By Dawn Patrick
You never quite know what the Lord has in store for you until He reveals it to you. I had known about the Koinonia India Medical Mission and how they performed physicals, blood pressure screenings, diabetes screenings, vision screenings, and made medicine available to the poor and poverty stricken people near Pune, India. I had played around with the idea of going, but hadn’t made any moves toward actually being a part of it. Left to my own devices, I’m not sure if it would have happened, but then I received a phone call from Pastor Tony around February 2017.
Pastor Tony explained that Pastor Joseph Hiwale (Pastor Ben’s father and the leader of the Koinonia India Ministry) wanted to add hearing screenings to the services available to the people they served and, due to the noise pollution in the area, that it would also help to teach them about how to protect their hearing against noise-induced hearing loss. He then asked if I knew an audiologist that could help.
The fact is that I have been working as an audiologist in the Rochester, NY area for over twenty years. (Pastor Tony won’t say whether he knew that when he asked me, but I have my suspicions.) After praying over the situation, and despite the fact that I knew I needed help financially to be able to go, I made the decision. Between the pull I had felt regarding being part of that ministry and the fact that I had just completed putting together an in-service regarding noise-induced hearing loss to present at work, I truly felt that I was being called on by the Lord to step up and make a commitment. I knew that I wasn’t necessarily comfortable leading others to Christ with my words, but this was a way that I could show others the love of Christ by “being His hands and feet” in a way that I WAS comfortable with. There is a saying that, “Where the Lord guides, He provides.” I trusted that if this was something He wanted me to do; He would make it possible, financially and otherwise.
I took part in several meetings over the next ten months, during which I was able to get to know the other members of the team. We discussed the equipment needed, what we would be doing, what items we would be bringing, what new items needed to be purchased, and the cultural aspects we needed to know in order not to inadvertently offend anyone during our stay, amongst other things. Over time, we worked toward our goal and my faith grew as I purchased my airline tickets, arranged for my India visa, wrote and sent out my support-raising letter, priced out audiometers and earplugs, made a wish list of items that would help me to do my part well, and really enjoyed getting to know the other members of the team. I trusted more and more that this is what God wanted me to do. Then my faith was tested even more.
In early November 2017, just a month and a half before the trip, I was laid off from my job where I had been working for almost three years. According to my supervisor, it was purely an economic decision because things had gotten slow and had nothing to do with my job performance, but I was still without a job. Despite this setback, I still felt strongly that I was to move forward with taking part in the Medical Missions trip. I received a severance and I had quite a few hours of paid time off built up, which made things easier at first. My husband and I had been through financial tough times before, when he had been out of work, so we knew from experience that the Lord would supply our needs (although not necessarily all of our wants). We knew about cutting back and getting creative in our gift giving in a way that was thoughtful, but not pricey.
One section of scripture which I have both struggled with and held on tight to is Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” I have needed to remind myself of that precious promise many times, but I also have trouble not wanting to analyze and understand things to within an inch of their lives whenever possible. I knew I needed to just move forward and trust. So easily said, but not always easily done, because now, besides preparing for a trip out of the country (which is farther away from home than I’ve ever been), making sure that my family will have everything they need during my time away, getting ready for Christmas (and trying to be creative in coming up with presents that stay within the new restricted budget), I had to begin a job search. Let’s just say that things got rather stressful at times.
I have found that when faced with potentially anxiety-causing situations (unemployment, financial restrictions, getting calls regarding late payments, medical issues, and other stressors), I can only do so much (such as being diligent in my job search, budgeting, etc.) and then I need to give it over to the Lord. However, I found myself taking it back, stressing over it, and then reminding myself to give it back to God. This sometimes happened more times than I care to admit, even in the course of a single day. Sometimes I was so focused on the things that I had to get done that I lost sight of my relationship with the Lord. I let my Bible time slide and did not spend as much time in prayer as I once had and I ended up even more stressed as a result. It was kind of like in Matthew 14:25-33, where Jesus comes to His disciples by walking on the water to them and Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He started off fine, but when he looked at the storm, he started sinking. However, when he cried out to the Lord and reached out to hold Jesus’ hand, he was safe and secure. When I looked at all of my circumstances and took my eyes off of Jesus, it was easy to get frazzled and stressed. However, when I took the time to lean into the Lord through reading my Bible and crying out to Him in prayer, I was able to have that peace that passes all understanding that He promises.
Another step I took was to start meeting every week or two with a friend from church who I know has seen a lot of hard times and yet loves Jesus more than anything; she has been like a mentor to me. In the book “Think and Grow Rich,” it says that if you want to become rich, find someone who is rich and learn from them, and she is definitely spiritually rich! She has become my accountability partner regarding growing closer to Jesus and keeping my eyes focused on Him, and it has made a big difference in my walk and in my life.
As the time to leave for India approached, the Lord definitely provided, and through the support that was raised, I was able to go to India with the team and was truly blessed by the experience. During my time there, I took part in the clinic, where I was able to help diagnose ear infections, hearing losses, and teach about how to protect hearing from noise damage. It felt wonderful to be a part of a team who was helping people that would not have access to these medical services otherwise. We also ministered to over 100 women at the Women’s Health Day (where several of us spoke to local women about how to take better care of themselves and their families). I got to know Pastor Joseph and his wife, who were so gracious to open their home for our team. I also met a number of the students in the Koinonia School of Ministry, some of the local church members, and was especially blessed to get to know the girls from the Girls Home.
Since I’ve been back, I’ve started my job search again and am meeting with my “spiritual mentor.” My need to give things over to the Lord continues (and, yes, I still over-think things and get stressed at times, but not as often). I keep praying that He will open the door where He wants me and that He will close the other doors, so I will know His will. When certain doors do close, I have to remind myself that He is guiding me and that if I have done everything I can and that door still closes, it is not where I am supposed to be (although it’s still not fun to hear “no”). I’m still waiting for that open door and trying to be patient for God’s timing and direction.
I am already thinking about ways to improve the hearing services that we can provide at the clinic in the future. Lord willing, I’ll be able to go next year. Also, if you would, please pray for the India Ministry and the Medical Missions team as to how we can best serve the people who so need the Lord in India, and also pray about how the Lord would like to use you to reach people for His glory. You might be surprised as to how He will do that.
Thank you and God bless!