The Ripple Effect
by Lynsey Ann Hocker, PharmD
Today's Christian Doctor - Winter 2011
It amazes me how many times I can read the same set of passages over and over without being affected. And then it clicks—like an “ah-ha” moment courtesy of the Holy Spirit—and human wisdom turns to spiritual insight. Well, that is exactly what occurred on this day.
The date was May 2, 2010, and it was a warm Sunday afternoon on my porch in East Tennessee. I had just finished eating lunch and was reflecting on a chapter from John Piper’s book Future Grace in my journal when it hit me: I had been putting God in a box. In the months preceding this day, my focus had been slowly shifting from God to myself and now I realized it. So I cried out to the Lord to restore my heavenly perspective. I ended my journal entry for the day by thanking the Lord for this revelation, totally surrendering my ways and petitioning Him to “guide me in your way and make it clear what you want me to pursue.”
I didn’t have to wait long for His response. But before I share the Lord’s answer, allow me to provide a little background. At the time of this journal entry, I had been on faculty at East Tennessee State University’s Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy as an Assistant Professor for almost a year. During my interview for the position, I shared my dream of participating in international mission work although I had yet to travel in this capacity. I always had the desire to serve, but the timing never worked out until my focus shifted back toward God.
The date was May 4, 2010, a mere two days after that “ah-ha” moment on my front porch. I arrived at my office, turned on my computer and began checking my email. To my excitement, I had a forwarded email from Dr. Bill Bridgforth announcing that he was in desperate need of any pharmacy help for the upcoming GHO trip to Zambia. My excitement rapidly dissipated when I realized the departure date of the trip was June 16, 2010, only a few weeks away. There was no way I could clear my schedule that quickly to go to Africa for two and a half weeks. I had university and hospital commitments, as well as two new pharmacy students starting on rotation. I quickly replied to the email expressing my disappointment, but told him to keep me in mind for future trips. I sent off a few more emails and headed over to the hospital for normal morning rounds. Nothing could have prepared me for what awaited when I returned to my office.
By the end of the day, my schedule was cleared, my commitments were released and my partner had graciously picked up my students. What I thought couldn’t be accomplished in a matter of weeks was organized in a mere four hours.
As I reflect on this day’s events, I am thankful we serve a God who fulfills His promises not based on our actions, but rather on His character. Jesus tells us in Matthew 17:20, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” I’ve learned from this passage and my experiences that it isn’t the size of my faith that matters; rather it is the object of my faith that holds the importance. When God is the object of my faith and I am sincerely and totally surrendered to Him, then He is willing and able to move. To use the words of my dear friend and mentor Grace Hamrick, that Sunday afternoon revelation turned my response into “Lord I can’t, but you can.” I believe this is what He desires to hear from His children. When He hears those words, get ready because the impossible becomes the possible!
I hadn’t thought it was possible, but I was officially a pharmacist on the GHO team within a few days. The realm of the impossible was pushed even further away as I was able to simultaneously retain my faculty appointment to evaluate this opportunity as a potential international experience for pharmacy students in their fourth year of training.
As I boarded the plane a few weeks later in Washington, D.C., I breathed a sigh of relief to have finally made it and then gratitude poured from my heart. The Lord orchestrated an incredible series of events to show the depth of His love and grace through the eagerness and willingness of the faculty and staff at the college to make this trip a reality. I was truly blessed to have been an eyewitness to nothing short of a miracle! As for the trip, the experience was amazing to put it mildly. However, I must echo a word of caution from my good friend Ron Brown about going on a GHO trip, “it will ruin your life, but for the better.”
Upon my return to the U.S., the Lord brought to my mind the verse from Luke 12:48b, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” From then on, I knew the Lord had allowed me to go on the trip and experience the developing world so that I could help teach the next generation of pharmacy students to do the same. It is my heart’s desire that all of the pharmacy students have an opportunity to travel with GHO. I believe it will radically change their lives for the glory and honor of our Lord if they are willing.
As life returned to normal back in East Tennessee, I fought to remain in a surrendered position before the Lord. As a result, a colleague and I developed an international rotation for fourth-year pharmacy students at the Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy, and I had the utmost privilege of returning to Zambia along with five pharmacy students in June 2011. It was a success, as you will read from the words of one of my students who caught the vision as it’s written in Psalms, “One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). That moment on my front porch altered my faith, my life and my workplace. And it continues to alter the lives of my students. I pray that your eyes will open to see your own “ah-ha” moment, so the Lord can do the same in your faith, your life and your workplace.
The Ripple Effect Continues
by Ryan Love
It had never really occurred to me before that you could spread the Word and still practice your chosen profession. I assumed that it had to be one or the other, and certainly not both.
But then, when I was a teenager, a married couple from my church gave up their careers as a dentist and a registered nurse in the United States to answer God’s call to be full-time medical missionaries. And my viewpoint changed.
When Dr. Hocker informed us that she would be taking students on her next trip to Zambia during a presentation on her experiences at an Academy of Student Pharmacists meeting last fall, I knew I wanted to get involved. So I joined the trip.
As we prepared for our trip, Dr. Hocker constantly told us to be prepared to have our world shaken. I don’t think I fully appreciated these statements until after we returned to the U.S. I have always been thankful for my situation in life, but I never realized how fortunate I really am. To illustrate this point, I would like to share three situations I experienced in Zambia and their effect on me and my viewpoint.
On one of the first days in the clinic, I was counseling an older lady on taking an anti-inflammatory drug. As usual, I told her to take it with food to avoid an upset stomach. The lady politely smiled and shook her head while the young boy with her snickered. All of a sudden, it hit me. This lady might not eat today. I take it for granted that we can have a snack whenever we need to take medications. I had always thanked God for the food before me when I ate, but this patient helped to give these prayers an even deeper meaning.
The second example also happened during those first few days of clinic. A mother brought in her three-week-old newborn with a cleft palette. The child was not able to suckle and was wasting away to nothing. She brought her infant daughter to our clinic in the hope that we could do something to help. Unfortunately, this was beyond the scope of care in our clinic, and all we could do was offer prayer for her and her child. This visibly shook everyone in the pharmacy. Our team leader Dr. Bill Bridgforth stepped up next to me and inquired how many people I had in my pharmacy class. When I responded that we had 78, he looked at me and said, “You know, if everyone in your class gave up Starbucks for one day, we could fix this child.” Talk about having your toes stepped on!
This point was emphasized even more to me a few weeks later while I was on clinical rotation at our local hospital. I had forgotten my cup of coffee as I left my house, so I thought I would just go to the café in the hospital and grab a cup. As I stood in line, I looked at the prices and the image of that poor mother and child flashed in my head. It brought me to tears, and I walked away without coffee.
Dr. Bill also played a role in my final story. As we were packing up the clinic one day, one of the providers came to the pharmacy and asked if we had a spare pair of shoes in the pharmacy. She had a young man whose feet were in horrible condition and had no shoes to wear. Without hesitation, Dr. Bill slipped his shoes off and handed them to her. To me, that was one of the most selfless acts I had ever seen, and that image still sticks with me today.
I do not want to give the impression that this trip was a “downer” or completely depressing. In fact, it was quite the opposite of that. I have always considered myself a compassionate person, but this trip made me even more so. God working through the people of Zambia helped me a hundred times more than I was ever able to help them. This trip also was a humbling experience for me as I learned to rely on God; alone, I am not able to do what is needed. The people of Zambia are beautiful and joyous, even though they have little to nothing from the viewpoint of the world. They are alive in our Lord and trust in Him fully to provide for them. That has deeply convicted me. When I get frustrated during clinicals or mad because my WiFi isn’t working, I stop and think about the joy my brothers and sisters have in Zambia.
As we were leaving the clinic towards the end of our time in Zambia, one of our translators said to me, “Mwila shimya mulilo.” Roughly translated, it means, “Do not let the fire die.” That is something I strive for and pray about daily. At the same time that those three situations were working to transform my viewpoint, the Lord was also lighting a fire in me. That fire has made me more mindful of everything I do. Although I don’t think that I’m meant to be a full-time missionary, this trip made me realize that I can participate in short-term trips. The Lord has entrusted me with much, and he expects much in return. What better way to show his awesome love than to care for those who have the least access to it.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Linsey Ann Hocker, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist who completed a two-year pharmacy residency at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center specializing in infectious diseases with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS. She recently stepped down as an Assistant Professor at the Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy in order to pursue her dreams of full-time medical mission work and discipleship. She has served on several short-term medical mission trips with Global Health Outreach and continues to be an advocate for pharmacy student participation in such endeavors.
Ryan Love is currently a fourth year PharmD candidate at the Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy at ETSU. He was blessed to be part of “Team Zambia” with Dr. Hocker and four of his fellow pharmacy students. This was his first experience with short-term medical missions and he looks forward to making it a continued part of his life. He did his undergraduate course work at the University of Tennessee and is an avid Volunteer fan. His current areas of interest are progressing the pharmacy profession by being a front line healthcare team member giving immunizations, conducting medication therapy management sessions and finding cost effective medications for patients. In his spare time, Ryan enjoys live music and Tennessee Volunteer football.