The purpose of this testimony is to tell of how God has directed my life and has confirmed His will for me. I will also share the good and the bad ways in which I responded to God's direction. For brevity's sake I have left out a lot of details but I would love to share them with anyone who is interested.
Shortly after God took control of my life in the spring of 1994, I had the desire to do Christian mission work. At that time, I received a word of prophecy that one day I would minister in another culture. As I was preparing to begin college in the fall, I also aspired to become a doctor. Throughout college, both of these desires persisted.
My desire to do missions was strengthened by my experience in ministry through a campus group called InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). During my second year of college, I participated in my first mission trip-a weeklong trip to Guatemala. When this was first announced at an InterVarsity meeting, I knew that God was going to allow me to go because of the prophetic word that I had received a year-and-a-half earlier. I loved being in the Guatemalan culture even though I didn't speak the language. I longed to reach out to the people and share God's Word with them, but this was impossible with my lack of ability to communicate in Spanish. However, God blessed me through the learning and singing of several Christian worship songs in Spanish-some of these I still have memorized today.
During this time in Guatemala, I worked in a local clinic. Most of my time was spent observing surgeries and singing and praying with patients. We also did some helpful tasks around the clinic including painting the operating room and stocking the pharmacy. Just being in a clinic in another culture intensified my desire to serve God through medical missions. I returned home more excited about pursuing that goal.
I continued to persevere in my pre-med classes and I prepared to take the dreaded Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). When I finally took the test on April 19, 1997, I did well on the science sections, but rather poorly on the verbal reasoning section. Therefore, my application was somewhat weak since many medical schools placed a large emphasis on the verbal reasoning part of the test. During my senior year of undergraduate study, I interviewed at each of the three medical schools in Michigan: University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University. However, I was eventually denied acceptance at all of these schools. I was somewhat disappointed at that time but God had begun to show me an alternate plan.
As a "backup plan," I had applied also to the University of Michigan School of Public Health. As I began to pray about this more and more, I saw that this was where God was leading me. I also realized that the two-year "delay" would also give me the chance to take Spanish classes. I was excited about this. The fall of 1998, I began studying nutrition at the UM School of Public Health, and beginning my second semester, I took beginning-level Spanish classes alongside of my graduate classes. Also, during spring break of this year, I traveled to the city of Juarez in Mexico (located on the El Paso, TX border) for another short mission trip.
The summer after my first year of graduate school (1999), I did my summer internship and prepared to retake the MCAT. My internship brought me back near my hometown to the city of Sault Ste. Marie to work for the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Although I am a member of the Sault Tribe, I was very removed from this culture. Therefore, I looked at this experience as another cross-cultural opportunity. I learned much about the culture and observed and studied Native spiritual beliefs. I really liked the culture, but it was also clear that Native people had a deep need for the transforming power of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. However, spiritually speaking, this was one of the worst summers of my life. Although there were some spiritual victories, there were many defeats and much sin in my life. But the Lord is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love" (Psalm 103:80, NIV) . He removed my transgressions from me as far as the east is from the west (v. 12). How amazing is the love of our God!
During my internship, I took some time to study for the MCAT. Nobody I have talked with has ever enjoyed taking the MCAT once, let alone twice. The day came on August 21, 1999. I retook the MCAT and applied to 10 medical schools believing that I would have to be accepted into as least one. In the fall, I continued in my public health and Spanish studies and continued the applications and interviews.
On January 1, 2000, I went to my friend Jeff's house during Christmas break. This was when I first read about Latin America Mission's summer program called Spearhead. Excitement filled me and I was hopeful that God would make it possible for me to go. He did!
After I graduated from public health school, I began to work for the U.S. Census 2000 to earn money for the trip. God blessed it. I wrote a prayer letter, got my shots, and headed for the largest city the world has ever known: Mexico City. In contrast to the previous summer, this ended up being the best summer of my life and full of spiritual victory.
God rocked my world during my two months in Mexico City. See Appendix A for a list of my prayer requests before leaving and how God answered each of them. But here I would like to continue to focus on God's leadership in my life.
I went to Mexico while waitlisted at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (MSU CHM). After praying with my pastor and church leadership before leaving, I decided that if I were offered a place during the summer, I would accept and begin medical school in the fall. If I weren't eventually accepted, I would consider staying in Mexico for a yearlong Spearhead program.
The night before the first year team meeting, I received a call from my mom. She said that my prayers had been answered; MSU had called that afternoon. However, she had not been home at the time so she had to call them back in the morning. I praised God! Why else would MSU be calling except to grant me a place in the class? I was accepted! And God worked it out in such a timely manner (the day before the first year team meeting). The next day, as quickly as possible, I e-mailed my supporters alerting them of the good news.
When I returned home to my Mexican family, they said that my mom had called five times that day. I returned her call to find out the entire news. It turned out that I had been accepted into a special program of a year of pre-med classes followed by entrance into the medical school. Great! I could stand another year of classes if it would guarantee me acceptance the following year. I wouldn't have to go through reapplication and interviews again. However, there was a catch: I had to be back to start classes the very next week. This would require me to leave the ministry that I was doing in Mexico and break the commitment that I had made to the people of Mexico and the Spearhead team. My decision was easy to make but difficult to endure. From the beginning, I knew that I was first a missionary of the Lord Jesus Christ and He had called me to be on this mission trip. God does not contradict Himself and I was not going to sell out my calling as a missionary even for my life's dream and all that I had been working for in school. I tried to see if there was any way that I could finish Spearhead and still be in the program. The answer was "no." Then I asked how likely it was that I would be accepted from the medical school waitlist if I refused this program. The answer was, "very unlikely."
I wrestled with God like I had never before. The thing that hurt the most was that I believed that this desire to be a medical missionary was of God. "Then why was He making it so difficult for me to get accepted into medical school!!!" I thought. And I also felt dumb for sending out the e-mail to my supporters about how God had answered this prayer request in such a timely way and then having to write a correction about how I was mistaken.
I began to read the book of Job. My situation related well to his: "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away," (Job 1:21). I tried to worship as Job did when he found out his bad news. Despite doing this, I was mad at God and very depressed. I walked to the Internet café to update my letter and found all of the computers occupied. This made me even more upset so I walked the streets hoping to get mugged, beat up, or eaten by a street dog (which are very prevalent in Mexico City). But God is faithful when I am not and even when I am throwing one of my hissy fits.
I eventually went home to my Mexican house. Then I, like Job, began to hear from my bad counselors: "This is a test from God to see if you really want to be a doctor." "This is your only chance to go to medical school; you can't turn down this offer." However, I knew that it was a test from God not of whether I wanted to be a doctor but rather whether or not I would put Him first and trust Him that the future He had for me was good. I would not sell out for my selfish desires.
I went to bed crying and woke up crying. I tried to tell my Mexican mamá what was going on but I just ended up crying again in the kitchen. She prayed for me. Others in the church prayed for me. They were all extremely supportive.
I continued to wrestle with God that morning. I spent an hour in prayer at a morning prayer meeting in the church. Afterwards, the peace of God came over me. I was again confident that God knew what he was doing in my life. I confessed my sins of being angry with Him. He assured me of His forgiveness and gave me peace that I would one day receive medical training of one type or another.
After this, I got busy again doing the ministry that I was in Mexico City to do. I assumed that I was not going to be accepted into medical school that year since that is what I was told. So I began to plan for staying a year in Mexico. However, on July 31, my birthday (a couple of weeks later), my plans were changed again! As I was leaving with a group of friends to celebrate my birthday, my Mexican cousin came running after us and said that my mom was on the phone. I soon realized that it wasn't my mom, but MSU. They had already talked to my mom in the States and wanted to surprise me by calling me in Mexico. I was congratulated that I had been accepted directly in the College of Human Medicine-not into the pre-med program, but directly into the medical school! They were rather disappointed that I was not very excited at the time. I just said I would call back the next morning with my final decision of whether or not to accept it.
Like the earlier decision, this was an easy decision to make but difficult to take. At that point, I planned to stay for the summer and to continue the relationships that I had begun in Mexico. However, God had different plans. I have already mentioned my decision that I would return for classes in the fall if accepted into the school. I called early the next morning and accepted the offer. Then I began to prepare for the dreaded goodbyes to my Mexican family and friends.
I could testify of how God has continued to be faithful in working everything out for the fall, but I want to take a look back on this experience and to remember the lessons that God taught me through it.
First of all, GOD HAS A PLAN: to bring glory to Himself. And God's plan for me (and every Christian) is to live a godly life by depending on Him and to do the things that He leads me to do. This obedience brings glory to God. But He is so merciful to give us the richest blessings when we abide in Him. The Bible says that He will give us the desires of our hearts when we delight in Him (Psalm 37:4). May I never forget that God knows the good things He wants to do with my life, and the only thing I can do is trust in Him.
As I am writing this, I am finishing orientation and preparing to begin classes in a few days. I am so thankful that God worked things out the way He did because it is very important for medical school students to know that they should be there. Many doubt that they should have ever come to medical school-especially once the classes get difficult. I expect that the classes are going to get difficult soon, but I KNOW that God wants me here and that fact will be so comforting to remember.
Secondly, through this experience, God has taught me that I need to be a missionary first and a doctor second. The reason I pursued medicine was so that I could be a medical missionary. The way that God worked things out confirmed this even further. I know for sure that my desire to go to medical school was from Him all along and that it was not my own selfish desire. I am excited about several possible medical missions projects that I may be able to participate in during my time at medical school.
Thirdly, God has taught me that just as King Solomon realized and recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes, everything is meaningless on the earth-except fearing God and keeping His commandments (12:13). Many of the people who pursue a career in medicine do so to earn lots of money, prestige, power, and the like. Others do so to make a difference in peoples lives or to ease their suffering. Perhaps the latter are more noble pursuits than the former but my question remains, "What is the underlying reason for doing these things?" Most likely in no more than 70 years, I will have run my race on this earth. I will see Jesus face to face and He will not be directly concerned with how many hours I studied in medical school or the grades I received or how many people I helped or how many countries I traveled to for missions or how much money I gave to the poor. These are all meaningless, a chasing after the wind unless I fear Him and keep His commandments. Jesus' concern will be of whether or not I abided in Him and did what He said both in His Word and in His personal direction of my life. But I know that if I obey Him, I will be able to participate in some of these more noble works TO THE GLORY OF GOD!.
The Apostle Paul when explaining his accomplishments before his conversion came to this conclusion: "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…" (Philippians 3:7-9a). I pray that I may have this same heart and perception! Paul so much knew how good an intimate relationship with Christ was that he was willing to follow Him anywhere and give up anything for His sake. He also knew what God had called him to do. This led him to declare in 1 Corinthians 9:16, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16). Woe to me if I do not serve as a missionary! I don't know where exactly God will led me or exactly what I'll be doing in twenty years (a common medical school interview question). However, I do know this: God has first called me to be a missionary of the gospel of Jesus Christ and secondly to bring medical assistance to needy people.
I will be excited to look back on this testimony during my years in medical school, during residency, during my first years of practice, and during the time that I serve as a medical missionary. I don't know exactly what will happen or where I'll end up; but I know that wherever I end up and whatever I do, I will be able to look back and testify of God's faithfulness.
"I will sing of the LORD's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your
faithfulness known through all generations."