Do I (and my family) have what it takes to cope and flourish in a resource poor foreign culture? Humility, flexibility, adaptability and a willingness to learn and make do are important assets. Not everyone is suited or able to work overseas. As Christians, we are all called to mission; the question is where does God want us to fulfil that mission?
The major problem is often simply that of taking the first step. It's impossible to steer a parked car. God speaks but his voice becomes clearer as we step out in obedience and begin to move. Many seem to be waiting for a Damascus road experience before they will step out. The bottom line is that a 'call' often consists of simply seeing a particular need and appreciating that God has equipped me to meet that need.
Ask yourself these questions - check your answers with someone who knows you well
- Do I have a real interest in and respect for people of other cultures?
- Do I relate to others easily – especially those I would not normally choose as friends or colleagues?
- Am I willing to learn from colleagues who may be less qualified than I am?
- Do I have a reasonable level and variety of postgraduate experience?
- Am I willing to undertake further relevant postgraduate training?
- Would I be able to work in a new environment, away from family and friends?
- How would I cope with issues outside my area of expertise/training?
- Am I able to adapt to a situation where limited resources may prevent me from practising the standard of medicine that I am used to?
- Am I willing and able to use and develop appropriate local technology?
- Do I have a balanced attitude to medicine in relation to evangelism?
- Does my family situation allow me to spend time overseas at this time?
- Do I have the support of my local church fellowship in this undertaking?
- Do I have a sense of humour?
- Do I believe that this is God's purpose for me? This will help sustain you during periods of doubt
It is essential to 'know' yourself, to make a realistic assessment of your gifts and abilities; your personality type; your strengths and weaknesses; your limitations; what makes you tick? It is helpful to identify what Rick Warren and Erik Rees describe as your 'SHAPE'
What are your S
What is your H
What natural A
bilities do you have?
ersonality are you?
What life E
xperience do you have?
by Erik Rees (Published by Zondervan)
If you are going abroad with an agency, you will probably find that they will carry out such personality tests and assessments as a part of your interview process.
You can download questionnaires from Oscar - a Christian website which will help you answer the question 'Who am I?' www.oscar.org.uk/opportunity/vacancies/whoami.htm
Food for thought
The Psalmist tells us that if we delight ourselves in God, he will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37: 4). Do you know what you desire? Do you know what you want to see written on your tombstone or in your obituary – in terms of who you are and what you have done with your life?
The drawbacks of working overseas
Working overseas has its downside and this also needs to be carefully weighed. The counsel of trusted Christian friends and the advice and support of your church are important confirmations. How do you think you will respond to:
- The increased risk of sickness and accident?
- Things not quite working out as you expected?
- Security problems?
- Upset to work and career plans?
An elective or short visit overseas, contact with healthcare professionals who are working abroad, attendance at mission conferences, and surfing the internet will provide information and lead to a better understanding of what is involved. Working abroad can be very demanding but God enables those he calls to do what he has called them to (Philippians 4:13). He is not looking for 'perfect' people with no personal problems or character defects but simply those who are willing to be obedient and to step out in faith trusting him to enable and provide.
Common causes of premature return to the UK include:
- Inability to get on with colleagues
- Unrealistic expectations
- Road traffic accidents
- A depressed spouse, who wasn't fully in agreement with the move in the first place
- Inability to adapt to life in another culture