That’s All Folks

39 hours. What can you do in that time? You could take a much needed weekend vacation. You could drive from LA to New York. You could watch all 8 Harry Potter movies…twice. Or, you could travel from Jos, Nigeria to Charlotte, NC. Really. It was a looong day. But the weird thing is, that means that I’m done.

So what’s it been like you ask? Why was I there? What did I learn? Well, while I can’t answer any of those questions to the amount of detail I would like on a simple little blog, allow me to share with you a story that might at least give you an idea of what I experienced.

We walk in on three middle-age, Nigerian women with an older lady laying on the bed. The “we” in that sentence is the Nigerian physician, nurse, and me. This is a new experience for me because for the first time, I am observing in a private clinic instead of at Bingham University Teaching Hospital. While I’m used to being in a ward with something like twenty patients all in the same room, here, this lady and her daughters are the only ones in the clinic at all. I’m thankful, but not surprised, to find they all speak decent English; I say not surprised because being at a private clinic means this person most likely has more money to pay for care than the average patient at BhUTH, which also usually means a higher level of education or opportunity, translating to a greater English ability. I am, again, pleasantly surprised by the coolness from the AC and cleanliness of the less-used room.

But the patient hardly seems to notice these amenities.

You see, this approximately 80 year-old Nigerian woman, who according to the physician, is usually pretty active, talkative, and interactive, is now lying on the bed, almost completely unaware of her surroundings. Her eyes are closed; her voice is almost a whisper, when she answers a question at all; she is dehydrated; and her blood pressure is unsettlingly low. If actions aren’t taken soon, the physician tells me, this lady could very well die shortly. Through questioning one of the daughters, the physician learns this lady has had a history of knee pain, vomiting, weakness, and loss of appetite among some other symptoms. Ok, interesting – where is this going? In a turn of events surprising for this American medical student, we then learn that, yes, the woman and her daughters have determined that since western medicine wasn’t giving her relief for her knee pain, there is obviously an underlying problem, either social or spiritual. This has led to them finding a local herbalist/traditional shaman to help with the knee pain. This has led to this elderly lady drinking a “blessed” herbal tea for the past few days. And this has led to serious GI issues (suspected gastritis by the physician) leading to the extreme malnutrition seen here. Oh, and did I mention all four of these ladies are “Christian”?

This story, while unpleasant, is not uncommon in Nigeria or many parts of Africa. Whereas us in the Western cultures have almost completely forsaken anything spiritual, Africans fully embrace the spiritual world and its connection with the physical in all aspects of life, and even those who say they know Jesus and are Christians can still be held by the traditional belief in other spirits that must be appeased, avoided, or used; they just add Jesus and the Christian God in as a new, more powerful entity.

You can see the problem, both physically and spiritually. These people, physically, need access to healthcare and health education. Sure, while being in Nigeria, I saw a lot of patients with malaria, and thanks to healthcare workers and appropriate medication, they are going to get better. But how many aren’t going to get that? How many will die unseen by anyone medically trained because they live 8 hours away from the nearest hospital or clinic or because they don’t have the money to go or because their problem is spiritual instead of physical and so go see a shaman instead of a doctor? And spiritually, how many of these people are going to die without hearing about the love of Christ and His gospel or with only hearing the good news, but not being discipled or followed up with to make sure they understand all it entails – that Jesus isn’t just “another god”, that He is The God, and He does have answers, love, and hope for His people here in this current, physical life?

These people don’t need a quick fix. They don’t need Americans. They don’t need a belief system that provides problems but no answers.

These people need doctors. They need mature Christian disciplers. They need Jesus.

 

So there you have it, my last post. Hopefully now you can see the part of the “why” behind the “what” that I have been doing all summer. Again, if you have any questions or would like to talk more, just shoot me an email, text, Facebook message, whatever. I’m back state-side now and even though I start classes back in three days on Monday, I would love to catch up with people. And again, I would like to say a HUGE thank you to all of you reading this who have kept up with me, prayed for me, supported me financially and emotionally; it means more than you probably know or imagine! And now for the last time, prayer requests:

  • Pray for the full-time SIM team over in Jos. Pray for their various ministries throughout the city and their different visions for seeing God’s name glorified in the country of Nigeria.
  • Pray for Nigeria. Pray for the 75 million believers there, many who are in need of someone to come alongside them and disciple them. Pray for the 75 million nonbelievers there who are deceived and long for the love and hope that is found in Christ.
  • Pray for myself and the other SIM STA’s and healthcare students from the Preceptorship. Pray that we would all transition back to work, school, life smoothly, live lives changed by this summer, and that we would be able to share our stories effectively and in a way that glorifies God above all.

Again, thank you all so much! This opportunity has in very obvious ways been the best way I could have used this last summer in med school. It will truly be a summer that lasts a lifetime. Who knows where God may take me in the future or what I’ll be doing, but one thing I’ve definitely learned in the past few months: if you give God an unconditional “Yes”, He’ll use it and in incredible, life-changing ways.

Thank you. And as always, it would be helpful if you prayed for me.

Will

I’m a…Missionary??

What am I doing here? I don’t belong in Nigeria.

Why are the Nigerians looking at me like I have two heads?

These other people are “real” missionaries – they have it figured out.

Was that Hausa or just heavily accented English?

I’ve only been here three days, and I’m pretty sure I’ve offended at least thirty people.

What are the symptoms of malaria?

Please stop thinking I have any real, useful medical knowledge whatsoever.

God, help. Please help. SOS. – Excerpt from Will’s thoughts, week 1

 

Really, that’s about what it was like. And to be honest, there’s still some uncertainty. Don’t get me wrong, on a whole, this has been an amazing couple of weeks, and I’ll elaborate more on what I’ve done here in a bit. I just wanted to go back to the beginning of my time here in Nigeria to give you an idea of my thinking in this.

To go back and quickly review what I said in my first post: this is my first international medical mission opportunity. Up until about a year and a half ago, this was nowhere on the radar. Then suddenly I felt God stirring compassion in my heart for the hurting and lost around the world so I started looking for an opportunity to take a step of faith and actually act on this conviction. And so did Will Buchanan wind up in Jos, Nigeria.

Now, as for what I’m actually doing here.

On Thursday, July 14th I arrived in Abuja, Nigeria, and after staying a night in the guest house there, the next morning I hit the road and arrived at SIM Nigeria headquarters in Jos where I met a few members of the office staff and was then taken to my new home in a short-term house on the grounds of the Bingham University Teaching Hospital compound. Over the next few days, I had the opportunity to meet more members of the SIM missionary team here, get oriented to various aspects of the city and country, try some new and delicious Nigerian food, and generally just get a handle on life for the next three and a half weeks. I was introduced to the full-time missionary doctor (Dr. Steven Shephard) and his family here, as well as the hospital chaplains and various other members of the staff while getting a tour of the hospital, which despite being told about it previously and having seen other pictures online of hospitals like it, was still pretty overwhelming. After all of this orientation, I began my somewhat (not really) regular schedule.

The standard day for me starts around 7:00 am at the hospital with one or more of the chaplains. Activities have included things such as observing them lead bible studies/preach to patients at large, sit in during their prayer meeting, being given the opportunity to sit through morning report with the medical staff, and rounding with the chaplains on various wards as they talk to, pray with, and generally encourage patients here. Additionally, I have also had the opportunity to shadow Dr. Shephard in the VVF clinic, which was, unsurprisingly, really cool for the med school nerd in me. (Side note: VVF stands for vesicovaginal fistula in case you’re curious enough to look it up.) After the mornings in the hospital, the afternoons are used for various other activities around town including weekly Hausa lessons (the local trade language), mentor meetings with Dr. Shephard, and touring other ministries in Jos. As you can see, there’s a good deal of variety and flexibility in my schedule and even that small amount of regularity has actually only happened a handful of days here.

So what about the rest of the time you ask? Well, the first cool thing was a home stay with a Nigerian doctor and his family the weekend of the 22nd-24th. Starting that Friday night, I moved into a guest bedroom and simply lived and observed a Nigerian lifestyle. I will say, to be fair, the family I was staying with, the Dankyau’s, are a pretty Western-looking Nigerian family, but even so, it was still a very interesting experience. I had the opportunity to try even more Nigerian foods, ride along with Dr. Dankyau as he made a house call for a patient’s pain management and ran various other errands, play with their two young kids while mom and dad were busy working, and go to church with the family, which was a cool experience in itself (there was a wedding ceremony in the middle of the service!).

As for these past few days, myself and eleven other SIM missionaries actually just returned from a five day trip up to Kano, a city in the northern part of the country. The city itself is about 5 times bigger than Jos (or at least so I was told), and is over 90% Muslim, which makes it culturally very different from Jos. It was a really cool place though! I got to tour the eye hospital there run by ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All – a large denomination here in Nigeria that was started by SIM and still works hand in hand with them), which was very nice; not that I’m particularly interested in ophthalmology, but still a nice place. I also had the chance on Saturday to go with four other SIM people and a handful of others from a local church out to a village for a medical outreach. I’ve got to say, I might not have enough training in medicine, much less tropical/infectious diseases, to have know everything that was going on, and I definitely do not know anywhere near enough Hausa to have effectively communicated with the people, who as a general rule spoke little to no English, but it was still really cool! True, a lot of people there need care for chronic illnesses that a single day of work can’t accommodate, but I still felt that the rapid-fire diagnosing of illnesses I’ll almost never see in the US was exciting; and on a brighter note, there were a good many cases where we were able to give someone a malaria treatment pack or anti-parasitic med and be fairly confident that it would indeed have them healthier at the end.

In an effort to try to keep this already long post from getting excessive, I’ll wrap it up here. Obviously, there are SO many more stories and experiences that I could share, and I will gladly tell you all about them in person. For now though, onto prayer requests:

  • Praise that after such a crazy beginning, I’m now feeling at least more comfortable with the culture here in Nigeria – even if I still only understand about 20% of it.
  • Prayers for the northern part of Nigeria and SIM Nigeria’s vision to send SIM missionaries back up into Kano where currently there are none after many years of ministry work in the city.
  • My final week here in Nigeria (I’ll be leaving Sunday). For continued energy and effective ministry in the hospital and with everyone I interact with.

Thank you again so much for your prayers and encouragement through text, email, comments, and the rest. It means the world to me here.

 

Missionaries aren’t perfect, just normal people trying to be faithful to God’s call for their lives at the current time.

Yeah, I’ll mess up, but God redeemed my entire life – He  can certainly redeem another cultural blunder.

I’ve only been here two weeks. Of course I don’t have it all together. These people have been at it for years.

I might not be fluent in Hausa, but I’ve got “sannu” and “lafiya” down pat. And really, that’s enough to get through half of the interactions I have with people.

Wow, this is pretty much exactly what I got told in orientation…guess some things I just have to learn by experience.

God, I feel loads better, and thank You for that. But still, I can’t do this alone and still need help.

 – Excerpt from Will’s thoughts, August 1st

Intermission

I am currently sitting at my gate in the Seattle airport waiting on my flight to Paris before I head on to Abuja. And while I am super excited about this, let’s talk about all that is (or now was I guess) the Whole Person Care Preceptorship.

30-ish people. 7+ cities visited. 5 weeks. 2 national parks. 1 summer that’ll last a lifetime.

Gosh, there’s no way I can cover all that has happened since the last update. (I know, it’d be easier if they had actually happened on time, but that’s life.)

So I guess the two big things have been the PrePro week and our Arizona excursion. So we’ll fill yall in on those.

“PrePro” stands for Pre-Professional, and pretty much it’s a week where undergraduate students who are pre-med, nursing, PA, PT, etc. come in to learn a little of what we’ve been getting this whole program. The cool thing is that we actually get to teach them. What that meant for me is that I got paired up with another guy (s/o to Steven Martinez) and was given a pre-med student to work with for the week. It was really cool having the opportunity to now teach someone else ready to learn about taking a spiritual history, the ethics of spiritual care, ways to effectively share the gospel, and the like. But it was also cool just being able to sit down and answer some general pre-med life questions I remember having around that time. And then, since getting hospital clearance for all the new students wasn’t really feasible, we all were split up and sent to different nursing homes (or similar) around town. Another group and us actually wound up at the Loma Linda VA which was great! We got to take on the role of teacher as the new students talked with the patients, and let me tell you, when you’re at the VA, they talk. I enjoyed listening to some of their stories just as much as the rest of my time in the hospital. Of course, it wasn’t all work and no play. We were also able to take some hikes, play some games, and even have a huge 4th of July party! Good times!

So, once we got rid of them (kidding), the preceptorship students headed off for a couple of days to Arizona near Phoenix to pretty much relax and debrief after all that had happened over the program. And it was amazing! It was about a 5 hour drive from Redlands to Phoenix which made for some phenomenal story time on the way there. And then once we were there and settled, we had a great place to stay that included an incredible place for a sunrise hike the next day. Seeing God’s glory like that is always something that I find awe-inspiring, and being able to share that with a handful of these people I have formed such close friendships with is so cool! But the really cool stuff was later that morning when we were given the entire morning to work through some things we learned during the program – they even gave us a handy packet to help us think through and plan some action points in an orderly fashion. Then that afternoon was devoted to a last time of small group discussion and just encouraging each other. So good. Have I mentioned yet that I love these people? Close day with even more laughter and fun over an incredible three course Italian dinner, yum.

But wait, the fun’s not over yet! To wrap up all that has been this summer, what do we do? Why naturally we wake up at 5:30 am, voluntarily add on about 6 hours to our drive time back to Redlands the day before we all fly out, and we visit the Grand Canyon!! And I must say, it is grand indeed! It’s just crazy to go from relatively flat, green Mississippi to that and think that the same God made both of them; He’s just so creative! But again, I have to say, even cooler than the grand Grand Canyon was the road trip. Easily one of the, if not THE, best road trip ever! From jam sessions (“Unwritten” will never be the same), to sharing stories, to a random lion in the desert (we think maybe a geocache?), to an impromptu Bible study in the car, it was definitely one of the best days of my life.

I sure am going to miss these people.

But what’s the saying? “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” And I will indeed be smiling for a long time yet. Besides, God’s world is small and travel can be arranged; it will not be the last time I see these friends!

And now, off to Nigeria! I’m sure insane, wonderful things await (with God they always do). But until then, prayer requests:

  • All the preceptor students traveling various places whether home or not – that we wouldn’t let this time end here
  • Personally for my time in Nigeria – that I can be an effective follower of God and learner of the culture

 

Thanks again all!

(Confession: while this was started in the airport, this actually got finished after the fact in Nigeria – oh well, haha)

If You Give an Introvert True Community

If you give an introvert true community, he’s going to be skeptical.

When he’s skeptical, he’ll be polite but look for a problem.

When he doesn’t find a problem, he’ll actually begin to open up to these people.

When he opens up to these people, friendships will form.

When these friendships are with people who have the same passions, interests, and love of Christ, amazing things can happen.

 

Ok, so maybe it’s a little bit of a cheesy intro (and if you don’t get the reference, revisit childhood with a quick search for the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie), but it is very true. Last time I was on here – and yes, I realize that was two weeks ago despite my lofty goals – I wrote about how great things were happening as we went and talked with patients on wards, which is still great, but not the subject here. For the time being, I want to talk about a lesson that I’ve been needing in a practical setting for a LONG time now: the importance of community.

So if you know me at all, you know I’m a fairly independent guy. I don’t talk often and am much more likely to sit quietly during a discussion and listen to the different viewpoints than interject my own. I appreciate friends and family, but at the end of the day I go back to my single bedroom apartment and enjoy being alone. This extends to my relationship with God as well. I truly do enjoy spending time with my friends who are believers and the conversations they bring, but when it comes down to it, my prayer life is mine; studying the Bible I prefer to do alone; and the only person that hears about any seriously intense faith issues I’m having is God.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of intellectual knowledge that says that going it alone is not healthy spiritually (or physically, or emotionally), but I’ve never seen that much of a real, practical benefit between time spent with other like-minded believers compared to time alone. And as a strongly introverted individual (side note: I’m always interested in a good discussion on how “introverted” does NOT equal “shy” or “antisocial”), if there’s no difference between time spent with other people or time spent alone, I’m going to choose flying solo a solid majority of the time. Again, not that I don’t like people, but why put forth the extra effort?

I’ll tell you why.

It IS better.

Now, for the extroverts and mature introverts out there reading this, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “Well of course! Isn’t that obvious to everyone?” No, no it is not. Don’t ask me why I haven’t learned that lesson until now. It’s surely not for lack of solid friendships or people telling me how important community is; it just never seemed to actually transition from head to heart knowledge – I knew it to be true intellectually, but it wasn’t real experientially. And honestly, I can’t point to any specific thing over these past two and a half weeks that was the catalyst for this realization. I can tell you that I am able to identify more with the people here than any other group in the past; not so surprising considering we’re all Christians who care deeply about our relationship with God, His work on the cross, and His children who are hurting and happen to all be young, future health care professionals. I can tell you that I have never been around a group of people who are so honest, open, and raw with each other, both students and leaders. I can tell you I know more about the other three guys and two leaders in my small group than I know about any other person I know. And maybe that’s a big part of it – the vulnerability and honesty of these now close friends. But it’s more than that. People here are open with each other, yes, but they genuinely care about everyone here, everyone we meet at the hospital. They are passionately pursuing Christ and as an outflow are revealing His incredible love, compassion, encouragement, and wisdom every day. It’s more than I can put into words, but it’s incredible. (Another thing to ask me about when you see me and there’s time to discuss.)

So in the interest of keeping this to blog length and not a short novel, I’ll start wrapping it up. If you were hoping for more tales of my time working in a hospital or the shenanigans happening here at the Preceptorship, sorry to disappoint. This summer is so incredibly jam-packed that I could easily write a longer post than this every day and still not be able to keep up, and since that is nowhere near attainable, all that’s getting relayed here are the major highlights, which for the past two weeks has been me learning about the importance of peers and mentors. I’ll be glad to unload any stories you might want over a nice 5-hour long meal sometime when I get back if you’re just not satisfied with this little snapshot. (Warning: Meal may extend beyond 5 hours depending on story selection and may end with you getting the bill because I “forgot my wallet”.)

As always, I greatly appreciate your prayers and would specifically ask for you to be praying for:

  • Energy. These past weeks have been incredible, but we are all feeling pretty physically and mentally stretched with all the amazing-ness that’s been going on here.
  • Pre-Pro Week. It stands for Pre-Professionals, and to sum it up, a bunch of undergrad students who are pre-med, nursing, PT, etc. will be arriving Saturday for a week of training similar to what we’ve been going through. It is our job as the actual professional students who have been going through this training to teach them while they are here. So prayers for wisdom for us, an impactful week for them, and the relationships that will develop would be great.
  • My personal nerves. While I am pumped to head to Nigeria in just over two weeks (wow that’s close), it’s a little unsettling knowing that I’m going to be leaving this great community here to head by myself to a place I’ve never been where I have no connections and am not entirely sure what I’m even going to be doing while I’m there.

Thanks! And like I said last time:

Yes, it would be helpful if you prayed for me.

 

 

 

Would It Help If I…

Would it help if I …shared this with you? …left this on the table? …prayed with you?

Last Saturday afternoon was our first patient experience with the Whole Person Care Preceptorship here in Redlands. After listening to various speakers that morning and the night before discuss spiritual care and faith in medicine, at 1:00 PM we all loaded up to head to Loma Linda University Medical Center. These thirty-some-odd healthcare students were ready, albeit slightly uncertain in a few cases, to finally put what we had learned into practice. We all found our partners, mentors, and respective floors where we would be visiting patients and away we went.

Our first two patients that day were great. Both welcomed us into their lives and shared more than I know of a good deal of my friends back home. Our job this first day was just to practice taking a spiritual history, ensuring that the patients knew who we were, what we were doing, and that everything was completely up to them and would not affect their healthcare in the slightest. We had been given a guideline on how this can be done, but we were also told that no two people are the same; and while you might get through the full five or six questions with one person, with others, the answer to even the second question might steer the conversation a completely new way.

A few examples of these questions would be: “How long have you been here?”; “What has been your biggest concern through this, and where have you turned to for your source of strength during such a rough time?”; “How has this affected the way you view yourself?”; “How has it affected the way you view/think about God or other higher power?”

But again, these are just examples that are used to start a conversation – the overall goals are a dialogue between individuals who can learn from each other and for spiritual and emotional healing, in addition to the physical. For example, the first lady we saw had been there for a few weeks and just wanted to get out of the hospital. She shared with us that her family was a large support network but even more so her faith in God. It was so incredible to hear her open up and share with us her history – from childhood to marriage to the events leading to her hospitalization. When she said it would be helpful to walk through the Gospel, we were able to briefly share with her a little on how to know God more personally. The encouragement she received from just this little act was awesome and confirmed that spiritual care is indeed something that should be a key component of healthcare, no matter someone’s religious background. We asked her if it would be helpful if we prayed for her, and after hearing that she would indeed like that, we gathered around and one of us prayed for her before we left.

The following day we had the opportunity to go back and revisit her. This time we stayed longer, but from my point of view weren’t really getting anywhere. I had spoken to another patient the past day that I wanted to follow up with and was slightly frustrated at times at how much time was being “wasted”.  There were long periods of silence and conversation that seemed to be going in circles. But as we got ready to leave, things changed. She thanked us for visiting her. Her husband and sister had visited a while back, but she hadn’t seen anyone in weeks other than hospital staff. Family would call, and she would try to get the conversation to last as long as she could just so she could keep hearing their voice and not feel alone. The fact that we cared about her as an individual and were willing to just be there with her meant a good deal. Sadly we did have to leave, but as we left, we again asked if it would be helpful if we prayed. Again she said that it would, but this time we all came around and prayed together, each in turn offering up thanks, requests, and burdens to God.

I left that day knowing that I had learned far more from her than she had from us. She taught me the importance of even small amounts of caring human conversation, regardless of topic. She taught me to look for the needs of the individual instead of what I think those needs should be. And she taught me that time spent with someone is never wasted if we are focused on who this person is and how we can best serve them in all areas of human life.

And that’s all folks! For right now, specific ways to pray for me would include:

  • Wisdom in seeking and listening to God while I and the other students are talking with patients on wards.
  • For the health and rest for the staff and students here. We have a couple of people that have been a little under the weather and some others of us are a little banged up after an incredibly fun evening at the beach yesterday (because we do indeed get to have a ton of fun – work hard, play hard!).
  • For individual growth of all the students here as we are challenged to examine our own lives and work on areas of doubt, fear, and sin that we might not even fully realize are there.

Thanks! And yes, it would help if you prayed for me.

The End of the Beginning

And then there was one.

Seven days ago I arrived here in Charlotte, NC where I met the other eight SIM short-term missionaries (STA’s) that would be going through orientation with me. They have all now departed to begin their journeys to various parts of the world and have left me here alone to reflect on the incredible things that have happened this past week.

A quick recap to make sure everyone reading is up to speed: In May I finished my first year of medical school (Woohoo!), and am now enjoying what is commonly referred to as my “last summer”. After this, school becomes pretty much a year-round thing (woohoo…). So armed with the knowledge that this was my last good chunk of free time for a long time, considerable amounts of time, research, and prayer went into deciding how best to spend it. My biggest desire was to find a short-term mission trip to serve on. About a year and a half ago, God started really putting the idea of working in missions in my head and on my heart through multiple means including books (specifically, Wine to Water by Doc Hendley – fantastic book if you’re looking for one), sermons (looking at you, David Platt), and conversations with multiple friends and family. And as an answer to my prayer for the opportunity to use my talents and passions in mission work, God provided me this incredible summer program through Medical Strategic Network and SIM. Having just spent this week at orientation with SIM, I will soon be heading to Redlands, CA where I will be participating in the Whole Person Care Preceptorship, a program designed for Christian healthcare workers to teach how to tactfully, compassionately, and effectively share our faith in Christ while working in a hospital setting. Following that, I will be heading to Jos, Nigeria with SIM to serve as an intern at Bingham University Teaching Hospital. More on both of these programs as the summer progresses!

But for now, back to this past week.

As I said, I got arrived here last Tuesday, and up until the last day or so we’ve been going pretty much nonstop. The nine of us here are collectively going to five different countries in South America and Africa this summer. In preparation, we’ve had classes on everything from prayer and devotion to finances to traveler safety to cross-cultural religion. We have met fellow missionaries from around the world, eaten a West African dinner with a Nigerian couple who are both physicians, prepared a lunch with dishes from our respective countries, and been yelled at in Tamasheq by our “taxi” driver (amazingly funny story, you should really ask me about it sometime)!

And while all this has been incredible, I’ve got to say that the thing that has impacted me the most has been the people here at SIM. These people are warriors. I don’t mean that they’re overly loud or aggressive – in fact, they’re very warm, welcoming, and fun – but the people here are fighting for Christ, with eternal implications, and they know it. SIM is a global, multicultural organization with eyes for the most unreached people groups in the world. The people leaving from here are willingly going to the darkest places where there are high levels of Christian persecution, but more importantly, where there are high levels of people who have never heard the name Jesus spoken in love, if at all. And while these individuals are going, the workers here are continuously coming together to fight for them through individual and unified prayer. SIM’s motto is “By Prayer”, indicating that everything they do is held up by asking, talking with, and pleading with God, and I must say, I’ve never heard a more appropriate view or one so well lived out by an organization.

I could go on for a good while about how great SIM is after just this week, but I have a shuttle to the airport tomorrow at 5:45 AM so I’ll stop here. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for hanging with me, and if you didn’t, thanks for taking the time to check in anyway! The goal is to keep this thing updated throughout the summer, but I make no promises. (After all, I’ve never done this before.) I cannot express how much your prayers and support mean to me and how truly vital they are to me having this opportunity and being effective in it! I would ask that you continue praying both for me as I take to the skies tomorrow to fly to LAX in California and also for the eight other STA’s as they are beginning or getting ready to begin their ministries as well!

Thanks! See you again in Cali!