Small difficulties and last-minute changes always pop-up during a short-term mission trip. For instance, two years ago the car rental agency gave our “reserved” mini-vans to someone else. And last year, the Vacation Bible School in the city suburbs became a kids’ club on a First Nations (native North Americans) Reservation. I always encourage mission teams to be flexible, to expect lots of little problems. But a heart attack is more than a little problem.

Recently I led a volunteer mission team from my West Texas church to Calgary, pict00121Alberta. Our team of twelve consisted of four adults and eight teens. We tackled several projects to help the local church fulfill their God-given call. Half of us – all the males – gladly helped a Calgary church with a major building expansion. In fact, the teenage boys loved taking sledge hammers to the cinder block wall that had to come down. The other half of us – the females – tackled two projects. First we canvassed a Calgary community of 3,000 homes with flyers to publicize an upcoming sports camp and a kids’ clubs. Then we painted student housing at the local seminary.

On Tuesday morning of our work week, Randy, one of the adult men, told me he had been sick during the night but was feeling much better. His symptoms? Headache, nausea, difficulty breathing, and a real heaviness in his chest. What? Uh oh. But Randy insisted he was fine, that there was not a problem with his heart. He had no history of heart trouble. So he ate breakfast and headed off with the guys to the worksite.

Half-way there Randy became sick again. This time he knew he needed to get medical help. Terry, our team’s other adult male, was driving. He dropped off the boys at the worksite and got Randy to a medical clinic. After hearing the symptoms they sent them straight to the hospital ER where the doctor confirmed that Randy had indeed had a mild heart attack. By Tuesday night, they had done an angiogram and an angioplasty, opening up the worst blockage with a stint.

The teen members of our team had lots of questions. Why would God ask Randy to come to Canada on a mission trip and then let him have a heart attack? Why didn’t God protect Randy? What is God’s purpose in all this? They looked to me, the team leader, for some answers. But to be honest, the teenagers weren’t the only ones with questions.

I was visiting Randy on Wednesday morning when his cardiologist came by on rounds. The angioplasty had gone well. Randy was stable and out of immediate danger. But he would have to immediately get under the care of a cardiologist back home. According to the doctor, if Randy had not had this relatively mild episode that revealed his heart condition, he would have had a massive heart attack within three months. Hmm, maybe God was in the middle of this after all.

Then God began to use Randy’s situation to teach us all something important. Every night during our trip the team spent more than an hour together discussing a Bible study on discipleship we were each doing individually during our quiet times. On Wednesday night we talked about why we hesitate to share Christ. We are afraid of how people will react. We aren’t sure what to stay. We don’t feel a sense of urgency because we think there is plenty of time. Well, Randy’s scare sure put that last one in perspective. We all realized that there is no guarantee for tomorrow, not for us and not for those who don’t know Jesus.

We can’t know God’s full purposes in allowing Randy’s heart attack while on a mission trip to another country. But we can trust that God does indeed have His purposes and that He cares for us in every circumstance. And God did allow us to see at least a little of what He was doing. For starters, Randy’s trip to Canada possibly saved his life. And God used a heart attack to teach eight teenagers – and four adults – that the time to share Christ is now.

Titus Bible Study

Join Kathy's mailing list to receive a free mini Bible study on the book of Titus.

Success! Check your inbox for the download link.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This