ask God “What do YOU have for us?” We were holding to Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.” Then, the last week of May, we received a general email from Russ White at Tenwek Hospital asking for prayer that God would urgently provide an orthopedic surgeon for Tenwek. Heather and I looked at this email and said, “Could this be for us?” I emailed Dr. White and explained that we would be willing to go if God opened up the doors. There were some major hurdles, financial and otherwise, that had to be overcome. But to make a long story short, in three short weeks after receiving that email, we were miraculously on our way to Kenya.
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