Our first medical campaign happened in March 2011. I remember trying to help organize and prepare for it, and it seemed like a daunting task, having never participated in a medical campaign, much less organized one. However, if I remember correctly, approximately 800 patients passed through our four-day clinic. We worked 12-hour days. Now we see approximately 1,400 patients and work 8-hour days. We’ve learned better how to organize it, but we’ve also learned other things about the medical campaign.
I remember the anxiety and the anticipation that I felt the Sunday morning following our first one. After all, we saw 800 people, treated them, studied with them, and introduced them to the church. We would probably need a coliseum to accommodate this new crowd. Right? We set out extra rows of seats, prepared more programs and Lord’s Supper emblems, and waited by the front door. There was a crowd, but it was the usual group. If I remember correctly, we didn’t have one new visitor.
Being a missionary, planting a church, is tough. There are so many moments when I am sure that God is about to give growth. I finally have it all figured out. I raise my expectations and envision a new wave of the church. And then the disappointment comes, along with confusion and frustration. There are other times when I’m surprised and thankful for what God has done. However, these times do not usually happen on the Sunday following a medical campaign.
That was our annual experience for a few years up until last year. For whatever reason, last year became the exception. We’ve lost count now, but I would guess 15 or so have come to our congregation through the 2014 medical campaign. That means they’re still serving with us. We were excited! These were individuals that now find themselves in the core of the congregation, leading others. We were also confused. I thought we had learned not to count on the medical campaign to be evangelistic.
So, we arrived to that moment again almost one month ago. It was the Sunday after the medical campaign. I wasn’t overly anxious, but rather prayerful that individuals I had met the previous week would accept my invitation. There were some new faces in attendance as we began the worship hour. One in particular was a translator for the campaign that began working with us last year. He was a self-proclaimed atheist, and he had no interest in the church in 2014, but here he was now. My teammate, Gary, has been studying with him during the month of March. And, although he has yet to become a Christian, he is no longer an atheist.
During the song service a family came in late and slid into the row in front of me. I was looking for them, hoping they would come. During the previous week of the campaign I had studied with the mother. They have two, three-year old, twin girls who both suffer from cerebral palsy. The younger of the two doesn’t walk. They had come to the medical campaign in order to meet with our physical therapists. Now they’re attending worship services regularly, and I have a study with the parents every Saturday.
I’m still confused about the medical campaign. What should we expect?Who knows, but only God. One of the most comforting and exciting verses of the Bible for me is 1 Corinthians 3:6. Paul, a fellow missionary, writes about his experience: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” I like setting up moments of growth and opportunity, and I believe that’s part of the “planting” and “watering”. But Paul says ultimately it’s not up to us. We will never have it figured out. Just as God gives the rain, he gives the seasons of growth.
We already have scheduled the 2016 medical campaign, but I have no idea what I should expect for the Sunday after the campaign. We’ll just wait and see.