Jeff Thompson from Iowa City, IA
My home church encouraged people to go on short-term missions. I knew the shortcomings of short-term missions, but I felt God was prompting me to go on one. Most of the missions my church sponsored at that time were construction missions. As a database analyst I was not and never would be an asset to a construction mission team. However, our church sponsored a medical mission to Haiti in Fall 2014. I thought about going, but I decided against going because I had no idea about what would I do.
When the team came back, I talked to Dr. Jeremy Tu, who was a dentist on the team, before the service. He encouraged me to go. He said I would find plenty to do. I was doubtful, but when I went to the church service, there was a picture being displayed on the front screen of Tim Stultz carrying an elderly patient to the clinic on the overhead. As my wife and I found our seats, I told my wife, “I could do that. I could carry people.”
A couple weeks went by and I was at home one evening checking email. I still was debating about going. I thought I would just download the application for the next Haiti trip and see what was involved. The link on the web page did not work. I knew Matt Anderson from being a fellow deacon so I emailed him about the broken link. He emailed me back asking me if I was thinking about going. I replied that I was not sure about what I would do in Haiti. He replied that with my background I could provide soul care to the patients. He told me I could talk to the Haitian people about Jesus and I could answer questions about the Gospel. I said I could do that. I prayed about it a couple days and then told Matt I would go.
The flight down to Haiti on Saturday was uneventful. The airport was strange and my luggage was checked by Haitian customs, but they found nothing. At the guesthouse I was pleasantly surprised. The food surpassed my expectations and the accommodations were adequate. I slept well Saturday night and I woke up to a beautiful morning in Port-Au-Prince. I was thinking this was going to be a good week, but I had no thought of coming back. The team was waiting in the guesthouse’s parking to be picked up to go to church. The bus showed up. A Haitian jumped out of the bus, walked quickly over to Matt, and excitedly shook Matt’s hand. He said, “Doctor Matt you came back!”
Matt replied, “Of course I did. I told you I would.”
The Haitian replied, “But you guys never…” and his voice trailed off.
I thought to myself, “Rats, I have to come back.” I knew God was calling me to be an example of steadfast love to the Haitians even before I met a single patient. Some churches, organizations and celebrities have promised much and delivered little to the Haitians. If Matt and Kim Anderson were coming back, I knew God was calling me to help. I wanted our church to be a faithful witness of God’s love to the Haitians.
I have three reasons why I keep going back every 6 months. My wife, Marilyn, wisely pointed out the first reason. About a week after I came back, Marilyn and I were talking to someone at church about my decision to go back. I said I plan to go back every year in the spring. My bonus and tax return came in the spring so I could afford it. Furthermore, I heard that the weather was cooler in the spring. Marilyn challenged me with so you only serve God when you can afford it and when it is comfortable for you? I thought she made a good point and I didn’t have a good answer. I had no good reason not to go back after six months. Pastor Dan Bovenmeyer provided the second reason for me to back in the fall. The vocational pastors at Grace, Dan and Dave Kirk alternate trips: Dave goes in the spring and Dan goes in the fall. Dan challenged me to go back in the fall to provide continuity with Haitian pastoral team. This is a good reason for me to go every time. God has blessed me in seeing the same patients, translators and pastors. It gives me a chance to follow-up with people and gives God a chance to display his faithfulness to the Haitian people to me.
Finally, one of Jason Blackley’s sermon gave me a third reason to go. After my first trip back. I was listening to Jason preach. It was good sermon, but my mind was wandering. I looked over to Dan and remembered I never gave him an answer about going back in the fall. I made a mental note that I should pray about it later. At that exact time, Jason was raising his voice at the conclusion of his sermon, “God commanded us to go. Go to Kalona! Go to Africa! Go to Taiwan! Go to Haiti!” Now, this is not the typical way I make decisions, but after I prayed later that evening, I knew God gave me my answer and I told Dan I was going. We are commanded to go and Haiti for me is the way I can obey this command.
I have been back every six months ever since and every time I go I beg God to send me back the next time. I love the people there and the country. God has blessed me abundantly through this ministry.