Are you a “missions-minded” vet student in your 3rd or 4th year of vet school? Do you have 4 weeks available to serve on the field? Do you want to receive hands-on training/one-on-one mentoring from a CVM Long-Term Field Worker? If so, then CVM’s Mission Apprenticeship program may be for you!
Applications to the Apprenticeship must be received by October 1st in order to be considered for the 2018-2019 school year.
Gretchen Landin, a fourth year vet student at University of Pennsylvania and a past CVM Missions Apprenticeship participant, traveled to Cameroon where she worked alongside Dr. Lewis for five weeks and explored the call to serve in overseas missions.
Gretchen was kind enough to share her thoughts on the experience! This is what she had to say.
Q: What did you learn about missions in general on this apprenticeship?
Gretchen: One overarching theme made evident to me was that flourishing in long-term missions requires in-country support as well as support from your home country. Not all aspects of your native lifestyle need to be surrendered to learn and live in a new culture. To remain healthy, mentally and physically, striking a balance between assimilation and alienation to a foreign culture is key for a life of ministry that can last beyond the short term. There is a reason that missions are a lifelong career for many. Progress can be hard to quantify and success does not always look like a huge harvest. This seems difficult coming from a ‘goal-oriented’ culture and results-driven systems. With that in mind, a support network in and out of country is essential for ministry. The individualistic mindset can be damaging to the individual, but also limiting to spiritual and professional growth. On a separate note, I was also reminded that when you support long-term missionaries with families you are also supporting the raising of missionary children with a unique and valuable view of the world. I guess I had just never considered the holistic aspect of missions to the family going as well as the people to whom they are sent to minister to.
Q: Did anything surprise you about long-term mission service?
Gretchen: I was surprised what long-term ‘racing’ looks like. Similar to one’s spiritual walk, long-term missions is not a continual peak of victory. It is not years of reaping harvests and unprecedented growth. Long term service can look like that, but if it does not, it does not indicate failure. Indeed, it may indicate a deeper character and unsung heroics by a missionary who is forging on while laboring and suffering as in Romans 5.
“Success breeds enthusiasm” was a commonly heard theme in Cameroon, but although we were on physical mountaintops, the overall atmosphere seemed to be in an uncharted valley of sorts with a culture that is changing and a ministry that is considering how to stay relevant to their community. The work that has been done there for many years is finding itself underutilized which was prompting thoughts of change. Change to a different type of mission altogether, or a different direction for the veterinary work. The aspect of arriving in a ‘valley’ of sorts was surprising to me but proved to be extremely informative and educational.
Q: What was encouraging to you about long-term mission service or about your host/mentor in particular?
Gretchen: Both Dr. Doug and his wife Stephanie are as convinced and content in their calling as they were 25 years ago. It was an encouraging to see that they have embraced missions wholeheartedly and have persevered through difficulties and are still persevering. Long term missions brings with it the amazing opportunity of deep relationships with a community and a vast knowledge of a particular animal health system as well as a disease spectrum and prevalence. With this wisdom and opportunity, much is being done to encourage the local church as well as improve veterinary medicine and husbandry in that particular area. Especially in an area like rural Cameroon, language skills as well as a knowledge of the inner workings of the different people groups and cultures, are absolutely essential for productive work. Seeing Dr. Doug and Stephanie with those exact skills committing to live and serve there was a clear example of how God can use each person’s gifts so perfectly for his kingdom.
Q: What was particularly challenging to you about this apprenticeship?
Gretchen: The slower pace of the work was actually quite challenging for me compounded by what was defined for me as ‘role deprivation’. Coming from clinics at Penn and some bustling rotations where a 20 minute dinner is considered a luxurious break, it was difficult to slow down! Adding to the brakes being applied in the veterinary realm, the same could be said about the time in the day after clinic hours. I think it was hard to be constantly be asking myself, “Is there something better that I should be doing right now? Should I try to go meet some new people here? Try to hike some of the area? Study like crazy for boards? Try and prepare for my next rotation? Is long term missions for me??”
I’d like to say that the slowing down and assimilating took only a week or so, but really the process of slowing down and being able to think deeply about missions is still hard! During my time on the apprenticeship, I was reminded of some of the negative aspects of the veterinary school environment; packed schedules and a unidirectional focus that have made this experience a good head turning of sorts to look beyond boards, graduation, my ‘five year plan’, and instead to my present spiritual walk and commitment to serve Christ first.
Q: How was your faith impacted as a result of your apprenticeship?
Gretchen: Being still in mind and heart allowed me to recognize and process what God was trying to teach me in Cameroon. The impact of the apprenticeship was to blow much needed oxygen and fuel onto my faith that was being stifled by a hectic schedule and misplaced priorities. With this new breath of silence, I saw my need to come to Christ first and was reaffirmed toward long term missions. The church members and farmers that I met also helped me more toward a deeper faith in God by reminding me of his power to change hearts and eventually communities.
Q: Did you hear anything from God specifically in regards to your call to long-term service?
Gretchen: I would say it was a call for perseverance. The specifics in regards to a long-term service location or timeline are something that may come up in the future, but in the meantime I am more prayerfully considering daily mission priorities as well as future ones. Seeing one example of long term veterinary missions has helped me to evaluate types of work and techniques that I might utilize in my own future career and how God is calling me to use certain interests and I am very thankful for that!
Q: What next steps of faith is God calling you to as you re-engage life at home/school/practice?
Gretchen: I think one big step of faith is to persevere joyfully through boards studying, job applications, and rotations while at each moment trading anxiety for trust in God’s plan for each day. This may look like taking more time out of what I consider ‘essential’ to just be still in prayer, or to have more of what Paul dictates as ‘graceful conversations, seasoned with salt’ with classmates. Either way, it is difficult to remember and I’m thankful that He is willing to keep calling!
A special thank you to Gretchen Landin for allowing us to share in a little piece of her journey to Cameroon! May the Lord continue to use this experience to touch the lives of others. And if you want to read more about Gretchen’s time in Cameroon, check out her blog Out of the Ark.
Mission Apprenticeship Program
If you are interested in participating in the Apprenticeship Program, click here to download the Apprenticeship forms or to read more about the program. Applications are due October 1st!