Dan, Heather, Jeremiah, Tory, Emma, Tye, Claire, Levi, Josie, Jane and Ethan

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Five Loaves and Two Fish: Giving what we have to God

A sweet new friend for Emma and Claire!
Note Pike's Peak in the Background.

From Wolf Creek Pass facing West. The San Juan river snakes in the valley.

Lone waterfall...

The Aspens of Colorado.

Driving through Wolf Creek Pass in southwestern Colorado on the way to Mission Training International (MTI) offered another perspective on fall in North America. While the colors in North Carolina were varied and crisp, the Aspens of Colorado were constant and blurred within the evergreens, and equally incredible…gold speckled within dark green.

Unfortunately, I also saw two other colors in my rear-view mirror (blue and red) while trying to pass a slower vehicle on the mountain pass. However, the “slower” vehicle was already going 63 (in a 60 mph zone), and I learned something new…if you pass a vehicle it must be at or below the speed limit. Yet another opportunity to discuss with my children crime, punishment and the Grace of God (Claire was wondering if I was going to jail).

We are currently at MTI near Colorado Springs, undergoing a three week intensive training in missions. Subjects vary from handling interpersonal conflict (the number one cause of premature departure from the field), to proper stress management in a cross-cultural setting. The kids have class as well, learning the same subject material but in a kid-friendly format. Levi, unfortunately, vomited on the floor of the adult classroom during corporate praise and worship (while I was holding him), thus he was banished to our room, quarantined until no sign of sickness remained. Heather and I took turns missing class to care for Levi, which consisted primarily of maintaining a good supply of DVDs and Gatorade. As such, this allowed more quantity of time to digest the course material which, by nature, requires a certain amount of introspection.

Today, I was meditating on the fact that in 3-1/2 weeks, I will be the only orthopedic surgeon for 1.2 million people, on-call 24/7, having limited supplies and heavy patient volume with challenging pathology, fresh out of residency with minimal experience in orthopedic surgery in a third world setting. The question arises, “What on earth are we doing!?” As these facts threatened to overwhelm me, I wrestled with God, asking for skill and wisdom and perseverance and grace. The anxiety began to dissipate as I was reminded of the miracle of the five loaves and two fish. Here, Jesus took something basic and minimal (yet) from someone willing and available, and multiplied it to positively impact a multitude of people.

What are your five loaves and two fish? What talents and gifts has God given you for the sake of others? We give what we have been given back to God and trust Him to multiply it for his Kingdom, for his sake, for his glory.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Cor. 4:7

Would you please continue to pray for our family? Your partnership with us in prayer is essential and we are so dependent upon you in this way! Equally, we would like to pray for you, so please let us know your needs.

Please pray:
(1) Wisdom and grace for Heather and me as we finish packing when we return to Phoenix in mid November.
(2) Our kids that they would transition smoothly to a new culture, that they would not fear, and that they would, with excitement, anticipate their calling to Kenya.
(3) That God would give me divine wisdom in the practice of orthopedic surgery in Kenya.
(4) That our family would be knit together in unity, that we would all truly love and forgive each another, and thus demonstrate the love of Christ to those around us.

Thank you!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fall in North Carolina at the Peak of Color

Ball Python for Sale: Counting the Cost of Discipleship

Email dated Friday, October 17, 2008:
Hey dad, i know this sounds crazy but i feel like i should sell butch. i do not want to put the burden on grandma and grandpa, so i am thinking of selling him to a school. please pray for me to help me make a decision about this this is very hard for me, but i feel like God is telling me to do this.

Thanks, jeremiah

For the past week, Heather and I have been in the high country of North Carolina for the Prescription for Renewal Conference in Ashville (at the Billy Graham Training Center) and for orientation with Samaritan’s Purse in Boone (home of Appalachian State University). Warm days and cool, crisp evenings, along with the most amazing display of fall color made this time unforgettable. Our drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway was spectacular…the splendor of God’s creation. Several missionary families from Tenwek were at the Conference, allowing us to begin building friendships and ask a myriad of questions.

Samaritan’s Purse, well known for Operation Christmas Child (shoeboxes) and Franklin Graham, is a solid relief and mercy organization, with a clear vision for responding to worldwide needs in the name of Christ. Their medical arm, World Medical Mission (WMM), facilitates short-term placement of physicians in understaffed missions hospitals around the world. The Post-Residency Program (a division of WMM) places recently graduated residents for two years in mission hospitals in order to propel them into a hopeful lifelong career in medical missions. We are grateful to be a part of this program and under the leadership of Samaritan’s Purse; such an amazing, godly organization.

While we were in North Carolina, Jeremiah, Emma, Claire and Levi remained with Heather’s parents in Phoenix (thank you!). Grandma and Grandpa Kinkel became Mom and Dad for the week…homeschooling, feeding, bathing, mediating, etc. We are so thankful for their partnership with us on this journey to Kenya… they have made many sacrifices for our sake. For instance, Butch, our family pet, a five-foot ball python we have had for close to seven years, has been living in Grandma’s laundry room. Let me assure you, Grandma does not like snakes.

One of the big questions we have all had, including Grandma and especially Jeremiah, has been, “What are we going to do with Butch while we are gone for these two years?” Jeremiah’s thoughts have ranged from smuggling him into Kenya (“after all, Butch is native to Africa”) to having Grandpa watch him while we are gone. Butch was a gift to Jeremiah for his 5th birthday, and has provided a considerable amount of excitement for our entire family (especially, on those “rare” occasions, when Jeremiah has forgotten to secure the lid to his cage. For other good Butch stories ask the Zeldenrust’s, Moeckly’s or the Holte’s). Needless to say, our kids really do love Butch, and the thought of life without him is difficult.

The decision to follow Christ and become His disciple requires that we all “count the cost.” Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” As adults (although individually called and chosen by God to follow Christ), we are able to consciously weigh these costs and either say “yes” or “no” to God. Our kids, on the other hand, did not have a “choice” in going to Kenya (although Claire has informed us she is staying with Grandma). So my prayer has been that they sense their own call to missions; that they would understand that because God has sovereignly brought them into our family, they are chosen to be missionaries as well; and that along with this calling, comes a degree of sacrifice.

For Jeremiah, one sacrifice is having to say goodbye to Butch, his long-time pal (he already said goodbye to Frank and Rosie, his red-eared sliders, but that was fairly easy for him). From his email, with maturity that I would not have expected from an 11 year old, I sense that Jeremiah is beginning to “count the cost,” although small to us, large for him. As a father, I have to resist the feelings of guilt, that I am somehow depriving my children of life experiences by taking them to Africa. But I believe that what awaits them is beyond what I can hope or imagine.

Email reply:
I will be praying for you Jeremiah…sometimes when we do what God wants us to do it can be the hard thing. But there are always blessings in being obedient to God. I am proud that you are wanting to listen to God's voice. I love you buddy, Dad

Please pray for Jeremiah, as when we arrived home today from NC, Butch was gone, sold in one day. And pray for our family as we travel to Colorado Springs this Sunday for three weeks of training at MTI (www.MTI.org). November 19 is rapidly approaching! Thank you for ALL your prayers and support.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Project Medsend, Detroit Lakes MN, a Faithful Missionary, and Four Gold Coins

When we received the email from missionary surgeon Dr. RussWhite about the urgent need for an orthopedic surgeon for Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, we responded that we would be willing to go, but that there were some major hurdles that needed to be overcome. Russ, likely out of years of personal experience and faith, very wisely answered, “Dan, if God wants you there, things will fall into place.” Following, as Paul Harvey says, is the rest of the story.

Russ, however, soon became very curious about the specifics of these major hurdles. “Well,” I said hesitating, “I have educational debt. “OK,” Russ said, “is there anything else?” Going deeper, I said, “Yes…I also owe the hospital system in Ohio repayment of a stipend I received over the past year. Since I am now no longer going to be joining them, they understandably want their money back, and it is due by August 1, 2008.” (Early on, Heather and I had decided that we were going to be honest about our situation so that their decisions would be based on the truth.) “Is there anything else?,” Russ said. “That’s about it,” I said, “aside from the fact that we just endured a long 5-year residency, we have four young kids, and we don’t feel worthy to go!”

Project MedSend

Regarding the educational debt, Russ reminded me of the non-profit group Project MedSend, commissioned by the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA) in the early 1990’s to develop funding to repay educational loans for healthcare workers headed for a career in medical mission under the authority of a recognized mission agency. Since their founding, they have provided over 360 grants to medical missionaries all over the world, several of which are at Tenwek. “Let me make a few phone calls,” Russ said. Amazingly, a day after he sent the original email, Russ and Beth traveled back to the states for a two week stint, thus enabling him to make several phone calls on our behalf, without having to worry about his hospital responsibilities.

Russ called me back later that day. “I spoke with Samaritan’s Purse, and they said ‘no, problem.’ They already know you since they organized your trip in 2006 and they said you could be a part of their post-residency program, which is a two year commitment. So we have the missions agency worked out,” he said. “About Project MedSend, you missed the deadline for the board meeting scheduled for next week. The next meeting after this is not until October,” Russ said. I was discouraged. “However,” he went on, “since our need is so urgent, they agreed to add you on to next week’s agenda if you get your application to them ASAP. That night, I wrote like crazy and gathered all of our financial data, and submitted our application the next day.

Detroit Lakes MN

The next hurdle to overcome was the repayment of the stipend to the hospital system in Ohio, due August 1, 2008. Although smaller in amount than the med school loans, because of the pressing nature of the deadline, it seemed insurmountable. “I have some thoughts on this,” said Russ. “World Gospel Mission, the agency that runs Tenwek, may be able cover the entire amount of the stipend by the deadline of August 1st, with the agreement that you would pay them back at least half before leaving for Kenya. We can deal with the second half at a later time.” That sounded fine, but nearly impossible. I had no clue how I could possibly make that amount before leaving for Kenya. Certainly no orthopedic group practice would hire me if I had plans on leaving in a few months, nor did it seam reasonable to get a job pumping gas at the local Pump n’ Munch (for you Rochester folks).

One day, a Mayo Clinic Consultant, out of the blue suggested, “Dan, why don’t you do orthopedic locum tenens work before leaving for Kenya?” “That sounds great,” I said, “but I wouldn’t have the slightest clue were to begin.” I had heard very little of these jobs in which a physician temporarily fulfills the duties of another. As residents, we received hundreds of recruitment emails monthly, and routinely I would just trash them. However, the last week of my residency career at Mayo, I received a random email from a locum tenens company in Florida advertising an urgent need for an orthopedic surgeon with a Minnesota license for the first two weeks of July. I had a sense that God was up to something, so I gave the recruiter a call. I told him our hopeful plans of going to Kenya soon as medical missionaries. The recruiter said, “Wow, that’s interesting. There is another surgeon who is an orthopedic medical missionary from Kenya who we place on jobs when he is home on furlough.” “Really, what’s his name?” I asked. Amazingly, it was a man Heather and I had met while in Kenya in 2006. We had dinner with him and his wife, and in one evening had a deep connection with them. It was as if God was saying, “Just trust me.” At first I argued with God, “But I had planned to use the first two weeks of July to study for the Boards.” My program director’s words from my exit interview were still ringing in my ears…“You’d better pass your exam!” Again, I heard, “Just trust me.” So I committed to those first two weeks in July. Two days later, the last day of residency, I received word from Project MedSend…they approved the grant for our educational debt!

A Faithful Missionary

So as a newly graduated resident from the Mayo Clinic, I jumped off the cliff, and took my first locums job in Detroit Lakes, MN. A good friend and fellow resident told me, “Dude, you are going to get killed up there, especially over the July 4th weekend.” This added to my anxiety about being in a new environment, as a new graduate, with no consultants to fall back on, in a town the triples in population over the Independence Day holiday, as the only on-call orthopedist, with the most important test of my career coming in about two weeks. But I was filled with peace, and by God’s grace, my patients and I survived. Moreover, I discovered locums work is perfect preparation for missions…and it pays extremely well! Amazingly, by the August 1st deadline, I was able to pay my half of the stipend with this one locum tenens job.

But were did the money from the second half of the stipend come from? Later, Heather and I found out that Russ had volunteered it out of his own White Family Ministry Account. We were both humbled when we saw their faith and amazing generosity, because we experienced, in a very tangible way, what grace is all about. After we found this out, however, we became resolved that we were going to pay this back (with God’s help) before leaving for Kenya. Two locum jobs later, we literally had just enough to pay the second half back to into the White’s account.

Four Gold Coins

Before I wrote that check, I received a phone call from my locums representative. “We have a job for you in Arizona!” he said. “This is perfect,” I thought. “Now I will be able to pay back the second half and have a little financial cushion to fall back on!” God must have heard that because two days later, I got another phone call telling me that the job fell through. I still had to make the payment, as I committed, but now no safety net. “Just trust me,” I kept hearing. A few days later, I remembered that several years ago, my dad, an avid coin collector, had given each of his children some gold coins as an early inheritance. “Keep these for an emergency, and if you ever need to sell them, I will buy them back,” he said. Well, I thought, now is as good a time as any, so I called my dad and he agreed to redeem them back, thus providing again, just enough, until we leave for Kenya.

All these events have strengthened our faith in God, confirmed His calling, and taught us His sovereign ability to provide for all of us, if we would just trust him. My prayer is that our story will encourage you to see Jesus Christ as the greatest treasure you could ever have, that he is able to provide, in all ways, in every need, so far beyond our feeble attempts. I invite you to trust Christ today, and find all the satisfaction your souls could ever desire in Him.