Me thinking to myself: “Jenn, what are three big topics you’ve thought about in 2020?”
Your kingdom come
He is making all things new
What do these sentences have in common? Well, the first and last go somewhat hand-in-hand, but are dissimilar enough they warrant separation.
I realized that not only have I thought a lot about these ideas/topics, they also have helped me answer my own question: “why should we practice and teach medicine in Burundi?”
In March 2019, a dear older friend sent me a link to listen to a message/lecture given by Eric Mclaughlin about "Medicine and the Kingdom of God." (**Let's note that I didn't know Eric at this point and had NO idea that he would end up being our team leader after deciding to move to Burundi!!) I listened and appreciated the insight Eric brought to the topic of medical missions.
During his talk, he references Mark 1:14 "...Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." What is God's kingdom? Arguably it is "all of life under the gracious rule of God." If you are in the kingdom, you are in the domain of the King.
Little did I know at the time, but these words would be so helpful as I experienced (not personally, but rather witnessed) so much suffering this past year. What a huge swing in worldview I’ve had after moving from one of the wealthiest countries in the world (in which we were extremely comfortable) to one of the poorest. Living in a country where people who are wondering where their food will come from, living off of less than a dollar a day (for those who actually have employment), and most living without running water or electricity can lead one to feel and think many different things. Initially, it was overwhelming, and to be honest, many days I still am overwhelmed by the sadness and hardships by which I am surrounded. This is baseline, let alone what people go through when they or their children are ill and in need of hospitalization. A child is born in Atlanta, GA with some sort of cyanotic (causing baby to be blue and hypoxic) congenital heart disease deadly in the first few months of life if not corrected; child receives surgery and lives an (almost) completely normal life – minus checkups, possible mild sequelae, etc.) A child is born in Kibuye with same defect – there is no one here to fix this. And there is no way the family could ever afford to travel to the capital, let alone Kenya where there is possibly someone who could fix this. I know this baby will die. Sometimes it’s worse knowing what could be if this child were born somewhere else. Suffering. Injustice. Knowing that children here suffer and die from congenital diseases/malformations that are easily treated and corrected in developed countries is a daily mental battle which all but forces me to long for the kingdom which is yet to come. I have always believed that my hope is in the Lord, but in this past year that truth has become solidified in my daily thoughts and actions. My hope rests on his faithfulness, His promises, His never-ending love, and the promise that one day Jesus will return and He will make all things new.
Where am I going with this? Honestly, I'm still working through the ability to articulate exactly what I've been processing since our arrival last January. I'll take a few points straight from Eric's talk because he has stated them in a straightforward way, and also let's not reinvent the wheel...
- Medicine is a tangible way to testify that God cares about the sick and suffering.
- By allowing God to use me and my skills to help treat those who are ill shows a little bit what life is like under God's rule.
- Disease and sickness are being taken away and when Jesus comes back again, will be banished for good.
So while we are not personally capable of bringing God's kingdom to earth, I am able to pray –
"God, your kingdom come. May I surrender to your leadership and not lose sight of whose kingdom I am working for. Forgive me for the times where I am working for my interests, my ‘kingdom’. Help me to see the injustice and pain that is happening around me as part of the ‘not-yet’ kingdom as I long for your kingdom to fully come at which point all pain and suffering and death will be wiped away. I ask that the Holy Spirit would work through me to bring your kingdom to earth until that day when Jesus returns and all is made new.”