We praise the Lord for the incredible growth we’ve seen over the past few years. Trips are filling up faster and and faster, and waiting lists are now the norm. It’s exciting to see so many volunteers eager to serve on a short-term medical missions trip. And a large percentage of these are repeat team members!
Most never know all that goes into planning a trip up to 18 months in advance: coordinating with the host missionary or pastor, securing licenses and government permissions to practice medicine in each community, booking airline and hotel contracts. The list goes on and on! As a staff, we value organization and preparedness. We pray for these trips before they are ever made public. Our hearts begin to pull toward each town or village, eagerly anticipating meeting the patients the Lord will send our way.
But there are times when the Lord closes the door to minister in a place. Despite our best efforts, dotting every i and crossing every t, cutting through seemingly endless miles of red tape, the answer comes back: no. Our initial reaction is often frustration. “We have been working and planning on this trip for months!” There is also embarrassment. “What about the team members who are signed up for this trip? And all their family and friends who gave to support them?” There is confusion. “Why were we initially told we were welcome here, only to be told no after months of preparation?”
This is the nature of what we do. We work in developing nations where laws can change quickly and paperwork can be rejected on a whim. We want to work where there’s a need. But that also means that we’ll work where there’s no guarantee that we’ll be accepted. Cancellations don’t happen often, usually no more than once a year. But it’s still tough.
One of these trip cancellations happened last year. We had originally planned to serve in Nepal. When the door closed there, we quickly contacted a missionary in India and began working on Plan B. We called all team members and advised them of the change. But just a few months later the unthinkable, the unprecedented happened. The door to India closed as well. Our hearts cried, “Why?” We dreaded contacting our team members who were excited about this trip, who’d been planning on it for months, to let them know that once again, we needed to make a change. We were moving to Plan C.
One of those team members was Sandesh Patole. He shares his experience here:
I am from India, I speak Hindi. When MMO advertised Nepal on the 2018 calendar, I thought I could be useful for the Nepal trip as I speak the language. Nepal is north to India geographically, most people in Nepal speak Hindi and they have similar culture. When the trip to Nepal was cancelled, MMO then decided to take a trip to New Delhi, India in summer of 2018. Something in me told me I have to be there, I could be so useful in translating, making sure the team is cared for or just helping in which ever way I could. Unfortunately the India trip was also cancelled. Then MMO advertised the Fiji trip. I knew where Fiji Islands are and I also knew that they have 40% Indian origin people living Fiji, most of them speak Hindi language. Surprisingly, MMO partnered with a missionary who worked where they have number of Indian people. I jumped to the opportunity to serve in Fiji. I was able to translate in Hindi to the local population who came to the clinic. It’s interesting when you start talking to people in their language–they tell you whole life history. It was my privilege to serve the Lord in Fiji Islands with the dedicated MMO team. I made number of friends. I had some connections in Fiji. I knew a government official who was ambassador to Papua, New Guinea back in 2005 when I was working there. He was excited that I was in his country doing mission work. My former boss was from Ba Town, Fiji, now settled in New Zealand; he saw my Fiji pictures on FaceBook and called me and thanked me for bringing medical missions to his town. My sister, a pharmacist, and her husband were encouraged by my mission trips; they recently did an MMO trip to Panama.
It just amazes me how God opens doors and brings in new opportunity to serve Him. I think all I need is a willing heart to serve Him. Praise be to His name.
As Medical Missions Outreach make plans to serve in eleven countries in 2019, we push hard to submit all documents for proper licensing. We contact local authorities for customs paperwork. We learn more about the area where we’ll work, the patients we’ll see, the healthcare system they have. We book airline tickets and hotel rooms. We pray and pray and pray.
But we also know that when God closes a door, it’s always for a reason. We yield our will and our calendars to Him and eagerly await how He will work. There’s no Plan C with God. It was always His Plan A, and we will be on board with it.