So how did we decide to leave our jobs, move to Liberia and start up a medical clinic?
Steve and I were perfectly content NOT being purposeful. We each have great stable jobs that we really enjoy, we are really not lacking anything… our life together has been completely comfortable. I am a CPNP working as a staff nurse in a Pediatric ICU in central Jersey and Steve is an engineer/account executive currently working for large, global company where he is focused on the NYC construction market. But gradually we both started to talk about how we felt like were called to do something different… we felt we were created for a different purpose.
Jen and I have both been on short-term missions trips. I went to India in 2008 and Jen went to Liberia for the first time in 2010. It was during Jen’s second visit to Liberia in 2011, when she realized the extent of people who have gone without access to medical care in Po River. The team she traveled with set up a day-clinic during their time there. People walked 3-4 hours to be seen, many arriving the day before the clinic was set up and sleeping on the ground waiting for the “clinic” to open. (The clinic was run out of the existing school building in Po River.) The team worked from sun-up to sundown. They ran out of medications, had no opportunity to provide follow-up care, and had to turn many people away without being seen. Many of those who showed up had gone months with illnesses and injuries without treatment due to their lack of access to care.
I remember this one mother, in particular, who brought in her infant. One of the other team members saw her and her baby and asked me to look at the child because he looked very sick. This child was totally emaciated, pale, and appeared to be about 3 months old- he was actually 1 year. His eyes were sunken in, his abdomen was scaphoid, and was lacking the muscle and fat that an infant of 1 year should have. Except for the fact that you could see his ribs moving each time he took a breath, he appeared lifeless. He had obviously been sick for quite some time. The team did not have the supplies to treat an infant in his condition, and we advised the mother to take the infant to the nearest clinic. The nearest clinic was in Cestos City- a 9-mile hike through the bush, a ½ mile canoe trip across the Cestos River, and another 4-5 mile hike through the town. The mother stated she needed to go home first (a 3 hour walk); she would go to the clinic the next day. I told her I didn’t think the child could wait another day to be seen, she needed to go now. What I came to learn was this mother had lost her husband a year ago, about the same time that this infant was born. She had 3 other children at home to care for. In order to take her infant to the clinic she first needed to go home to make arrangements for her other children and pay someone in her village to care for them while she was away, which could be days or weeks, with money she didn’t have.
From stories like this it was obvious there was a need for a clinic in Po River, but due to lack of resources we knew a clinic was more of a pipe dream than a reality. It’s funny how God works things out sometimes, when we least expect it.
For the past four years Jen and I have participated in the Freedom Ride. I ride and Jen helps organize the support team. Every year Freedom Ride picks an overseas or local mission project or initiative to support with the money raised. We have bought children and women out of slavery in India, purchased land and helped build the first building for a new school campus in Buchanan, Liberia, purchased a permanent home for an AIDS orphanage (Happy Home) in India, and helped with expanding Urban Impact to include young women’s program. This past December the leadership team met together to determine what cause this years’ ride would support. There were many needs but the one that seamed to rise up to the top was to fund a medical clinic in Po River, Liberia. The only problem was there was no one currently living in Po River that could start it up and operate it. The team decided to table the decision until the next meeting in January.
That weekend Steve and I went to his parents’, in Virginia, for a visit. In the midst of all this we’d been preparing to take in Steve’s sister, who was going to be living with us for the next couple of months (or as long as she needed). However, after we arrived at his parents’ house we found out his sister’s plans had changed; she wouldn’t be coming to live with us after all. It’s like our calendar opened up… the plans we had made, the obligations for the next 6 months or so, just disappeared. On the drive home Monday we talked about all of our options for the future and surrendered to God to take control of our plans… to give us direction and wisdom. A few minutes later Steve said, “I think we can go to Africa now.” And I said, “Ok.”
We prayed together and we both knew that is exactly what God was calling for us to do at that moment… let go and give Him everything. God is doing the rest. He has been throwing the doors open with support, connections, dreams and answered prayers. Each day we are being affirmed this is the plan for us. We joke around that neither Jen nor I know the exact date that we were saved through faith… but we do know the day we both together surrendered it all God… December 12, 2011.
Steve and Jen are excited about the opportunity they have to serve Jesus and the people of Liberia by operating a medical clinic in Po River, Liberia. They are enjoying the adventure and stepping out in faith to allow God full access in directing thier lives.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…
The beginning of Hebrews 12