Why Go

I am writing shortly after the news arrived about the death of Tom Little and nine others on a medical mission in Afghanistan. I knew Tom personally for years.

As a professional optometrist, Tom could have lived a gentle life in a safe, comfortable community. He didn’t. Instead, he and his wife chose to serve in a country perpetually at war. They did it because of Jesus.

When I was flying home after serving in the Middle East, I had a unique experience. I felt as if God’s Spirit was speaking to my heart about my own country. This kind of communication does not happen often to me, but it did that day. The words, spoken with authority and love and directness, said simply: “Your country is selfish. It is obsessed with its own security and wealth.”

That’s it. Nothing more followed.

For years, I have wondered about those words. What did God mean by telling me such a thing? To warn me to be careful about safety and comfort and money-making? To suggest that maybe these things could totally deceive a soul? Perhaps.

One thing I do know is this — the cure to selfishness is serving. There is nothing like an old-fashioned, self-denying, pouring-out-your-life kind of giving. During their last week, Tom and the others trudged it out on horseback through deep snow drifts high in the mountains as they sought out remote villages. When they finally reached their destination, word quickly spread and, soon, hundreds came to receive medical care.

On the trip back, Tom said that everyone was exhausted. But it was a good exhaustion, the kind that comes when you know you have served God with your whole heart.

Not many of us have a friend who becomes a martyr. As soon as I heard the news about Tom it sobered me up. It put things in perspective. I stopped fretting over what colour to paint my balcony — it just did not seem that important anymore. It also created within me a desire to serve like Tom did —pouring out one’s life, knowing that it gives the greater satisfaction.

You may be asking, “Why should I go? Why should I leave a life of comfort and safety? Why should I leave an efficient, safe community with fine hospitals, schools and stores?”

Just ask Tom. In Afghanistan he was known to many everywhere simply as “Doctor Tom” — he served so much, teaching Afghans what a true Christian can be like.

Perhaps someone reading this will feel called to go and serve. You may end up giving away thirty years of your life and then die just as Tom did. If so, do not fear such a calling. I remember talking with Tom about the dangers. In reply, he told me of the time when God miraculously protected him from a bullet. He spoke nonchalantly and without fear, as if talking about the weather. He spoke like that because he knew: when we serve God with our whole hearts, our lives and our deaths are in God’s hands.

Just what do you want to live your life for anyway?