The small flashlight beam is pointed down into the mouth of a young man as he leans back in a chair to have a painful abscessed tooth treated in this remote Ethiopian village. There is no electricity, no air conditioned waiting room, no x-ray machine. The man holding the flashlight for the medical professionals is not a doctor or a dentist. He has no medical training. He is a volunteer who felt God wanted him to experience this global reality.
He is LeTourneau University President Dr. Dale A. Lunsford, who traveled to Bishanjilba, Ethiopia during spring break on a medical mission trip that included visits to identify possible future partnerships for service with schools and organizations of Buckner international and Bright Hope Ministries in Addis Ababa and Nazaret.
“I needed the experience—to see it, smell it, touch it,” Lunsford said. “I encourage students to look outside of their comfort zone and follow God’s call to service. I knew I needed to do the same.
“There is an expression that goes, ‘I need Africa more than Africa needs me.’ What that means is we think we are needed in Africa, and that we will make such a big difference in their lives, but what we find is that Africa changes us.”
After returning to the United States, Lunsford was featured in the May 1 issue of The Longview News Journal which ran the following column, reprinted with permission.
Ethiopia is a place of rich heritage, physical beauty and unsettling human suffering. It is poor even by African standards. Per capita annual income is only $100. Three of every four Ethiopians live on less than $1 per day. Nearly 5 million orphaned children live there, and less than a third of them have the privilege of attending school.
It is also a place ravaged by malnutrition and AIDS. Malaria and polio are common. Basic medical care is unavailable to most of the population.
Recently, a team of Longview physicians traveled to Ethiopia to provide medical and dental care in the small village of Bishanjilba. Dr. John Ross, Dr. Rodney Henry, and Dr. Mark Wallis saw more than 700 patients in just over three days. Others on the team supported these physicians by administering an eyeglass clinic, a pharmacy and a wound care clinic. With every hug and smile, these team members demonstrated God’s love to those patients who traveled difficult mountain roads to wait hours under shade trees to see a doctor.
At the core of a LeTourneau University education is the truth that we are all valuable in God’s Kingdom. Yes, pastors, evangelists, and other “full time ministry workers” are essential and necessary, but all of us can be used by God in his redeeming work, even if we are not on a church staff.
LeTourneau faculty strive to prepare students who are studying for careers in engineering, business, aviation, education, nursing and the sciences to see their professions as a holy calling important to God. We refer to it as claiming every workplace in every nation as our mission field.
In every field, competent professionals of Christ-like character can demonstrate God’s love in powerful ways. Engineers can design sustainable water well pumps for Africa. Teachers can patiently impart the gift of reading to the next generation. Business professionals can create jobs to combat poverty for others.
Ministry is not just for ministers. God loves you and me so that we can show his love to others.
It was my privilege to travel with these selfless physicians and to witness their work in Ethiopia. For the people of Bishanjilba, they were God’s angels. For the rest of us, they are examples of the possibilities that can happen when we choose to live out our faith in our professional lives, giving back to God the education, abilities, and gifts he has given to us.
This article was featured in the Fall 2011 NOW Magazine.