By: Dr. Steven Swaim
There are Christian veterinary professionals and students who for a variety of reasons cannot participate in short or long-term missions. I happen to be one of those veterinarians. Upon graduating from Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine I practiced for nine months. I then served in the U.S. Army’s Veterinary Corps for 2 years, and then practiced again for one year. After all of that, I decided to return to academia. The return involved getting a M.S. degree in small animal surgery and medicine followed by teaching and doing research for 38 years at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
During those 38 years my Christian activities included teaching a Sunday school class, directing the men and boy’s ministry program, serving as deacon, and attendance at Christian Veterinary Fellowship meeting at the college.
But then at 54 years of age, I began to notice motor neurologic difficulties in my legs. After a neurologic work up, the neurologist diagnosed me as having Charcot-Marie-Tooth’s Disease – a progressive familial distal limb peripheral neuropathy.
I later retired from Auburn University, but wanted to continue my work for the Lord. I still had a strong interest in veterinary medicine so what better way to serve than be involved in Christian Veterinary Mission? However, with my progressing neurologic motor deficit in my legs, I could be a danger to myself and others in working with livestock on a mission trip. Thus, the question became, ”How can I help?” After thinking and praying about it, the Lord revealed some answers to me. He had given me gifts, talents, and abilities that I could use to support CVM.
During my veterinary student days, army days, and practice days, God had developed within me a strong interest in small animal surgery. This was reinforced in my teaching days when I was involved in doing neurosurgery, wound management and reconstructive surgery.
In my early retirement days, my wife learned about a wood carving club and encouraged me to join, which I did. Again, God instilled in me an interest and ability. The result has been carving caricatures of animals and people (mainly veterinarians) in veterinary-oriented cartoon situations. These, along with carved wall hanging plaques of the veterinary staff of Asclepius and college emblems are given to Christian Veterinary Fellowship groups at Kansas State University, Auburn University and University of Nebraska. The students auction/raffle them to make money for mission projects.
Another way I support CVM is through writing. Royalties and sales income from two kinds of books are sent to the organization, designated for the Student Outreach Ministry (e.g. Real Life Real Impact). Since retiring, two surgery textbooks have been published. In addition, a “fun” book has been published – humorous and human interest short stories of veterinary-oriented events during my career. Sales income from a second “fun” book, which is not veterinary- oriented , also go to CVM.
My 38 years of teaching at Auburn ‘s College of Veterinary Medicine, put me at ease in giving oral presentations and lectures to students. Thus, I have given presentations at Real Life Real Impact conferences over the years. Presentations to regular meetings of Christian Veterinary Fellowship groups at Auburn, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State have also been given. My main topic has been, “Finding God’s Plan For Yourself” – a topic of interest to students preparing to enter the profession.
In 2014 Dr. John Nelson, the Kansas Christian Veterinary Mission state representative, and I felt lead to develop a Christian Veterinary Mission group of veterinarians and veterinary technicians in south central Kansas. At present the group consists of 7 veterinarians that regularly attend our monthly meetings. The meetings consist of a meeting at a restaurant in Derby, Kansas. Over a meal, those present enjoy fellowship and share prayer requests. Following the meeting, a list of prayer requests and praises is distributed to the members for that month.
Do you have gifts, talents, and abilities that you could use in place of or in addition to going on mission trips that you could use to support Christian Veterinary Mission work?
Check out CVM’s webpage and see how you might use those gifts, talents and abilities.