By: Dr. Brad Frye, Program Director and Latin America Director
This is the second part in our three part series on roadblocks to missions. In part one, we talked about calling and responding to God’s call to missions and we began the conversation of addressing the roadblocks that hold people back from pursuing the call to serve overseas. In part two, we will specifically address the roadblocks of the need for more veterinary education, the issue of debt and paying it off, calling and how to discern where God might be calling you.
I need more veterinary education.
This may be a valid concern for veterinarians that have recently graduated and are lacking practical application of all the new knowledge that they have acquired. However, if God is calling you to go now I would say go! For the new graduate a practical approach to this can be to get a couple years of practice experience and at the same time start preparation for mission service which can also take a couple years. For more experienced veterinary professionals, it is not typically veterinary skills that they need but language, cross culture, bible and discipleship training. For those who would like greater awareness of what skills they may need I would suggest they take the CVM Learning Needs Assessment to see where they need to focus. Moving into mission work does require a lot of learning but this learning is typically not a roadblock to missions but things you can learn along the journey as you develop a passion for lifelong learning.
Debt – How will I pay off my loans?
Debt can come in many forms but I am going to focus on education debt. Concern about education debt is one of the most common concerns for people wanting to do overseas missions with CVM especially those graduating in the last 15 years. The average debt for all veterinary students who graduated in 2014 was $135,283. Often debt is not a result of one decision but a series of choices that distract us from our calling because we have started focusing on wants and bought more than we could afford becoming entangled. This can make us a servant to lenders, making it difficult to respond to the missions opportunities. This is why it is important prior to vet school to choose your education costs wisely. Even though education is commonly thought of as a great investment, like any investment, don’t make the purchase unless you count the cost. Pursing a dream at all costs often leads to a train wreck later. Live simply during school and always look for ways to cut costs. This often means living without many wants that may even include short term mission trips you would love to go on. Don’t take any more loans than you need and only spend the money on expenses that are essential and you have no other means to pay. Once you land that first job don’t see this as the time to buy the car or house you want but focus on getting your debt paid off. Whether you are on the mission field or not, debt can limit many of the choices the Lord may prompt you to make. Any major decision should be bathed in prayer and advice.
The bible is full of directive to gain advice from others who have gone before you. These advisors are like the witnesses Heb 12:1 speaks of, people who lived by faith walked wisely. Prov 12:15 says “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Some great places to gain financial advice can be found on the AVMA webpage under the student financial resources. Also Dr. John Day (firstname.lastname@example.org), CVM Board member, has a ministry to help veterinary students manage their loans and is available for advice or seminars. Another great benefit for veterinary professionals that have been approved as mission candidates by CVM is the opportunity to apply for a MedSend grant that will pay loan payments as long as the Vet professional is actively serving with a partner agency on the mission field.
Calling – Where do I go?
Math 28:18-20 makes it clear as believers that we are to all “go make disciples of all nations”. Missions should be an integral part of the life of each believer regardless of where we live. As Christian Veterinary Professionals, God calls us to be ambassadors for Him regardless of where we live or work. So the question about calling in this situation is more about God calling you out of your culture and into another culture as a veterinary professional. Or in the context of Heb 12:1-2 is the race God calling me to in another culture? This can be a huge question because it requires understanding God’s will in regard to disengaging from work, family and familiarity from one culture and determining where to go in another. This can be hard for one person to do and even more complicated for a couple or family.
You can start to seek where the Lord may want you by exploring if you have an affinity to a certain people group or region, skills that meet a specific need or maybe you have an association with a group targeting a specific location? Rarely does all this come together in a direct call like Paul received in Acts 9 and 16. More likely placement would be discerned through prayer, counsel, needs, evaluating skill sets and exploring affinity for people groups. In some case the church or mission agency sets the strategy and you feel called to join their efforts. In a situation there are often a lot of unknowns and in many cases a person has to take steps of faith. One of the really exciting things to see in this process is that as you take steps of faith God confirms the direction through joy and peace that comes in the journey even during difficult times.
A common challenge for calling is when one spouse feels a strong passion to go and the other does not. Working through this can take time, communication and prayer. There may be many factors that contribute and need to be addressed. If both spouses are not feeling the call it may not be wise to go at this time but to look for other options to serve in God’s kingdom. I have seen many hearts change with time and in some cases where the spouse never felt called they have encouraged the mission minded spouse to engage in other ways like being a short term volunteer or leader. CVM is blessed to have several amazing volunteers that have been faithful to their calling for missions by regular involvement in short term missions through CVM and their church. This has made it possible for them to minister through their skills and encourage others in missions.
Discerning your calling may be something that may take time to work out. Explore your calling by talking with church leaders about discerning God’s will, reading missionary biographies, and meeting with missionaries and talking about your interest in missions and what needs they know about. Start learning about other cultures by praying through Operation World. Explore areas that are unreached with the gospel on the Joshua Project. Begin to explore your interest and people groups by participating in short term missions. Often a calling will become clearer as you take steps of faith in the journey, run with endurance and know that you are not alone.
Stay tuned for Roadblocks to Missions: Part Three. In our third and final part in our series, we will address the roadblocks of spiritual preparedness, raising children on the mission field, and separation from family.