Missionary Or Mercenary?
May 1st, 2013 by INMED
High in the mountains of Asia, Fatima’s chest heaved as she gasped for air. Was the cause pneumonia? Pulmonary embolism? Heart failure? James Fyffe, an American RN, scrambled to clarify her diagnosis. Simple labs and a chest X-ray provided little clarity. No CAT scan or blood gas analysis available out there. James provided her basic oxygen and an antibiotic, but no option of prolonged ventilator support. On hearing James account I questioned him, “Why would you choose to volunteer under such austere conditions in remote, frigid Asia?” His response: “For me, it comes down to this, would I rather be a missionary or a mercenary?”
At the INMED Exploring Medical Missions Conference James met a general surgeon, and his wife, a pediatrician, both on staff at Bach Christian Hospital. James became intrigued at their invitation. “Mercenaries,” explains James, “are those who travel primarily for the benefit it brings them. Healthcare people often act like mercenaries, primarily looking for adventure, procedure opportunities, ‘great cases,’ and enhancement of their reputation. Missionaries in the best sense, by contrast, are motivated by compassion and focused on the mission to benefit those whom they serve.”
“For two years I lived and served in El Salvador. But I was only one among thousands of volunteers to Central America. The needs in Asia are infinitely greater, and so very few are willing to serve there. Christ has called me to be a light to the nations. Why would I choose to shine where thousands of lamps are already glowing?”
Isn’t Asia dangerous?
“I never felt threatened. There were no terrorist events in Asia during my stay, and their last school shooting was 10 years ago. Meanwhile, while I was away in Asia, America witnessed the Boston Marathon bombing, and repeated school shootings.”
What’s the greatest challenge?
“Some Asians look at life through lenses I found hard to understand. Fatima, the woman with respiratory distress, died that night. Rather than be distraught over the loss, her family was resigned that her death was inevitable. I have much to learn about their culture. And yet I also know that like us they desire peace and compassion.”
Can you really make any difference?
“A little compassion goes a long way – like a light illuminating a dark hill. It’s not just about the people whom you touch directly, but also those who become inspired by your example.”
Do you aspire to be a missionary or mercenary? Please join James Fyffe for his plenary exploration of this question at the next INMED Exploring Medical Missions Conference.