I. What is a “World Christian”?
What do you think of when you hear the term “world Christian?” According to David Bryant in his article, “To Be a World Christian,” the term was first coined by Daniel Fleming in his 1920 YMCA book, Marks of a World Christian. Bryant described a “World Christian” as one who is driven to “reach out with God’s love to the ends of the earth.” Because there is a “Gap” between God’s purpose for humankind and the fulfillment of that purpose, the World Christian will re-orient his or her life to help close that Gap. Bryant observed:
Some World Christians are missionaries who stand in the Gap by physically crossing major human barriers (cultural, political, etc.) to bring the Gospel to those who can hear no other way. But every Christian is meant to be a World Christian, whether you physically “go”,or stay at home to provide the sacrificial love, prayers, training, money, and quality of corporate life that backs the witness of those who “go.”
The history of missions in the Church of the Nazarene is filled with stories of men and women who stood in the gap. Some of the personalities are well known and loom large, names such as Harmon Schmelzenbach and Esther Carson Winans. Others are merely a footnote, but each has the common element of answering the call from Isaiah 6:8: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” To this Isaiah answered: “Here am I! Send me!” (v.9).
II. New models for short-term missionary service
Many things have changed since the days of Schmelzenbach and Winans, but one of the most striking is lifespan. Life expectancy for an American white male in 1900 was 48.2 years. For a white female, it was just over 51 years. In 2004, that had risen to 75.7 years and 80.8 years, respectively (source: http://www.infoplease.com). In just a little over one hundred years, advances in diet and medicine have added roughly three decades to the lives of those in the developed world.
This fact has fueled Nazarene short-term missions. In Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, a Work and Witness team from Michigan visited in the late 1990s. Alongside younger team members who had take vacation from full-time jobs to come on the team, the other half was past the age of retirement. Our Ivorian Nazarenes – mostly younger – were amazed at the hard work these older men and women were doing, pouring concrete and raising a boundary wall at one of our churches. The next Sunday, the Ivorian district superintendent remarked: “We are amazed at how hard the older Nazarenes from Michigan worked! When we reach that age, we go sit under the coconut tree in the shade, but not so for you. You’ve inspired us that we can keep working for the Lord far longer than we thought.”
God is calling young and old to stand in the gap. Take two parts World Christian and mix it with one part willingness to follow God to new fields of service and what do you get? You get a recipe for huge Kingdom impact around the world. Dozens of Nazarene fit this profile, some who have taken early retirement from other pursuits to answer the call to overseas service. The rest of this lesson will focus on one such couple. Let’s meet Duane and Mary Spaulding.
III. Duane and Mary Spaulding: Serving in Africa and Haiti
You might call them a paradox. Wait – Make that a “pair of docs.” Duane Spaulding, M.D. and Mary Spaulding, Ph.D., though they have different letters after their names, share the same vision: They are World Christians.
The Spaulding’s first involvement in missions was on family missions trips when their two children, Eric and Amy, were younger. Happy marriages for each of their children brought Duane and Mary the “empty nest.” With time, they came to see that this new chapter was a chance to take their mission service to the next level.
Duane served for 26 years as an internal medicine physician in the United States. He was the chief hospitalist and chief executive for a growing medical group. Most of his experience with overseas missions had been in Africa, with multiple trips beginning in 1996. These included consultations and lecturing in Zambia, South Africa, Swaziland, Kenya, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. With his involvement in international medical volunteerism growing, Dr. Spaulding decided to take an early retirement from his full-time medical practice in 2008. Yet it was the historic January 2010 earthquake in Haiti that caught Duane’s attention. He immediately contacted Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) at the Global Ministries Center to let them know of his availability to help in whatever way he could. Little did he know that soon he would have a tiger by the tail!
Coordinating with NCM, Dr. Spaulding was named the Haiti Medical Director for Heart to Heart International, a non-governmental organization that — according to their mission statement – strives to “improve global health through initiatives that connect people and resources to a world in need”(see www.hearttoheart.org ). Duane’s responsibilities are many, including screening and orienting volunteer expatriate medical personnel, mentoring local physicians, nurses, lab technicians and pharmacists, facilitating connections with the Haitian government, providing for the importation of desperately needed medicines and managing a network of primary care clinics.
Working with the sick and needy in Haiti for most medical volunteers proves to be a life-changing experience. Dr. Spaulding writes:
Perhaps one of the more poignant comments came from a 32-year-old nurse who, after obtaining her liberal arts college degree, had bounced from job to job until finally at age 28 she decided to go back to school and take the additional courses necessary to become a registered nurse. Having now been practicing nursing for a couple years, this young woman was able to say unequivocally – with tears in her eyes – that after her first day of seeing patients in our downtown Port-au-Prince clinic, all of those questions in her mind and difficulties encountered as she pursued nursing were absolutely assuaged. She then went on to say that even if she never practiced nursing another day of her life, all of the travails would have been worthwhile for the joy she experienced from just this single day of patient care in Haiti! Needless to say, there were a few more of us with tears in our eyes after hearing that!
Such experiences often serve as a confirmation of God’s calling upon the lives of young medical professionals working with Heart to Heart. For Duane, that confirmation had come in 2010 through an unlikely happening. He recounts the story of “God’s flip-flops”:
Shortly after being notified the beginning of February 2010 that my services were indeed needed in Haiti by Heart to Heart International, my wife and I took my rather long shopping list of needed supplies to a local WalMart on a blustery winter evening here in Colorado Springs. After parking some distance away in a crowded parking lot, we made our way into the store through the freezing drizzle and began checking off my shopping list. Although we were able to locate insect repellent and a sleeping bag mat, not surprisingly a pair of men’s size 13 flip-flops were nowhere to be found. After vetoing my wife’s suggestion that I substitute a pair of women’s size 9 flip-flops that she had found and simply break off the clear plastic flower, we completed our checkout…having found everything else on my shopping list.
By now it was well after dark and the nearly empty parking lot was covered with a sheet of freezing sleet. As we gingerly traversed the icy gauntlet and approached our car (which was now looking rather lonely under the street light), I glanced down at the frozen pavement and there setting just in front of our car’s bumper were a pair of nearly-new men’s size 13 flip-flops waiting to be stepped into! Needless to say, my shopping list was not only complete but I was totally blown away by this special blessing that, to this day, no one has been able to explain in human terms. Perhaps might these foot coverings even last 40 years like they did for the Children of Israel on their journey to the Promised Land? I hope to find out!
While Duane has been busy across the years as a medical missionary, Mary has carved out an important ministry teaching Nazarene pastors. Often they would travel together, Duane answering Africans’ medical questions during informal “Ask the Doctor” sessions while Mary dug into the Bible with her students. Mary’s growing love of Scripture led her to seek further schooling, and she completed a Ph.D. in biblical studies through Nazarene Theological College (University of Manchester) in 2007. Besides teaching in the online program for Nazarene Bible College (Colorado Springs, Colorado), she has taught multiple courses through both the Nazarene Theological Institute and Africa Nazarene University, visiting Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Kenya.
Mary has been humbled by the very modest conditions in which most Nazarene pastors in Africa receive their theological education. Rarely is a whiteboard in sight, and a powerpoint projector is beyond the financial means of most teaching centers. Pastors come in from rural areas for intensive classes at local churches, spending the night on mats stretched out on the floor of the sanctuary. Yet despite these rustic conditions, they come to class with a thirst for Scripture and appreciative of what Dr. Spaulding has to offer.
When asked what pastors had made an impression upon her, Mary told the story of Liberian pastor Tee Latham and how God gave him an unusual command during the time of Liberia’s civil war. Tee writes in his own words:
The greatest step I ever stepped out in faith was in obedience to God’s call to go and preach to Gen. Town Devil of the Rebel National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). At first I question God. Why me? I knew this man has killed a lot of good people, opened pregnant women’s guts and committed gross sin among the Gio (Dan) People Group of Liberia. “Why send me?” echoed in my mind. However, I obeyed God, prayed and stepped out to accomplish the mission trusting God to rescue me from the hands of the Devil (Town Devil) and his Demon forces (body guards). God’s promise for protection was real to me as I passed among the Demons unharmed and preached to Gen. Town Devil and his guys. He got up from his seat and knelt before me. “Pastor, pray for me and my boys,” he said. I prayed for them and started a regular devotion with them. They renamed themselves the loyal forces and some worshipped King Jesus at the Karnplay Church of the Nazarene.
Dr. Spaulding concludes: “These students are my heroes and heroines in the faith!”
It’s exciting to see how God is using the Spauldings in diverse ways to build the Kingdom of God in some of the neediest areas on our planet. Duane asks us to pray that God will continue to provide funding sources and knock down the governmental hurdles that too often they face. As for Mary, she asks that the Lord will provide teaching opportunities in Haiti so that she and Duane can have more time throughout the year in closer proximity.
We live in exciting times for the advance of God’s Kingdom! The Lord is raising up World Christians, those who have a vision for spreading the Good News to places in our world that so desperately need it. We are thankful for those like the Spauldings who have said: “Here I am, Lord. Send me!” Now it is our turn. How will we also be World Christians? What does God want us to do to further God’s purposes around our world? Are we willing to obey?
This profile by Dr. Crofford is third in a series of four lessons developed by Greg and Amy Crofford for Nazarene Missions International (NMI).