The Bigger Picture

March 15th, 2019 by Shannon
Posted in Uncategorized|

KRHC Emergency Entrance

Wow – my time at Kwai River Christian Hospital flew by. The last week was filled with times of both quiet and intensity. There was a two year old struggling to breathe that required intubation and a heartbreaking infant with scald burns. I saw measles for the first time and treated a boy with Dengue fever – excited to find a perfect textbook case of a positive tourniquet test. (When a tourniquet or blood pressure cuff causes bursting of capillaries made fragile by the dengue virus) The head physician/surgeon was gone during my visit giving me extra opportunity to help out but that also meant I missed out some of the key experiences I had hoped for. And to be totally honest this brought moments of disappointment. I enjoyed every bit of my time at KRCH but I did have to ask God a couple times why not busier patient loads while I was there or why not better timing to have surgeries and deliveries to participate in? Couldn’t the experience have been bigger, better, more fruitful?

KRHC Clinic Staff

See when you are like me – always looking to the next big thing – the problem is that you are well, always looking to the next big thing. And that can make the thing now seem small or at the least not quite big enough. See 300 people in a mission clinic and you think, “I know we can reach way more.” Have an awesome time snowmobiling in the Himalayas and go “wait what’s that crazy looking trail over there?!” I laughed at my niece when after finishing the Tough Mudder, a 10 mile race with over 20 military style obstacles, her response was that it wasn’t really as hard or as cool as the videos made it seem. But often I’m just like her. I finish the task and feel that just wasn’t extreme enough, effective enough, well done enough, meaningful enough, big enough.

You may or may not identify with this struggle, but either way the truth is we’re all searching for our lives to be meaningful and purposeful, trying to find that place of satisfaction and accomplishment. We run through the endless necessary tasks of the day that pile up and wonder at the end if it all adds up to anything. We want our lives to account for something big enough to be worthwhile but are endlessly caught in the smallness of daily life. Dreams for something more are often pushed to the back, or maybe almost forgotten, and sometime we wonder if we’re going where we want to be. And if we’re really honest sometimes we even use this as an excuse. This task, or act of obedience, is small we tell ourselves, so does it really matter if we don’t carry it though?

But what if in the middle of all of that smallness, God is writing a bigger story? What if behind the scenes God is busy putting together all of those little pieces into something we can’t even imagine and we get confused about which things are actually the big ones? This week I’ve been reading “Where the River Runs: How a forgotten people renewed my hope in the gospel” by Kelly Minter. She tells the story of how God changed the course of her life by taking her to serve the people of the Amazon in Brazil. Kelly thought the big thing was the new deal she had signed with a record label, but the video that played at the end of the concert about a ministry called Ray of Hope she almost ignored. The seemingly so minor thing as a short video clip was the thing that God was actually using to change the course of her life. If there’s anything God has been teaching me lately it’s that He’s always writing a bigger story. Even when the future doesn’t look like what we planned, He’s always taking us somewhere even better than we hoped.


Let me take you back for a minute to the partitioning of the Pakistan and Indian border in 1947. Unimaginable violence is unfolding as Muslims and Hindus are separated to their respective countries and people of the “wrong” religion are flooding over the border to get where they are told they belong. In the midst of all the turmoil, a missionary hands a Sikh man a copy of the gospel of Luke as he takes his family across the border from Pakistan into India. This Sikh man doesn’t know how to read and sticks it in his turban and seemingly the story ends there. But fast forward several years, his son Nasir Masih learns to read and picks up that gospel of Luke and accepts Christ. He grows up and starts the first Baptist Church in north India which over the years blossoms into a ministry of several hundred churches, numerous church plants, and a Christian school with over 1,000 students. In the mid 1990s, a mission mentor of mine gets introduced to Nasir Masih leading to a partnership between my church and First Baptist Church Chandigarh India. In 2005, nine months after saying I would never go to India, I spend the entire summer in North India and come home saying that was amazing but I’m not sure I’ll go back again. (Oh how God must laugh at us!). Coincidentally, I spent that summer with three girls who had a friend back at seminary in the US named Paul Masih. The son of Nasir and the same guy who little did I know I would be partnering with in service to North India for years to come. Arrive at 2019 and I just finished my seventh trip to India through my church, working with that very Paul, who now leads this incredible ministry reaching thousands across India with the love of Christ. My life and the lives of thousands of others have been eternally effected because one man was handed a Bible.

I can hardly wrap my mind around it. I can only imagine the thousands of reasons that man could have come up with not to be there, not to hand out that gospel, or why it didn’t matter. Had others turned down his gift or even responded angrily? What about the threat of violence? How easily could he have said “I don’t have to give a copy to this man.” It was just one little thing. One simple act that grew into a ministry reaching thousands with the light of Jesus in one of the darkest places on earth and that is affecting my life still today – all because a man was obedient in 1947 to hand someone a copy of the gospel.

2019 India Team

How many times do we feel discouraged at the smallness of the things we’ve done or argue that it doesn’t really mater if we do them. I don’t know how many times I’ve justified and reasoned my way out of obedience to the Lords leading because it was just a small thing. It could not really matter that much. Recently I put up in my house a wooden sign, inscribed with words “Do small things with great love.” More than just catchy saying for home decor, it was the motto of Mother Theresa. Now the world renown symbol of compassionate care for the poor of India, Mother Theresa never set out to be world famous or win a Nobel Peace Prize for her momentous acts of service. She simply saw neglected needy people in the streets of Calcutta and began to serve them. One act of kindness at a time, she fed a hungry man, bandaged a sick woman, loved the unwanted, comforted the dying. Small acts done with great love that grew to world impacting proportions. Our God sees every need, notices every falling sparrow, and even catches our very tears in a bottle. Our God is in the small things. But even better, He is weaving each tiny thread of our lives into an intricate and beautiful picture that ultimately tells the story of His enduring greatness. I don’t know about you but I want my life woven into that fabric.

So I am choosing to believe that the little pieces of my life are coming together into something much bigger, that the small things matter. I bet it wasn’t so small to the mother in India last month who received education and supplements for her sick malnourished child. Many of our team were obedient to the simple task of telling the story of Gods work in their lives. But it wasn’t small to the those who found Jesus for the first time and now have hope for all eternity. And I hope maybe it wasn’t so small to the women who overdosed when I prayed with her or mother whose baby was burned when I tried to comfort her and cared for her child. Whether it was learning how a small rural mission hospital works, or the enjoyment of taking care of a patient from triage, through their hospital stay, to discharge who knows what ways God is weaving my time at the hospital into His bigger story for my life. Perhaps I needed a reminder to slow down and spend more intentional time with Him, a reminder that true rest and refreshment comes from communion with the Lord (not binging on Netflix!). Or more likely it was something I don’t even understand yet. I’ve been awed these past two years to see pieces of the puzzle of my life starting to fit together in ways I hardly dreamed of through mission opportunities and opening doors with Samaritan’s Purse. I could not begin to see where it all was leading along the way, I just had to follow God one small step at a time. I recently read a piece from Elizabeth Elliot. Overwhelmed with the tasks of carrying on the ministry and home after her husband Jim was killed, she learned to focus on one thing at a time and simply do the next thing. And that’s how our walk with God must be. Just take the next step of obedience. When we can’t imagine where its all leading, He’s writing a story bigger and better than we hoped. 

One man stuck a gospel of Luke in a turban in 1947 and has no idea that he’s still impacting the world and growing the Kingdom today. Do small things with great love. Or I might expand on it this way: Do small acts of obedience performed in God’s love with great trust. No it won’t make for catchy home decor that way. But it does remind of this, with God no act of obedience is small.

 “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21

River Kwai Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Tune My Heart

February 24th, 2019 by Shannon
Posted in Uncategorized|

“Come thou fount of every blessing, 

Tune my heart to sing thy grace.

Streams of mercy never ceasing 

Call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet, 

Sung by flaming tongues above,

Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,

Mount of thy redeeming love”

    ~Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson

There have been lizards…in my kitchen. Now I’m really not on of those squeamish girly girls (As proof I held a snake in a grass hut in India just last week after all the men chickened out) But I still feel strongly that reptiles don’t belong with my food or in my luggage. And I’m just waiting to find one there.

There’s a large crack in the middle of the bedroom floor that leads to a strange unnatural hole in the wood that seems exactly what something would crawl out of in the middle of the night. 

No one really speaks great English, except the one doctor. Most conversations involve a constant decision between saying “I’m sorry what?” for the 10th time or trying to get away with a hopefully appropriate smile and head nod. Getting meals, especially edible ones, has been much more of a challenge than I anticipated. The first day at the hospital, there were four inpatients and one ER patient and I wondered what in the world I was going to do with myself for two weeks. I felt lonely and was tempted to think I was going to be wasting my time

After spending my last post convincing you of all the wonderful reasons to serve internationally, it might sound like I’m contradicting myself. But realistically there are challenges you face.  There are language barriers, isolation, and uncomfortable situations – mentally and physically. 

Inpatient Ward

But as I write out my list and you read it, we all realize none of these things are a really a big deal – unless we let them be. Ask my team from India what the word of the trip was and they’ll all tell you “flexibility!” (Or tourism, there was a little confusion as I reiterated frequently that we were just tourists!) You can’t travel to the other side of the world and expect things to be the same.

Life is not the photoshopped version we post on social media and other countries are not the sterilized exotic photos we see on National Geographic. Real life is messy and scary and dirty. And that’s why like the old hymn so wisely and beautifully states we have to allow God to tune our hearts to see His goodness and sing His praise. Just like a piano or guitar our heart doesn’t stay in key. Our minds and hearts tend to dwell on the negative, but if your going to enjoy an international experience you can’t stay focused there. You have to choose to be flexible and look on the bright side.

Day one I wasn’t so sure how this was going to go. Day two I remembered that I know how to adapt to a cross cultural experience, I just had to choose to do so. I started asking lots of questions, trying to say words I didn’t know, and laughing at myself with the locals. If you want to connect with people, even if you can’t speak with them, just join in what they’re doing. The more you don’t know how to do it or say it, the more they love that you tried! Everyone appreciates the effort of someone trying to meet them where they’re at. 

With the right attitude, the unknown becomes an adventure. The things that seem the worst in the moment often make for the best stories and laughter later on! The second day, instead of sitting in my apartment, I asked about getting coffee nearby and wondered down the street with unclear directions. I soon found myself in an adorable outdoor cafe that has now become my afternoon ritual for delicious Thai iced tea. Afterwards, I made my way to the mini-mart found a Sprite, bug spray, and something to plug up that that unnerving hole in my bedroom. I had a coffee shop,  bug spray, and sun shine – what more could a girl need!  

There’s a kindness, hospitality, and sweet spirit so inherent in the Thai people it practically seeps through their pores. I can hardly go a few hours without someone bringing me a special snack or treat. Often a snack or treat I’m concerned will end with me well… Uhh…spending a day in the bathroom but a heartfelt gift nonetheless. The meager donation of supplies that I could fit in my suitcase was so little I was almost embarrassed to present it and yet was met with overwhelming gratitude far outweighing the gift.

After a simple question about what things there were to see nearby, I was treated to an entire evening including a sunset boat ride to see ancient temples, dinner on the lake, and walk through the night market. Dinner was delicious – including the fried fish stomach. Ok, the fish stomach was maybe not so delicious but an experience for sure. I could have freaked out and not eaten it but seriously –  it’s fried. What’s it going to taste like? Well everything else that’s fried of course. And now I can say I’ve eaten fried fish stomach – totally worth it. It’s all about perspective. Whether you call it Delhi Belly, the Turkey Trots, or Montezuma’s Revenge stomach issues are often just part of the deal. You take all the precautions you can and bring lots of Pepto-bismol. It will all come out ok in the end!

The hospital is a bit slower paced than I’m used to, to put it mildly. But it has given me an opportunity to witness and remember what it’s like to focus on the patient in front of you. By continuously asking questions and showing humility in my desire to help and learn I’ve found new ways to make myself useful and to grow. From simple things like refreshing my IV insertion skills, something I never have time for in the US, to skills I’ve been waiting years to learn like performing an OB ultrasound. And speaking of adaptability, we managed a trauma patient without a single CT scan. Currently  we are caring for a patient who overdosed on a dangerous cocktail of medications, homemade rum, and diesel fuel without much of what what I would consider basic necessary laboratory tests and equipment. It is impressive to watch the doctor take it all in stride using a complex knowledge of the resources he does have and skills I threw out years ago in favor of expensive tests. Intermittently, I contribute from my experience and knowledge gained working at university hospitals in close connection with skilled specialists and together we make a good team. 

A good attitude, adaptability, and a spirit of adventure are deal breakers when it comes to cross cultural experience. All of us who learned medicine learned to deal with failure and and correction. Without that humility; without being willing to try a new procedure, answer a difficult question on rounds, or approach a patient differently the next time; you will never become a good practitioner. But with those qualities in hand, you have exactly what it takes be a good cross culture learner. If we shy away from difficulty and failure, we’ll miss most of the things worth doing in life.

Life comes with circumstances a whole lot harder than a lizard in your kitchen, and it tends to get our hearts out of tune. But whatever our life circumstances, we have a God who is worthy of a song in our hearts. And when we sing His praise, we gradually find our hearts getting back in key where we can see the joy in the sorrow, the light in the darkness, and take a look at the brighter side. Yesterday, as I visited the Buddhist temples and witnessed the offering of vain sacrifices to unseeing eyes and unhearing ears of stone, I was both heartbroken and thankful. Heartbroken over a religion literally seeking nothingingness as one’s greatest achievement. Thankful to be reminded of just what a blessing it is to know Jesus, that is Emmanuel – the God who is with us and became flesh to save us.

Psalms 16:4-11 says,

“4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied; 

I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, 

Nor will I take their names upon my lips.  

5The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; 

You support my lot.  

6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; 

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.  

7I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; 

Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.  

8I have set the Lord continually before me; 

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  

9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; 

My flesh also will dwell securely.  

10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; 

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.  

11You will make known to me the path of life; 

In Your presence is fullness of joy; 

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

We may not bow down to a statue but we do wallow in sorrow when we barter for other gods and make idols out of all the wrong things. As Christ followers, we alway have a reason to rejoice because we serve a God who brings goodness out of all of life’s difficult circumstances if we make Him our focus and priority. Glory to our God who delights in giving us the immeasurable pleasure of His presence wherever we go! His beauty is always around us, we just have to choose to see it.

Choosing to Serve

February 21st, 2019 by Shannon
Posted in Uncategorized|

As I arrived in Bangkok last night and made the several hour journey to Kwai River Christian Hospital I had time to contemplate my 5 week journey across Asia. 

The last two weeks in India have been filled with great fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters – first time mission trippers from America, courageous and sacrificial believers of India, and those who given up the comfort of life in one for service to the other. Together we’ve shared everything from laughter over a crammed rickshaw ride to heartfelt conversations over the deeper reward of laying down your life in service to Christ. 

Arriving in Thailand, alone and in a new country, for the first time in many years has reminded of what that first trip overseas feels like. Satan attempts to use uncertainty to prevent obedience and crowd out the joy walking with Jesus offers. We fear the unknown, we fear inadequacy, and frankly we all just like to stick with what’s comfortable (I felt far more comfortable navigating the craziness of familiar India than the complete unknown of a much calmer Thailand!) We have to lay aside many things to follow Him into the unknown. Pride, for instance, as this will be the first time I’ve been a learner instead of a teacher in several years. 

At our last team gathering in India, we studied Moses in Exodus 6. Over and over again Moses told God he was not the man for the job, not skilled enough or well spoken enough. But pay attention to Gods words to Moses

““Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”

Exodus 6:6-7 NIV

God never told Moses to free the Israelites. God said “I will free,” I will redeem,” and “I am the Lord.” This was nothing about Moses and all about God’s might and glory. Moses didn’t need the ability to do any of those things. And God didn’t need Moses to get it done. Yet God offered Moses the privilege of being part of this miraculous journey. Moses became the leader of Gods people, a key player in one of the greatest stories of Gods power and redemptive love second only to the cross. Why? Because he had a heart of obedience despite his insecurities.

Wow. Doesn’t it blow you away that God is offering us the privilege of being part of His loving rescue of mankind still today? He doesn’t need me but He’ll use me if I just say yes. A friend and brother I deeply respect discussed with me yesterday how he’s realizing how short life is and how worthless building up riches is. Many times this year as I’ve considered a purchase, I stopped and thought what’s better – a trip to share God’s love, mentor other believers, and being a part of God’s eternal story or this material item? I think the sacrifice is worth it. In fact as I experienced the joy of taking care of the least of these in India these last two weeks, I’m completely sure that it is. Everyone of those first timers in India last week went home saying they can’t wait to go back. Yes I made a few very small sacrifices along the way but God always rewards so many ways. So my TV is pretty old and I won’t be taking a jet ski to the lake this summer. Yes it’s ninety something degrees here with no air conditioning and no one speaks much English. But I did go the Himalayas last week and I did watch the beauty of Thailand unfold as I drove into the mountains today. And those are just the small rewards of following His leading. Far better is the privilege I’ll have these next two weeks to serve at Kwai River Hospital in Jesus name, the opportunity of bringing God glory, and chance to be a part of His eternal story. 

I’m excited to see what these next two weeks bring. Thanks for joining with me in prayer on the journey. Pray for me to get the chance to learn and do some new things. Pray for me to show the love of Christ in all I do. And if your wondering if you should say yes to going – absolutely. Take a leap of faith and see where God takes you!

Introducing Myself

February 5th, 2019 by INMED
Posted in Uncategorized|

Hello! My name is Shannon Hamilton. I am a Practicing Physician Assistant and I’m starting my INMED service-learning experience at Kwai River Christian Hospital in Thailand beginning in February – March 2019