Final thoughts from Dr. Tim Mead, who served CURE from 1998 to 2018.
Greetings from Tim and Jana Mead! I am enjoying a nice dark mug of Kenya AA coffee as I write out my thoughts. Over the years, my various coffees have been a companion to my musings and sharing of life as a missionary family. These letters started out as a way to reassure Jana’s and my family that we were really safe and healthy even though we were living across the world from them. In 1998, Kenya had no Internet, Facetime, cell phones, or apps. Email only worked sporadically. The American Embassy in Nairobi had been bombed just before we left Muskegon.
Over the years, friends asked to be added to the mailing list. I had to learn how to make a group mailing list. I learned about BCC. What is a digital camera? How do you add a picture? Can I make it smaller? The list kept growing much to my amazement.
I truly have an amazing family. Just imagine your spouse coming home one day and saying, “I think we need to go to Africa as a family to work.” To many, this would be considered bizarre behavior in need of counseling. Jana took it all in stride. Even though Jana hates to fly and was not sure what―if anything―she and four kids could do, she agreed to go. Then, just to add another element of interest, we agreed to have a friend’s niece that we did not know go along. This trip was in 1997 and planned for about six weeks: our “once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-repeated trip to Africa.”
At the time, there was a severe drought in the Kijabe region, so the vegetable ladies had little to sell. We had no vehicle; shopping required much creativity on Jana’s part. I was swamped in the hospital doing operations and running clinics. Choices were limited for the kids and Jana as they were living in a strange place. The challenges were many and varied for everyone.
I met Scott Harrison in the Kijabe hospital. We were both volunteering our orthopedic skills for the month. Later, Scott and his wife Sally had to shuffle houses as new visitors arrived. We invited them to share our guest house. We were not using all the bedrooms as the kids were sharing rooms.
During this time, Jana and Sally were able to spend time together. All too often, we are too focused on one family member’s activities and we forget the rest of the family. Without Jana being with me―supporting me, caring for our children, listening to my complaints, giving me hugs, being an active community member, mentoring so, so many―I would never go. I firmly believe God calls the entire family when He lays a vision on your heart. All members have vital roles to serve. Some will be up front and clearly visible while others will serve as Christ served, in humble tasks without accolades. Both are critical to success. Recently, I heard a message about 1 Corinthians 12:12 about parts of the body, which reinforced this picture. We all serve as a part of the body, and the church with Christ as the head. Some are very visible and up front; others are not so. But the parts the world calls “weaker” are here called “indispensable.”
Our 1997 trip was a huge success because we went. Talk became action. We experienced many new things. I operated upon many in need. We were privileged to see the amazing animals of the Masai Mara. We lived eating what was available in a house that was much different from our home. We missed family and friends.
We came home.
That 1997 trip would be enough to be a family highlight, but God was not done. Scott shared his vision of an integrated spiritual-medical ministry to children with physical disabilities. I saw the hospital and its vision even though only a few stone blocks were in place. Jana could see us working with the children in need.
Going for a short trip versus leaving for a longer time is an entirely different challenge. Knowing when you are returning, you can count the days and “suck it up.” As a short-term surgeon faced with difficult problems with limited equipment and resources, you can quickly pass or be thankful your time is nearly over. Missing your friends and family for a few weeks or month can be tough, but moving and needing to seek new friends is stressful.
There are also so many other questions. What should we do with the house? What about pets? How can we support ourselves? What about health insurance? What about our cars and stuff? Who will help us figure out taxes and bill payments? How do we vote? What about school for the kids? How about sports? What will we eat? What will the house be like where we will live? Can we get a car? How will we drive on the wrong side of the road? How dangerous is Kenya? So many questions.
We left for Kenya.
I still remember my fears and doubts as we packed to leave. Time has passed by so quickly. Jana and I have watched as our children grew, graduated from the Rift Valley Academy and returned to the U.S. for university. Michael joined our family, graduated from high school and moved to the U.S. for university as well. CURE International also grew in size and matured as a ministry. Training national doctors to become orthopedic surgeons allowed Jana and I to be moved to other locations to serve other peoples. The journey so far has been amazing. We could never have envisioned all the various roles Jana and I would play around the world.
When I finished my confirmation classes as a junior high student living in small town Iowa, my pastor, Dr. Richard Troast, selected a “confirmation verse” to commemorate the day. My verse, John 14:21, has followed me all my life. Whenever big life decisions loom, the verse appears in my life: a quote by a speaker, a reading, my thoughts. It varies.
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
For Jana and me, becoming missionaries was not about an adventure or even what exactly we were to do. Obedience is the key. We were called to serve. We had a choice: to obey or not. Life would have looked very different for us and our family if we said no. God would have used someone else to do this work. As we prepared, I was guided by other verses to lead my actions.
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17, 18
Love and action in truth should be visible signs of followers of Christ.
The month of May marks another time of transition for the Meads. May 7 was my last day as a CURE International missionary. We have resigned our position and will wait to see what God has for us next. Our recent time in Kenya with the CURE Orthopedic surgeons confirmed to me that CURE has a strong cadre of leadership serving the children in the field. The CURE doctors, spiritual directors, and administrators will be strong advocates that will pursue the vision God gave Scott and Sally many years ago. I will miss sipping local coffees in various countries and writing my thoughts. Who knows? God may still have that option in my future. All I know is that where ever Jana and I serve, whatever we are called to do, we will always seek to serve in His grip.