What is the Mission?

Although I haven’t blogged in over a month, rest assured… I am still thinking my pensive thoughts and composing my mini-messages. In fact, since I set foot back in the states on March 31st, I have been composing a full-blown message that I recently delivered at my childhood home church, Faith Living Church, on April 14th. Below is the written version. Keep in mind, this is not a transcript so it is more of an outline and not what I spoke word for word.

The video version of my presentation will soon be available at www.faithlivingchurch.com/watch

In the meantime…

Mercy Ships- Madagascar video
1) Obedience

Proverbs 3:27-28 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you.

-If you hear your name, please stand:
Mike and Nancy Kane
Don and Marissa Salvesen
Cherie & Martin Niatopsky
Uncle Craig
My grandparents: Mommom, Bear, and Papa Bean
Lenny Salgado
Grace Macri
Tom and Rosemary Brz
Charly and Patty Vaichus
Rich and Lisa Landy
Mary and Adam Synott
United Technologies AND Frank Pereli
Steve and Cathy Hoder
Uncle Dave and Aunt Kathleen
Mike and Jill Turner
Geri Genua
Sue and Justin Bradley
Judah and Carrie Thomas
Alex and Juliane Hoder
Ben and Danielle Vaichus
Karen and Darren Hale
Luke Sisson
Joe Niatopsky
My mom and dad
Dee Niatopsky
John and Donna Salinardi
5 Anonymous donors
Those who dropped money in the bucket when PR gave the opportunity to support me.
Also, everyone who sent me stickers, cards, notes and letters of encouragement, please stand.
-God, thank you for their generosity and obedience. We ask that you would continue to call each of these faithful servants to higher and more glorious levels of trust and obedience. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

My experience with obedience: leaving home, Leaving the land of familiar was more difficult than pursuing this kingdom dream.
But I was not the only one who pursued it:
There are 400+ crewmembers living on the ship of all ages and close to 40 nationalities-some come from impoverished nations as well and we all have to raise our own support to be on the ship.

Above are photos to illustrate the diversity in age. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t a white, 20-something, all female crew of nurses. There are families, newlyweds, newlyweds with a baby, nearly retired with grandchildren, miss suzie—she turned 72 on Tuesday, crew with celiac disease, highschool grads, and even “dog mom’s”.
-Please don’t make me a hero because I am using “this time in my life.” There is no time of life that God doesn’t ask for obedience.
-Please don’t say “I could never do that.” Obedience has been difficult for some of the crew and it would dishonor them to assume that their choice was easy, convenient or well-timed.
-As you listen to the remainder of my message this evening. Don’t listen out for the things I have done. Instead, tune your ears to what God is doing for the hopeless and for your church family on the other side of the globe.

2) The Mission
Matthew 25:33-40 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Acts 4:32-35 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Question: What group of people is Jesus referring to in these passages? Christian! The family of God.
Conclusion: God has charged us to take care of our own…And we have “family” all over the world that we are called to care for!

James 1:27- widows and orphan
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Psalm 82:3 – the oppressed
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

Question: What groups of people is Jesus referring to in these passages? Widows, orphans, and oppressed whether in God’s family or not.
Conclusion: Our charge is twofold. Let us not forget our own. It may sound a little like the mafia, but we are truly supposed to take care of our own! Think of how much more effective our brothers and sisters would be if they were cared for!

Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Question: Go into all the world and…evangelize? Nope. MAKE DISCIPLES.

Note: I think it is an important distinction to make—I was not directly fulfilling this scripture in my time away. What I was doing was setting up my Malagasy brothers, sisters, mother, fathers, and grandparents to more effectively disciple those in their community. I have left the country—I cannot honestly say that I was making disciples. If anything, I was putting good compost in the ground and planting some seeds. My Malagasy family of Christ will be doing more planting, watering and harvesting now because Mercy Ships has brought hope and healing. Do we share the gospel, yes of course. But I don’t want to take credit for discipleship when it is my Malagasy family and some long-term missionaries in Madagascar that will be putting in the harder work.
Mercy Ships Mission statement: To bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor following the 2000 year model of Jesus.
Video: Sambany, 5 minutes
Doctor Gary’s famous quote: In order for hope to be credible in the future, it must be tangible in the present.

3) Storytime!
During my time on Mercy Ships, I was assigned to care for two particular surgical specialties: While Dr. Tertius was on board: Plastics- which released severe contractures caused by burns and also dealt with some cosmetic appearances that might prevent a child from being accepted or ever marrying such as extra or enlarged fingers/toes etc. Between his two blocks of surgery in the fall and spring, I took care of orthopedic patients while Dr. Frank and his wife were on board. My particular role with the plastics patients was on the dressings team…

However, I am going to show you just a few recent patients. If you want to see more, there will be laptops set up after service with more photos and videos to view.

Meet Sassy Sasilene: “I like to moush it”; ridiculous manly giggle
Snuggly Sasimeny: Only girl in her family. Her brother was her caregiver in the hospital.

Effervescent Elina: Tough story to hear. Many of our Plastics patients have traumatic PREoperative stories. Hers was no exception. She was burned exactly one year ago in April…*story* her burn was too fresh to do surgery in the Fall of last year, so she came into our outpatients clinic for dressing changes on her open wounds until the spring when she was cautiously approved for surgery. She has had 4 surgeries to date. Most of our patients only need one surgery—but her burns are so deep that multiple skin grafts failed in certain places. The last report that I received was that our Maxilloffacial surgeon gave it one last attempt- a “hail mary” of sorts…and it looks great. The graft is taking, about 70% of the wound is now closed… she is healing!

The three of them were like the three musketeers when I left. Once as I was making my way down the hospital hallway from the dressings room to the stairwell up to the cafeteria…before I did, I stopped at the ward to say hi…and when I left they followed me skipping and holding my hands all the way down the hallway singing/yelling the song “I like to move it, move it.”

Another patient that touched my heart in a very real way was Angeline. She had a neurofibroma that grew out from her scalp and hung over her right eye. She had one perfectly good eye, but she would never raise her head or make eye contact. Her physical transformation was drastic, but removing the source of her rejection could not remove the lies in her heart.

One morning before work I was having my quiet time…I asked God to let me feel the depth of his emotion.
That day, Angeline was on our list in the dressings room…she had caught my attention when I assisted Dr. Tertius with the first postop dressing, so I volunteered to do her dressing that day…as we usually do with our patients, I tried to break the ice and talk to her (through a translator of course)…she wouldn’t say a thing…I kept trying, but the translator said “she doesn’t speak.” But she was not mute…
As I was cleaning her wounds I almost burst into tears…I suddenly saw it…she didn’t believe she was valuable or worthy of love… I couldn’t let her believe that. The thing that gets under my skin faster and easier than anything else is when people believe a lie. That dressing was the beginning of the “three things”….
I spoke them. No reaction. Momma smiled and nodded, but nothing from Angeline. So back the ward they went—head still hanging, eyes still downcast.

Every two days, I did her dressing… one day her wound swab came back positive for infection…so we started to do her dressing every day instead of every two days…and as long as I was working, I always did Angeline’s dressing…tied a bow around her head…and repeated the three things…
I wondered if God gave her that infection so that I could interact with her every day in the dressings room…
Over time…she began to answer questions I asked…she was less timid…she would look me in the eye when I looked at her…and then…she began to smile…
*After photos*

But those small moments I had with her could not have happened if I was a solo mission…I could be love to Angeline through nursing…because others gave of themselves too…

4) Leaving
Leaving the “land of familiar” in August was hard…but it was way harder to leave Madagascar. In September, I am going back to the ship…but we won’t be in Madagascar. We’ll be in Benin, West Africa (photo)…I will see some volunteers again…but the day crew that translated for us? I’ll never see them again. The patients I spent hours with? I’ll never know in this life what their outcomes were.
The night before I left, I went to the wards to visit the plastics patients that were still left…I prayed for them, hugged, cried, told them I loved them. One adult patient walked with me down the hallway with her arm around me as I left… My only reassurance that I repeated to my patients was, “If you keep Jesus in your heart, I’ll see you again in heaven.”

5) The Challenge is this:
God has written eternity in your heart…not just to realize that you need salvation, but to realize an eternity-minded dream. Whether it is in the forefront of your mind or buried deep, God has given you a dream that involves meeting the needs of others somehow.
God has the power to snap his fingers and fix every injustice, illness and broken situation. But that’s not how He does things. God’s method of salvation…was a man on a cross. God’s method of fixing what is broken…is through men, women, people! That’s just how He does business.
You can live for anything you want. You’re in America—literally, the world is open before you. But my challenge is this: Get before God and unearth that dream inside you that will have an impact in eternity.

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