By: Dr. Melissa Cheeks, CVM North Central Region Representative
“Come and teach us your skills that we may do things for ourselves.” The African woman’s words drove deep into an American veterinarian’s heart in the summer of 1975. His love for Jesus propelled him to use his skills to meet the needs of the world’s poor. And that is where the story of Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) begins.
My family has pride in its Swedish roots, traced back to my great-grandma who immigrated to America. Though I never met her, my middle name is Anna (Ah-na), which was her first. A framed photo of her sits in our guest room. In the image, she stands proudly next to a bed of phlox flowers that stand taller than her. My mom carried these flowers from place to place when I was growing up, and now they are planted outside my own home here in Madison. My phlox have never grown as tall as Anna’s, but maybe someday, as they deepen their roots.
Our CVM family line can be traced back 40 years, to one veterinarian named Dr. Leroy Dorminy. He met a woman from Africa while he was participating in Bible study at a global conference. He heard someone ask this woman, “How can we, Christians of the developed world, help you, in the developing countries?” Quickly the woman responded, “Come and teach us your skills that we may do things for ourselves.” Her words spoke to Dr. Dorminy’s heart, and he offered his services as a veterinarian to the foreign mission board, but no opportunities were available. No one knew how a veterinarian could serve as a missionary. Why would animals need Jesus? Dr. Dorminy had a bigger vision, and he decided that the profession needed its own organization that could serve as a vehicle for sending veterinarians. CVM was founded in September of 1976, and our roots now reach every veterinary school in the US and the Caribbean, all major veterinary conferences, 26+ areas long-term overseas, and through nearly 500 volunteers short-term last year. Our family tree really has grown.
History is such a special piece of our lives, but we must be challenged to remember HIS story. That is, what has God done through CVM during these 40 years? What has God done through you, and your part of the family tree?
Maybe you served on a short-term mission trip. Maybe you have a Bible study in your clinic Maybe you encourage others through a Professional CVF group. God has worked through all of those moments to bring more people to himself. Glimpses of HIS story will weave through yours as you follow God in obedience. But that doesn’t mean the journey will be easy. I think about my great-grandma’s recipe, her “bullas”- rolls that we’d have at every family meal. My grandma (Maggie) used to make them for us, but no one has been able to replicate them since she passed away. I took it upon myself to try. There’s been a lot of trial and error, flour and frustration. I’m at the point now where I can say they are nearly the caliber of grandma’s. But I’m still working at it. Likewise, I never expected part of HIS story in me to include becoming a missionary. But the joy I’ve received is akin to the improvement on those bullas. I’ve had much more trial and error in this work. And trust me, I’ll never live up to the caliber of what God would expect from me! But I’m grateful for his grace and forgiveness.
I never knew my great-grandma Anna, but her legacy lives on through my hands as they knead each batch of bread dough. I feel joy knowing that I can carry on this piece of my family history. It feels similar to what we read in 1 Peter 1:8-9, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” I never met Jesus, but his story is carried on through all of his people. We should strive to do justice to the most triumphant part of history (his defeat of death) by allowing him to live out HIS story through our daily lives. Only then can more people find joy in the God that gave his son for us. Truly, what greater joy could we give to another person!?
Joy is one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Since the Holy Spirit lives in each of us, joy will naturally be expressed as we follow the Lord in our own lives. It’s beautiful to realize that as we put ourselves aside and take up our cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23), those fruits will be shared with the people around us.
I challenge you today to reflect upon the history of CVM, not to laud the people that have come before, but to give thanks to the Lord for what He has done through every part of our family, including yourselves. What part of HIS story do you see as your own legacy? Take this time to jot down a way that you can serve the Lord through this great profession. The ways are as numerous as all the gifts the Lord has given you. Just as I continue to knead great-grandma Anna’s bullas and grow her phlox, I will work alongside you to honor HIS story in me, for the purpose of glorifying our amazing God!
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 NLT)