Have you ever considered serving on a short term mission trip using your profession? Have you ever imagined how your skills could be a blessing to many people in poor communities?
Learn about Matthew Geary, a physical therapist, who dedicated some time serving with his whole heart and skills in Indonesia and Sertao of Brazil.
As you read this interview, please prayerfully ask God where else you can serve with the gifts, talents, and skills He gave to you.
WNI: Did you ever think it was possible to use your degree/profession in missions?
MG: I knew that a degree in healthcare would open some doors for medical mission work, but I was definitely unsure of how I might be able to fully utilize that for Christian missions. I really don't even feel like I gotten past the tip of the iceberg in regards to utilizing my knowledge and skill sets in the field, but going to places like the Sertao in Brazil or to the jungle in Indonesia, where healthcare and the general standards of living are so different than in the U.S., I found that knowledge we would take for granted is very useful and applicable to the host populations. For example, it is easy for us to take for granted our access to clean water, our access to basic dental care, or the practices of good hygiene after using the restroom or before handling food. It doesn't take a degree in healthcare for many of us to have an appreciation for these things, but for some populations in the mission field, sharing what we would consider to be basic knowledge or common sense can have a profound impact on those we encounter. Another experience that I had in Brazil was when we visited a small village to share our testimonies with some locals and a young mother had a concern about the health of her baby's arm. The baby was fine and her concern was rooted more in superstition than anything, but she was just happy to see ANYONE with a background in healthcare and have them say her baby was ok. It gave her peace that she may have otherwise not been able to experience. In Indonesia, I was able to share just a glimpse of the importance of taking care of our bodies with the mission training center students. It was profound for me to be able to share a glimpse of my expertise about how to take care of our bodies physically, the effect that it can have on us spiritually and emotionally, and how it can ultimately help better prepare us to glorify God and spread the Gospel.
WNI: That leads into the next question, explain how it was for you personally to be able to use your skills and profession to serve on a short term mission trip?
MG: Like I said, it was profound. I was able to go into a place that had obvious needs and provide what I would call the smallest contribution, yet at the same time the level of appreciation and hospitality from the host communities was overwhelming. Some of the things that we were able to help them with, such as bringing small personal hygiene kits made up of donated shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes, and toothpaste, really didn't even have anything to do with my profession or skill set. As a physical therapist I am certainly an advocate for general well-being and a holistic approach to health, but dental care is far from my pursuit The look on the students’ faces when we gave them the kits made me forget all about physical therapy. It also really struck a chord with me and gave me pause when they asked me to demonstrate how to use the products. Again, we just take so many things for granted.
WNI: How would you encourage other professionals in the medical area or different fields to use their training in the mission field?
MG: The biggest thing that I would encourage people to prayerfully consider is attending a short term mission trip regardless of their profession and regardless of whether or not they can identify how they could best use their professional training. First, we are all called to make disciples of all nations, so regardless of professional expertise or credentials, we can do that. Second, God may have a use for you that is so far off your radar that you may not even know you are qualified until you get there. We certainly all have skills and gifts that can be used for God's kingdom and we can make a plan of how to best utilize those in the mission field, but I have personally been surprised at how something that we might consider so insignificant or minor can have such a meaningful impact on those we go to serve. For example, we did not have much down time while in Indonesia, but the one afternoon where I found myself with a few hours free I was able to sit and just talk with several of the students from the mission training center. We talked about their backgrounds and their families. We taught each other some words in our respective languages. It was just a few hours spent building relationships and bonding with brothers and sisters in Christ, and I think everyone left feeling more encouraged - maybe me more than anyone.
WNI: Which other activities have you done besides using Physical Therapy during your STM?
MG: Honestly, I still don't feel like I have fully utilized my skills as a physical therapist in the mission field, but it was great going and seeing first hand the needs of the people in Brazil and Indonesia, as there is definitely a place for me and other health care providers to apply our skill and knowledge. Aside from that, I have had the opportunity to share a devotional with the mission training center students, share a message with a church in Brazil, share my testimony with locals, and build relationships with people that I would have otherwise never known. I have other skills, as do we all, that I have also been able to utilize in the field that had a great impact on the people there. First, thanks to the generosity of many friends and family, I was able to raise enough funds to help the mission training center purchase the necessary material and tools to help build some much-needed bunk beds to help increase the capacity of the dorm rooms. Once we there, I was able to help the pastor build the beds too.
WNI: What is the biggest tip that you can leave for someone wanting to do a short term mission (STM) trip to Indonesia with us?
I would say pray very intentionally about it, and if you felt led, make the leap and go for it. One thing that I have learned over the past year going on two short term mission trips is that it is ok to feel unprepared and anxious about participating in a mission trip. It's probably normal, as our enemies do not want the Gospel spread and do not want us to grow. Ultimately, God does not expect us to be perfect, but He does call us to be obedient. None of us are perfectly equipped for a mission as we see it, but God can use us perfectly according to His plan and will.