Wisely choosing a life partner for an aspiring medical missionary

22 May


         I have had the privilege of interacting with Christian medical students and medical missionaries for about 25 years. The process of looking for and finding a worthy partner in medical missionary service is an important one as it can enrich or mar the work done together. These are some thoughts (my personal thoughts and observations) for the aspiring medical missionary who is still a student.

 

  1. The choice of whom to marry should ideally wait till God has given other important directions first – where to go and what to do. Until this data is available, it is not advisable to make this choice (witness the problems that William Carey faced with his first marriage). When a logical decision is made taking into account God’s directions, the choice will be ideal (like the choice made by Jim and Elisabeth Elliott). Since these directions are still not clear during college life, this is not the time to fall in love.
  2. When Christian medical students fall in love (or in other words ‘get infatuated’), they will not ask God “Is this your choice for me?”. Instead they usually declare “Thank you God for bringing this person into my life!” This cleverly shifts the blame on God. They will then look for suitable Bible verses and songs to justify and support their decision (Romans 8:31 is a popular choice of verse and “Is anything too hard for the Lord” a good song for this purpose). They will seek approval among others who are doing the same thing or from someone who they know will approve of what they are doing.
  3. If the relationship breaks down, they suffer a spiritual breakdown which is similar to having a hemiplegia. They think “God got me into this relationship (remember the first prayer in the previous point). If I can’t trust God in this matter, does He really exist? Have I been living in a make-believe world? ) They will then need rehabilitation before they can get back to normal life. This often takes time, broken relationships and leaves behind scars.
  4. The problem with infatuation is that there is no logic in it – decisions are made on emotions alone. It has been shown that the parts of the brain that are involved in logical thinking are not used when someone is infatuated. Gross compromises (like saying that a materialistic person would become a missionary after marriage) are made to ensure that the other person is not lost. Falling in love is good after the right choice has been made (especially after marriage when small non-critical differences between the partners need to be reconciled).
  5. If the relationship ends in marriage and it had not been made on well-planned lines and taking into account God’s prior guidance, the scales fall off their eyes and they see that they will have to live with major compromises if they are to remain married. It is often the end of any missionary plans.
  6. When this happens in a Bible study group (especially when the leaders are involved), usually the others comment about it but do nothing to help. They say ‘it is their life – who are we to interfere?”  We must remember that these people are unable to think and to them our silence approves their relationship. When the choice is obviously wrong, they have a feeling that something is not right. They just need someone to point this out. After this, if they still go ahead with their relationship, then it is their choice. How can we point it out without offence? When I was involved with student groups in Tamilnadu, we printed out a checklist on Infatuation. This was called “Infatuation or Love”. It has subsequently been edited. If you find that someone who has declared an interest in missions is making the wrong choice, you can give them a copy of this checklist. If they were not infatuated, they will say  “that was well written” or something similar. If they are infatuated, they will often say, “I lost the copy” – this is because, it has disturbed them. This is the time to give a second copy! We found this technique very effective in helping people to think. It is also a good idea to have a discussion on the topic with some senior missionaries or local Christians.
  7. As written in the checklist, infatuation has its costs. Other relationships suffer, studies and the relationship with God also suffers. I call it a ‘time-occupying lesion’! So, if you are in a relationship or contemplating one, this checklist may be something that you could read too.
  8. An important question to answer “Is marriage for me?”. Being single is neither a disgrace nor a liability. Many great missionaries were single. If you look at the history of medical missions in India, a lot of the pioneering work was done by single women. Some remained single because of choice and others because they could not find suitable husbands or wives. It is not easy to be single. However, for the person who has gone ahead with missionary work and has remained single, God will be their partner. This may be the portion that God has for some of his missionaries.
  9. As we move ahead, we need to add points to the checklist of things to look for in a prospective partner. If we have too many requirements, it becomes difficult (or impossible) to find a suitable person. We should make a list of imperative requirements and superficial ones. Imperative ones are commitment to God and to missions. Superficial ones are tribe/caste, wealth, physical appearance etc. If we want to marry only a doctor who is pretty, belongs to the same tribe and state and is wealthy as well as committed to God and missions, we may be looking for too much. Just like doing a Medline search, we can increase the numbers by pruning our list of requirements. In communities where parental involvement is essential, it may be necessary to keep talking to them over a period of time about the list so that parents also slowly start to accept and then eventually look for the same requirements.
  10. When the correct match has been made, the union does not distract from God’s work. It becomes a situation where 1 + 1 > 2. This happens because personality, abilities, knowledge, skills and aptitudes differ between the partners  – each partner brings to the marriage a different set of these but committed to the same vision. This will be a God approved match. There will be unity, stability and a feeling of peace in such a relationship. When things go wrong in the mission field, the husband and wife can encourage one another and when they go well, they can rejoice together.

 

 

Only God knows us and the person we are thinking about comprehensively (Psalm 139). He knows us fully – not only what we are now but also what we will be in the future. Let us leave this matter into His hands, seek His guidance and listen to His still small voice. We will know we are on the right direction when we have the peace that passeth understanding. There is no hurry – He is in control. He is the source of all wisdom, strength and encouragement. May God be with you.

 

Dr.Vijay Anand Ismavel MS, M Ch

Medical Superintendent – Makunda Christian Hospital, Assam

Regional Director – Emmanuel Hospital Association, New Delhi

 

P.S. – you can contact me on ivijayanand@yahoo.in or on Facebook “Vijay Anand Ismavel’. Our hospital is also on Facebook “Makunda Christian Hospital”. Please also look at our websites www.makunda.in and www.eha-health.org

6 Responses to “Wisely choosing a life partner for an aspiring medical missionary”

  1. Dr.Deepa Tito. July 2, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    Excellent!…on the dot & so aptly said…u have concised it up so well…& u guys r a living eg. of that as well!…will surely get our teenage kids to read this…Thanks for sharing!

  2. ashok baskar April 13, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

    nice vijai

  3. ashok baskar April 13, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    adam was sleeping when eve was getting ready for adam and he never missed her b cos she was in God’s control

  4. Eby Daniel April 30, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    Sir, a little off topic, but can u please define a medical missionary?

    • ivijayanand April 30, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

      Dear Eby Daniel,

      According to Wikipedia, “A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development”. A ‘medical missionary’ would be a person sent to provide health care. Elisabeth Elliott described her work in South America as being a ‘linguistic missionary”

      Vijay

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