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Why? Short-Term Missions
by Tom Feldman, D.C.
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I did my first short-term mission trip in 1993 to Jamaica, and little did I know it was the beginning of many trips to follow. Like many people, I've had an interest in doing missions for quite awhile, but while I enjoyed the thought of going to another country, experiencing another culture, and helping people that normally wouldn't receive any help, I wasn't feeling called to give it all up for a long-term commitment. I have to admit that although I am a risk-taker, adventurous, and love to travel, I still needed quite a few nudges to get me to commit to my first short-term trip. I'm hoping this article nudges some of you. I had expressed an interest in doing a trip since I joined the CCA as a student eleven years ago. Following graduation and the establishing of my practice, my interest began to peak when I would read the Journal articles from doctors who had just returned from a mission. Within a short period of time, after inquiring about upcoming trips, I was contacted and asked to join a team to Jamaica. Even though I had taken the initiative to ask about the opportunities, I was still hesitant when the call came. Asking for a few days to "pray about it", (i.e. stall until I could come up with a viable excuse), I gave it over to God. He kept reminding me to "GO unto all the world". When I realized He wasn't going to accept any excuses I had, I committed to going and I haven't stopped since! My trip to Jamaica became a spring-board to my becoming very involved with Poland. I have also been on several trips to the Ukraine. Like anything that is close to your heart, I am always willing to share my passion for taking these trips. I have to admit I didn't always know exactly what the purposes for these trips were, and it wasn't until my third trip that God opened my eyes to what we are really accomplishing. I always went with the thought and attitude that I wanted to go and adjust as many people as I possibly could. As admirable as that goal was, it turned out it was only a small part. Asking God to give me the proper perspective and vision for what He wanted the trips to accomplish, He began to open my eyes to a much bigger picture. One day, I had been sharing with an unsaved colleague concerning my involvement with the CCA and STMs to Poland and Ukraine. He asked the usual questions, such as: where did I go, for how long, how much do they cost, and how much do they pay me for doing them? When I explained that I don't get paid to do these trips, I pay for everything myself, he made a statement which really made me start thinking. He commented that it seemed like an awfully expensive way to be a nice guy. He wasn't interested in understanding the evangelism portion, and to him, I could have saved myself a lot of expense by giving away care right in my office. I always knew there was a spiritual application to all of our trips, but I'm ashamed to say that for the first two trips it was never my main focus, nor did I see the big picture. I asked God to show me what He wanted me to see, and my eyes were opened from that day forward. Obviously, I can't share everything that I've experienced, but there are a few things God has really impressed upon my heart. One of the most important lessons God showed me was to stop looking at the patients, with whom we worked, as nameless foreigners we had to hurry up and adjust because there were so many more waiting. I began to realize my interaction with them could have eternal benefits, or consequences. While I could still be effective and efficient with my care, I realized, not only did it benefit them, but I could receive blessings too. As I worked with each one, I began to see how much these people appreciated what we did. I also began to see how God could use their lives to touch mine. Some of the following examples still bring chills to my spine as I remember them. I'll never forget the other who waited 4 hours just to ask us if we would come to her house because her daughter was dying from a brain tumor. When we arrived, we found a young girl in her early twenties, lying in the fetal position, shaking uncontrollably, and unable to straighten her legs. She weighed maybe 75 pounds and couldn't talk, let alone feed herself. To quickly summarize, she developed a brain tumor the previous year after getting pregnant with her second child. Now, here she was with a 2-year-old daughter, a 3- month-old son, and a young husband at her side while she slowly died. Her mother had the faith we would be able to help her somehow, even if it meant only making her more comfortable as she died. I'll never forget looking into the young girl's eyes. She didn't know who we were or what we were doing to her, but she knew that we were there to help. After the adjustment I could see her gratitude as she looked up at me and tried to smile. Blinking back the tears, we prayed for her and said our good-byes. Did we cure her? I don't know because we had to leave the next day, but she had stopped shaking and was slowly moving her legs by the time we left. What was our purpose? We found out that the young girl and her mother were saved, but her husband wasn't. He saw and heard everything that night and had to leave the room with tears in his eyes, but because of a mother's faith and courage to ask for help, a seed was planted and watered. I know that I'll see that young girl and her mother again someday; I pray that her husband is with her. Other examples, too numerous to elaborate on, include patients paralyzed from accidents, finding the real reason for life; children, brain damaged from birth, able to relax and stop shaking. Some of them grew so fond of the doctors they cried until the mothers brought them back. Many of the mothers were touched deeply in their hearts because the chiropractors actually cared about their children and showed them love. Tears of joy were shed as a woman was able to raise her arm over her head for the first time in four years. (She now knows that the same God who made her body is able to heal her body physically and spiritually.) A man who had been doubled over in pain for 4 months, unable to dress or bathe himself, and unable to walk without assistance, three adjustments later, walked in on his own with a dozen roses and a smile brighter than the sun. Now, he knows about another Son that can heal much deeper. A woman scheduled for surgery on her knee, unable to walk without crutches, walks out of the adjusting room on her own. I've met people who have given their lives to Christ as a result of our ministry and are now bringing their neighbors, children, and friends so they can share in the same blessings. One woman brought her daughter 12 hours by train to get checked. I found out she gave her life to Christ the year before as a result of the chiropractic ministry. It touched my heart to see the tears of joy as many physical afflictions were cleared quickly. Many had been suffering for years. I've seen the broken hearts of those that realize the same God, who healed their physical body, can repair a broken spiritual one as well. Happiness, joy, tears, and smiles are all experienced as you witness another life coming humbly and repentant before the Lord. Not everyone has miraculous cures, and some don't get better at all, but many leave not realizing seeds have been planted for another time. This is only part of why we should be doing short-term missions. We go to serve two purposes. The first is to minister to the saints. Our brothers and sisters in Christ need our encouragement, finances, and talents as well as our physical touch. Life is tough for them, but the depth of the faith and love shared amongst these followers of Christ is something you have to experience to appreciate. Many times, after only being in their presence for a few days, it becomes a difficult, tearful, goodbye. Their genuine love for Christ is shown in their hospitality and smiles. Many will house you in their homes and give you the best bed they have to offer, while they may have to sleep on the floor or double up with their kids. Even if you object to this arrangement, they will insist, because they consider it a joy and pleasure to serve others. They see the love and ministry we have come to share, and they want to give, too. Our second purpose is to reach out to the lost and needy. Obviously, since we lack the communication ability, we have to rely on the local churches or other Christian organizations to preach, evangelize, and reach the people we are serving. While we are addressing the physical needs, they are addressing the spiritual. Even if you can't speak the language, you will minister to them by your life. They see the difference in our lives as we come to serve in love and joy. They sense our caring and interest in them doesn't come from us as individuals. Many have said they can feel the presence of God in the place we are working. These are non-Christians who are seeing the light and life of Jesus reflected in those who have chosen to respond to His calling and go to these far away lands. This is a powerful testimony in and of itself. They can't comprehend the idea of you leaving your home and business, to pay your own way to their country just to render them care. So are we paid for doing a short-term mission? Yes, and we are paid very handsomely. Not with money, but in ways which far exceed anything money could buy. The greatest satisfaction and joy is being able to help someone in need when they are not in a position to pay you back. So while our pay is being deposited in our heavenly IRAs, we are, also, able to benefit while we are still here on earth. While we aren't paid financially, we do reap tremendous rewards. To the outside world it may appear we are just being nice guys and gals, but we know we have been called to a higher purpose. Like I've described above, there is a difficulty in explaining the feelings which move through you as you touch another's life. Joy, peace, sadness, laughter, reverence, and jubilation are only some of the many emotions which surge through you. On the surface, it may seem that we really aren't accomplishing much since we aren't able to follow up with so many of the patients. We can't possibly adjust everyone who needs it as often as needed, but if we look at Christ as our example, we see that our labor is not in vain. As we read through the Gospels, the story of Jesus' ministry is spread throughout many pages. As we look at how He ministered, we see He was only here a short time, yet the effects of His ministry continue on to this day, and will do so until the end of time, as we know it. Christ planted seeds, watered some, fertilized others, and harvested quite a few. Often, before He would preach or teach, He would give of Himself and meet the needs of those He was with. Whether they needed food, water, healing, or deliverance from demons, He often made sure to meet their physical needs first. After that, He would show them their spiritual needs and would provide the answers if they chose to address them. He did this by giving freely of Himself so the needs of others could be met. He did not receive any financial rewards for His ministry, yet His eternal rewards are great. If you knew you could touch one person's heart for Jesus Christ resulting in benefits of lasting value, wouldn't you want to do so? If not, then maybe you need to examine your own heart before God. You can't expect Christ to do it for you and not be willing to go and do it for others whether here or abroad. I have seen the fruits of our ministry. I've met some of the individuals who have given their lives to the Lord as a result. I shudder when I think about where they would be if we hadn't gone. These individuals are now planting seeds of their own, fertilizing others, so one day, Christ will reap the harvest. As I bring this to a close, I would like to share one more story. This was an experience shared with me by a great friend of mine which sums it all up. He was on a trip by himself in Ukraine and had spent several long days adjusting hundreds of people. It was toward the end of the day, and he was tired, but a call came, asking if he would stop at a local hospital to see a young man who was dying of ALS. My friend was honest with me when he told me that at that moment, he really didn't want to go. He was tired, hungry and knew that tomorrow would be another busy day, but he felt he should go. When he arrived at the hospital, he found the man and his wife both waiting for him. He noticed that the man's wife had been spending her nights sleeping on the floor at the foot of the bed to be near her husband in his final days. My friend adjusted the man and his wife, then asked them if he could pray with both of them by way of the interpreter. Neither one was saved so he was surprised when they said he could. He prayed for them that night and promised to return the next evening. Each evening for one week, he would stop by the hospital, adjust them both and pray with them. The night before he was to leave Ukraine to return home, my friend stopped in to give his final adjustment. As he was saying his good-byes to the couple, the bed-ridden man called to him and asked why he didn't pray with them that night? In all of the emotions from saying goodbye, he had forgotten to pray with them. He really didn't know if the couple had even been listening to his prayers all week, but it didn't matter because it was in God's hands. So he prayed with them and left them in the hands of the local church with whom he was working. Several weeks passed, and my friend received an email from Ukraine informing him the young man had passed away shortly after he had left. However, several days before he died, he had surrendered his life to Christ. The message continued, stating that a week or two after the passing of her husband, his wife and their son also surrendered their lives to Christ. The change in her life has since caused both her parents, and his, to open their hearts to hear about Jesus and His forgiveness when they previously wouldn't hear of it. As a result of this doctor's obedience to God's calling, many lives may now be eternally affected through this family because he was willing to give of himself to meet the needs of someone else. So I challenge each of you reading this to search your heart, and see where God is leading you concerning STMs. Maybe you feel called to stay here. That's fine. What are you doing about it? There are three things needed to do a short-term mission and not one of them really belongs to any of us. They are your time, your talents, and your resources. Give back to God as He has given to you. If you really can't do an STM, then surrender your Resources and pay for someone else to go. If you can't do this, then surrender your Time and pray for those that do go so their work will be fruitful and multiply. The groups we work with in these foreign lands have a vision. They are organized and are great supporters of chiropractic. They see how they can evangelize their country one person at a time using our help. The only problem is that we need doctors, so maybe you will be one of them. The days are short, time is winding down rapidly, and the opportunity is now. Let's seize it! As the rushing waters of life flow quickly past us, I urge you to do as the lyrics of a popular Christian song states--- Sink or Swim — I'm diving in!!!!