Jobs in the medical field often provide opportunities for believers to work in least-reached communities while opening doors to share the hope of Christ. Below, Christar worker Neal* shares a day in his life as a medical professional in the Middle East.
Just for a minute, I stay in bed after the alarm sounds, listening to the morning calm, to my wife, Jen’s, gentle breathing and to the distant hum of the city below. I’m exhausted, but ready for another day. Last night four coworkers from the hospital who have become good friends were at our home for dinner. Dinner in this culture always stretches into late-night discussions that extend past our bedtime.
I swing my feet to the side of the bed as I think about that conversation last night. Our friends are so open and curious about Jesus. It’s amazing! They were so excited to ask questions about our faith. This isn’t the first time our conversations have turned to spiritual things with these four. But this time felt different; they were hungry for truth and pushing for answers that went beyond the differences between their faith and ours. Praise God!
My mind continues to play through last night’s talk as I prep for my day at the hospital. I love this job. In the years we have been overseas, I’ve had a handful of jobs in a handful of cities, but the year and a half at this hospital has definitely been one of my favorites. There are so many employees who are open to conversation and friendship here. They seem ready to talk about faith as soon as I have a chance to bring it up.
I’ve showered and eaten and now settle at my desk to continue my study of 1 John. I think about light in this country a lot—not just because the sun is oppressively hot and bright for most of the year. I consider again my continuous opportunity to be a light to my coworkers, to our neighbors and to our kids’ teachers. We are always being watched because people here are so curious about Americans. Because lying and cheating can be so commonplace—expected even—we’ve got a steady stream of chances to stand out as different. It’s downright unusual to be light here.
Jen and the boys are awake now, and I’ve got about 10 minutes to get out the door. My two sons drowsily eat breakfast while Jen finalizes her grocery list. We talk over details for the day and plans for this evening. My wife is excited this morning because she’s headed out to pick up a woman we met three weeks ago at a gathering at a local park. They plan to go to the grocery store, and Jen will likely spend time visiting in the woman’s home after that. She’s eager for any chance to share the joy that wells up in her heart from knowing Jesus and His peace.
I say goodbye to the boys and Jen and head down to my car. The sun is already brightly reflecting off the tall buildings. Summer heat is arriving, and we’re particularly thankful to live in a country where air conditioning is prevalent.
My short commute is invaluable to me. It’s when I turn on worship music and pray about the day. My job gives us the chance to live in this country, and I love what I do. I still can’t believe we’ve been able to use my work as a medical professional to live here where we can share the love of God on a full-time basis with those who seek His peace.
By now, this place is home for us. We’re raising our kids here, we’ve made friends, learned the language, discipled new believers here. We’ve cried with friends who have been rejected by their families because of their new faith. We’ve moved our belongings to new apartments in various cities throughout this region. Our favorite café and grocery store are here.
I quickly swerve to avoid a car pulling out dangerously close to me and laugh to myself—we have been in this place long enough to feel at ease even with the different styles of driving! Honestly, I’m a little amazed by the depth of our love for this country and for its people. For that, God is to be praised!
I park in the hospital’s garage, grab my bag and jump out of the car to start my shift. The distinct hospital smell that greats me triggers memories of my early days studying medicine.
It was back in college that I first felt God’s call to missions. Early on, I saw how I could use my professional skills to work in places that would be tricky to get to without a work permit. These days, organizations call me a “marketplace professional,” but essentially my job is what enables my family to live in a closed country where the least-reached are my coworkers, my kids’ teachers and our neighbors.
The day rushes by as I visit with patients and study charts. Soon, it will be time for lunch and I’m looking forward to resting my feet. Breaks are also the most natural place to practice intentionality with coworkers. I’ve developed a good rapport with the other international staff, but my intentional friendships are with the locals, those who have never heard of the truth of Christ’s love. I seek to befriend, eat with and invite the least-reached into my life.
Light shines in darkness. I think of what I read this morning in 1 John: “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 (ESV) My prayer is that my friends and coworkers would notice this light I walk in, so that they might recognize and confess their sin and experience the cleansing from unrighteousness God promises to those who walk in the light.
People watch me and are always curious. At work it’s commonplace for people to ask deep questions about my faith over the photocopier, back by the employees’ coffeepot or in between patients. Ever since Jen and I moved here, people seem drawn to us. They are comfortable sharing thoughts about God and religion with us. In the medical world, talking of life and death is a daily thing, and it often leads to spiritual conversations with coworkers and patients. When I’m intentional about it, I’m given frequent opportunities to speak of Christ, to answer the questions about why we are different by pointing to Him.
I feel a bit drowsy. I blame it on last night’s late bedtime. But that conversation—it’s giving me goose bumps now just remembering it—was well worth this drowsiness.
Today’s eight-hour shift is over. I clock out, grab my bag and head toward the hospital exit. I see a coworker I’ve had some good chats with in the last month and hustle to join him as he heads to his car. He’s a nice guy who is always smiling. I ask how his family is doing; he jokes that my Arabic is worse when I’m tired. I tease him that his is too. By the time we’ve reached our cars, I’m inviting his family to meet up with ours for a picnic dinner tomorrow night in a park near our homes. He accepts the invitation, and we finish our talk quickly since we’re both sweating in the hot parking garage.
I’m home now, and have cleaned up from work and relaxed a bit. Jen walks in the door, ecstatic about her day with her new friend. What was planned as a morning grocery store errand did indeed lead to several hours at the lady’s house, where several of the woman’s friends joined to meet her new American pal. Jen was even asked to come to her home for lunch again on Friday to answer questions about America. These kinds of invitations come so often for Jen—for one because she is so great with people, but also because for these women having a fascinating foreigner in their home when their husbands are at work is an opportunity to dream and relax. The best thing about these situations is that the women are hungry to hear about Jen’s culture and her values. With those questions, it is almost impossible for Jen not to bring up her desire to serve the Son of God in all she does.
So much feels “normal” here—a call to prayer sounding five times a day, the extreme isolation of women, the sweat from walking a short distance to your car, the scent of incense when you enter malls and homes. Being here was a calling for Jen and for me. It has been a walk of faith and is not always easy, and I’m amazed at God’s grace in keeping us here.
While the boys work on homework, Jen and I compare notes for the week. There are so many opportunities to spend time with new friends that we need to be sure to block out some calm nights for our family to be together and relax.
When people back in America ask me about my life here, I explain that it’s as if I’ve got two jobs. I have my “job job” at the hospital that gives our family the chance to live here and my “real job”: working to be intentional in all we do as a family, to connect with our community, to model Christ’s love and to make people curious about why we seem so different.
Tonight is one of those calm nights. Tomorrow night, we’ll have the picnic dinner with my coworker’s family. The night after that is our weekly Bible study. Then, the weekend holds an informal soccer meetup with some of the men; Jen will go to a women’s group from church on Saturday afternoon and then on Saturday evening we’ll head to the international church we’re part of. Our life brims with intentionality and strategy. We are here to love those in our life and point them to Christ at any chance we get.
We finish eating and clean up the kitchen. I sit down to read emails. My inbox seems to constantly need my attention with a steady stream of messages from team members and our sending organization, as well as updates from family and friends across the ocean. Then I text a few local friends to see how they are and remind them of the Bible study this week at our house. I organize my thoughts and plans for the study, then update our budget and pay some bills. I’ve moved down my to-do list and decide it’s enough for one evening. I head back out to the kitchen where the boys are nearing the end of their homework. Our oldest son needs some help with his math, and I sit down to give him a hand.
We’re all turning in early tonight. Jen and I are worn out. We’ve got to be careful not to push ourselves to an unhealthy exhaustion. That means we’re early to bed on nights like tonight. I spend a few minutes reading and then pray through my list of friends whom I’ve invited to this week’s Bible study.
The lights are out impressively early for our house. Soft breathing signifies that Jen has fallen asleep beside me. There’s a stillness in the air as I lie in bed considering what a gigantic gift this all is. I live in this beautiful culture with my family. I practice medicine while pointing curious friends and coworkers to Christ. I think about how thankful I am, and I drift into a deep sleep.
How can I get involved?
- Praise God for opening doors for believers to live and serve in least-reached communities by working as medical professionals.
- Pray that many people will be drawn to the hope they see displayed in the lives of these workers.