As a staff, we are blessed to serve in ministry alongside some incredible individuals and families who are committed to serve the Lord through their profession in veterinary medicine. Veterinarians build relationships with people through helping them with their animals-whether that is in their local practice or across the world. We currently have 32 veterinarians and 2 veterinary technicians serving long-term in 13 countries.

Today, we would like to introduce you to our Africa Area Director Fred and our Donor Services Coordinator Vicki, both are former long-term field staff members.

VanGorkom

Q: Fred and Vicki, where do you currently serve?

A: CVM home office in Seattle.
[Vicki]: I work in Donor Services.
[Fred]: I work with a focus on Africa.

Q: How long have you been serving with CVM?

A: [Vicki]: Since I married Fred in 1986.

[Fred]: Since June of 1983.

Q: Where did you go to veterinary school?

A: [Vicki]: Oklahoma State, graduated 1982

[Fred]: Class of 1983, Washington State University in Pullman, WA

Q: What was your favorite subject at vet school? Or which was your worst?

A: [Vicki]: I always liked food animal & ambulatory work—anything that was outside. Most challenging was pathology.

[Fred]: Surgery was my favorite. My least favorite was radiology.

engagement

Q: Where/how did you meet your spouse?

A: [Vicki]: Fred & I met the first day I got to Ethiopia in 1985.  I’d gone there to teach at the veterinary school and help run the Baptist Clinic in Addis Ababa.  We fell in love while working on the backside of cows & he first told me he loved me when we were doing an autopsy on a cow. Total romance!

[Fred]: An old lawyer from Florida who did the document work for the mission in Ethiopia made sure I met Vicki when he brought her and another new couple home from the airport! We shook hands through the window of the red Toyota van he was driving.  September 1985.  Working together as veterinarians, pushing in prolapsed uterus, lancing abscesses, surgical repair of places hyenas had chewed up—these are not the usual location for trying to impress a romantic interest.  I wasn’t interested.  I didn’t see how I could love a wife even 1% and still love God 100%… until it finally sank into my thick skull that love multiplies, it does not divide.  God loves each of us 100%.

Meanwhile, Vicki and I became good friends.  Returning from the vet school one day,  Vicki was all dressed up and I had gone along for the ride in jeans… we stopped to help a widow’s cow.  It needed a c-section.  The sun was setting—we’d need to do it together for the sake of speed—a black cow in a dark grass thatch hut. If the door hadn’t faced the west as the sun set, we couldn’t have seen a thing.  6” deep cow manure on the ground.  I went behind the door of the hut and put on some old coveralls that only buttoned up half way, and went barefoot.  In turn, Vicki went behind the door and put on my jeans, shirt and shoes.  Clearly demonstrating love… but she claims the first time I actually told her I loved her was when we were doing an autopsy on a cow.  Lesson: women have to be told, not just shown, even if it’s barefoot in deep manure.

After the 1985 famine in Ethiopia—where so many people starved to death, we came home in 1986, got married in OK on Sep 1st and quickly went right back to where our training seemed to mean so much more than here.

Our first child was born in OK on furlough; the next three were born in the bush in Ethiopia.  We lived in remote rural setting until our eldest was 7th grade, then moved to the capital.  Our two eldest finished high school in the international (students from 27 countries, teachers from 8 countries), and we came home to work in the Seattle office.

Vicki and I are still best friends, still on our honeymoon, still hold hands and highly recommend it.

Q: What is the most interesting/unique cultural difference/adjustment/experience you’ve had since moving overseas?

A: [Vicki]: I think maybe it was more unique & required more adjustments moving BACK to the U.S.!  Things had changed quite a bit here while we were 20+ years in Ethiopia.  We still sometimes feel rather alien here.

[Fred]: Interesting experience: probably the times I should have died and didn’t, yet.  Bullet by my ear.  Surrounded by 50 or more automatic rifles all aimed at me and those with me.  Trapped under my Landcruiser in a flash flood.  Nearly electrocuted, a wire in each hand carrying 220V.  Nearly bleeding to death; the hemorrhage stopped when I ran out of blood pressure.  The Bunna deliberating for a week about whether to kill us all or not.  Run off the road by a bus, over a cliff.

Unique cultural difference: community centered culture and honor/face-saving culture are very different from my individual and justice culture.  Very different way of thinking!

Unique experience: eating termite queens.  Strong coffee flavored with salt and rancid butter, in a situation where diplomacy required comsumption!

Q: What do you and/or your family like to do for fun?

A: [Vicki]: We liked to camp in Ethiopia and here in the States we camp, backpack & hike.

[Fred]: Back-packing/camping, but also playing table games like “Settlers of Catan” or “Dominion”.  Laughing while watching old VG home videos, and recalling stories from our past.  Returning to Ethiopia.

Don't worry, this is a dead snake that Fred was joking around with!
Don’t worry, it is dead! Fred was joking around with it!

Q: How do you go about celebrating holidays? (US holidays, vs local national holidays)

A: [Vicki]: We always celebrated Christmas on Dec 25 (we’d set up an artificial tree) even though Ethiopians celebrate Jan 7.  On New Year’s Eve if we were at a body of water, we would jump in at midnight.  We sometimes had sparklers on 4th of July.  We rarely had turkey for Thanksgiving; usually we ate chicken.  We probably missed some holidays because it wasn’t “in your face” like it is here in the States.

[Fred]: Vicki mentioned some.  We started a family tradition in Addis Ababa of going out for pizza on Christmas Eve… harder to do here, many restaurants are closed.

Q: What has been the food that you miss the most while being overseas?

A: [Vicki]: In Ethiopia I missed sub sandwiches and pizza.  Here in the States we get a hankering for Ethiopia injera b’wat!  Fortunately there’s quite an Ethiopian community in Seattle so it’s not hard to find.

[Fred]: Good cheese, tender meat; everything is an athlete there—you often have to grind your meat.

Q: What is it like having children in another culture? What do their friendships look like and how do you interact with other parents?

A: [Vicki]: They didn’t miss out on a thing growing up in Africa; in fact we see nothing but positives having raised our children in the bush & city of Ethiopia.  We had much more family time than we would have had in the U.S. & they were not exposed so early to the less desirable aspects of American culture.  Added bonuses:  They have friends all over the world & their background has been a big plus in applying to higher level education.

[Fred]: Birth: cost $1 USD or less for each.  More hand-made toys, outdoor adventure, exotic animals for pets, no TV, fewer & better selected movies than here.  They learn multiple languages, adapt to cross-cultural situations very naturally.  Travel is normal, sleeping in all kinds of conditions and places and climates.  Fording rivers, riding on the roof rack.  Aware of God’s work much more than peers in the States.  Our girls on furlough would ask astounded, “Don’t these girls know there is so much more to life than clothes and boys?”  Aware of the spiritual battle; witnessed demon possession and attacks, and the power of Jesus’ name to overcome!  Our children realize much more fully what the majority world lives like—and what they can be quite happy doing without: different priorities. Our children feel very at home with others who have grown up overseas, or from other nations.  They are much more attune to taking people time instead of running by the clock.  Interacting with other parents tends to be with more people time too- for example, our Korean friends never understood why Americans talk through the front screen door, instead of inviting in and fixing tea.  Interacting with parents often involves talking about the kids—many cultures love kids!

family 1

Q: Tell us about your favorite local dish/food to eat:

A: [Vicki]: Ethiopian flat bread injera made from teff and stew (wats) made from various meats & vegetables which you eat with your hands!

[Fred]: Ethiopian Kai Wot is a stew (often beef or goat) with hot spices, simmered for hours so the meat is tender and flavored all through.  On a cold, Ethiopian highland morning, nothing beats their coffee with milk, “Buna b’wottet”.  I love the fresh fruit juices—like passion fruit, mango or guava juice.

Q: What is your favorite scripture?

A: [Vicki]: God used Psalm 139:9-10 to get me to Ethiopia:  “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

[Fred]: “Therefore I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercies, that you present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God… and do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world…”  Rom 12:1-2

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is considering serving in missions?

A: [Vicki]: Let God lead every step of the way and in His timing!  Constantly remind yourself of the steps He’s used in getting you to the place where you are now, so you don’t second guess yourself wondering how in the world you got there!

[Fred]: If the Lord calls you, don’t miss the privilege!  Not easy—but SO worth it.  Few get the privilege.  Get out of your comfortable cultural boat.  Did Peter regret walking on water?!  Chasing the gods of comfort, security and entertainment are so fleeting, so worthless.   We cannot serve both God and money.  “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  I will die one day; but it will only be when He says so, or it would have happened already.  The same is true for you!!  But “whoever seeks to save his life will lose it…”  Do you really have a specific calling to stay???  Then go; don’t worry about out-running God.  You aren’t that fast.  Then: remember how the Lord got you there.

VanGorkom Front 3

Q: What has been the biggest blessing to you since serving long-term?

A: [Vicki]: I know I can trust God in every situation because He’s taken us through so many things.  He’s always there, always has the best plans in mind and He is SO faithful.

[Fred]:Seeing the Lord change lives—move whole cultures from hatred, raiding, deceiving, killing, raping, beatings—darkness, to His wonderful light (healing, truth, love, joy, peace, gentleness).  Seeing the Lord bring us through difficult things—and emerging with a conviction of the certainty of His promises I never had when it was just head-knowledge.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge living in another culture?

A: [Vicki]:  Not being able to communicate as well as I would have liked.

[Fred]: Learning and using language.  This is part of the overall struggle for health and work in the spiritual battle that feels like wading through molasses up to you neck.  Creatively making do with whatever you have, rather than complaining you don’t have the right too!

Q: How can we pray for you?

A: [Vicki]: For continued contentment in my role of Donor Services Coordinator here in the CVM Home Office and for God’s wisdom to know if and when He wants us back overseas.

[Fred]: All our children are facing major transitions this year.  Please pray for Cori as she seeks his will about which residency to join.
Pray for Jesse and Hannah, and Aaron and Rachel continue to invest in their marriages all their lives.  Pray God’s direction on Jesse and Hannah toward future ministry.  Pray for Jodi as well as Aaron and Rachel as they seek His will about graduate school, too.

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