Dispatches

Who is Worthy of Our Fear?

Lydia was crying again, it was 3 o’clock in the morning and her crying broke through the heavy silence of our home rousing me from sleep. I slowly woke up, even as I made my way to her bed, where I knelt tiredly and spoke to my still crying child, “Lydia… Lydia…”

I paused to allow her time to respond but her crying did not calm. So I reached out to pat her back and called out quietly (her sister slept in the upper bunk), “Aravis.”

Aravis is Lydia’s favorite imaginary character to pretend to be (the heroine from The Horse and His Boy, one of the Chronicles of Narnia) and she is almost always motivated to listen and cooperate if we engage her as Aravis.

Suddenly she broke off crying, and began taking a deep calming breath before looking up at me – her lips quirking into a smile – spent tears still on her face.

“What’s going on?” I asked

“I had a bad dream and I was afraid,” she answered in a pitiful little voice.

I stroked her gently as I thought about how to encourage her. I had a similar period in early childhood, lasting about a year where I had regular terrifying nightmares as a child. This came very soon after I felt called to be a missionary (see previous post), and through it my mother taught me, with steadfast love and patience, to pray; in the darkest and most scary places – she taught me that prayer is how we cling to and know God’s presence – even when we feel alone.

As I tried to decide how to respond, I reminded myself that I want my own child to look back and remember the same steadfast love, patience, and power of prayer that I learned from my mother (but I also want to sleep and need to leave for work in 3 hours). We have tried Bible memory (Joshua 1:9), singing songs (Jesus Love Me), saying prayers, and all of those seem are hit-or-miss regarding whether or not she’s able to sleep well thereafter. Reflecting on a conversation Bethany and I recently had about anxiety being misplaced fear, and that our fear should be directed to God, I turned to my daughter and asked, “Aravis who is worthy of your fear?”

-No answer.

I elaborated, “Who should you fear most of all? Dragons, or Jackals, or bad men, or Aslan?”

“Aslan,” she said hesitantly.

“That’s right, Aslan is fearsome, he has sharp claws and a terrible roar, you have heard his roar and even felt his claws before, haven’t you Aravis?”

Lydia’s Wide-eyed little face, remembers, and slowly shakes her head to signal yes.

“Remember, ‘he is not safe – but he is good.’ So what should you fear: scary dreams, loneliness, darkness, or Aslan?”

“Aslan!” she said with fierce excitement.

“And in this world, when you are Lydia, and you awake from a scary dream, who is worthy of your fear here?”

A contempative pause then, in a solemn whisper, “God.”

“That’s right. Now lets pray to Him, because he worthy of our fear but he is also good and loves us…”

Good God,
Guard us in your will – in fear.
Keep us in your will – in love.
Till our love is your love,
and every fear abolished.
Amen


As my family prepares to abandon our positions of financial and physical security – and follow God’s calling on our lives to move to Honduras in a few short months. I have found myself reflecting on my own question, “Who is worthy of our fear?”

Luke 12:4-5 tell us what Jesus told his disciples – in regards to the danger and death they might face for proclaiming the gospel, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” Jesus goes on to assure his friends that though God should be feared- He is a good and caring God who values and watches over them.

When a perfect, holy, all powerful God chooses to love and redeem insignificant sinners like you and me – the right response is both love and fear. The love part is palatable, but our culture rejects fear and its Biblical relationship to love (and so do we if we are not careful).

‘Fear of God’ expresses the depth of caution, respect, responsibility and carefulness for which our relationship with Almighty God calls. God’s forgiveness and intimacy should not abolish fear, it should enhance both love of the forgiver and fear of the forgiver – a holy God whose nature demands and extends such a costly grace.

Remember Jesus’s parable of the debtor who was forgiven so much by the King, and afterward went out and fearlessly ordered another man who owed him a small sum to be thrown into prison (Luke 7:36-50). It did not, and will not, end well for any man who is not moved to awe, loyalty, worship, and a desire to never disappoint the King. The German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed a similar fatal disconnect, in The Cost of Discipleship:

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate… Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

So, fear has a good and appropriate place, it is a place holder in the seeker or maturing believer, it takes the place of displacing all other fears and reminding us of the cost of God’s love (for God and ourselves). In view of our fearsome God our earthly fears become weightless. When we fear and love God rightly our lives should beg these questions for others: ‘Towards what are they living? Where is their fear? Why do they love so vulnerably and recklessly?’ Christian hopes and fears are outside of the watching world’s purview, so they cannot quiet make sense of why we do what we do.

As an example, Samaritan’s Purse is one of only 2 organizations in the world that will respond to the Ebola pandemics. Franklin Graham, the president of Samaritan’s Purse, says, “We run to the fire.” Who but a follower of Jesus would volunteer, go to an epidemic hot zone – to work on quarantining an evil with unmatched virulence and a 50% mortality rate? To be Christ ministering to children and adults facing horrific death and disease? The movie trailer below previews the story of another Post-Resident Medical Missionary, Dr. Brantly who responded to God’s call on his life and contracted Ebola while ministering in Africa.

We call ourselves followers of Jesus. Jesus, who did not hold onto power or security, rather he gave it up and became a weak and vulnerable human – the incarnation of God (Philippians 2:6-8). When we follow Christ we may look like fools to the world, but the Bible tells us the proper placement of fear results not only in the displacement of earthly fears, but also in wisdom (Psalm 111:10). Incorrectly placed fear is paralyzing and stupefying. But when our earthly fears are displaced by the awe and fear we have for almighty God, and that fear is balanced with the knowledge that God is good and loves us, we will have the ability to gain true wisdom. Wisdom can flourish when we are equipped to face trials with discernment and peace – making decisions that draw from the precepts of God’s word, are guided by his Spirit, and rooted in the security of his providence.

As our fear of God displaces earthly fears, our obedience and love for God can grow, this allows development of our wisdom and maturity until the love of God grows perfect in us, in perfect love we know perfect peace and every fear is abolished (1 John 4:18).

Almighty God,

Displace our fears
By filling us with fear of You,

Conquer our loves
By binding us with love for You,

Disrupt our peace
By giving us peace with You,

Overwhelm us Lord,
By making us holy to you,

Amen.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission.


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Is Sunshine Sacrament?

Sometimes, I’m exasperated by the sheer number of times my daughter asks “why?”

Yesterday, after a long day, I asked her to go outside and play just before supper. She asked, “Why?”

Knowing my logical answer would be a bit raw I went the whimsical route (for sanity’s sake). I dutifully explained that over the course of the day, due to a lack of sunshine, argumentative imps had began growing and multiplying on her shoulders. At first whispering in her ears then climbing into her ears and finally crawling out her mouth and attacking her sisters. The only easy cure for this problem, I explained, was sunlight, which melts argumentative imps into nothingness.

This brought out enthusiastic and playful obedience as my daughter went outside with me and asked me to flesh out this new imaginary game.

And as I played in the evening sun with my daughters. Watching with my imagination as the little murky figures on their shoulders dissipated, and their attitudes and dispositions truly transformed, I wondered how much truth my fiction spoke.

Notice the lack of argu-imps on the subject’s shoulders!

In our missionary training we discussed how world view differences that can be so difficult to overcome. Particularly the gulf between the scientific and the animistic world views.

In general my culture adopts a scientific view of the world that is largely mechanical, and completely compartmentalizes the spiritual reality (when it allows for one). The animistic worldview is one of myth, magical thinking, and indivisible interplay between the spiritual and physical world, with all creatures, things, and ideas having spiritual essence. Christians who attempt to submit even their worldview to the truth of scripture have the tricky task of trying to look through the lens of their own worldview at scripture, spot the defects within the lens through which they’re looking, and correct it.

One such defect in my own worldview is an artificial compartmentalization of the spiritual – especially when it comes to medicine. In my worldview there is scarcely any overlap between the physical and spiritual causes and effects. But when that overlap does occur, when the physical and spiritual realities are obviously present together, (in a consistent manifestation of God’s grace) , as in the case of the Lord’s Supper or baptism, we call those nexuses sacrament.[1]

So what if sunlight is not just a calculable photon bombardment, what if it exerts a spiritual force. What if just as it catalyzes reactions in our bodies, triggering the release of chemicals in our brains, it’s does something at the soul level? Or what if, as in my imp explanation, it negatively affects the powers that war against us that are not flesh and blood?

Either way, as a doctor and minister, I recommend at least 10-15 minute of sunshine each day for its salutatory effects.

Whimsically Yours,
The Reverend Doctor Nathan

 


[1]- Sacrament can also be more specifically defined as specific actions that were instituted by the Lord, and commanded to his followers in perpetuity. Clearly, the sacraments that conform to this more narrow definition sacrament are to be performed and reverenced above all others.

 


 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission.


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Chattanooga Adios & Fellowship Weekend

ChattAdios

Dear friends from, in, or near Chattanooga,

I would like to invite you to Chattanooga Valley for any or all events during the weekend of September 14th and 15th.  All events are free. My family and I are preparing to leave the country at the end of the year to follow our calling towards underserved medical missions (more info here). Come and celebrate with us the great things that God has done for all of us, and the good plans he has for our future. Whether we know each other from school, through family, work, or church – we invite you to come over.  RSVP is required for the Sept 14th supper.

We plan to bring all the pre-ordered T-shirts and have some extras available.

Schedule:

September 14th:   5pm – 8pm   Supper and Fellowship at Barry’s House
-Location: 7110 Hwy. 193 Flintstone GA 30725
RSVP Required, (or if you’d prefer you may email: nathangilley@gmail.com)

September 15th:   11am   Sunday Morning Service – Nathan Gilley Preaching
-Location: Chattanooga Valley Church of the Nazarene – Sanctuary,
2853 Chattanooga Valley Rd, Flintstone, GA 30725

September 15th:   4pm – 6pm  Ultimate Frisbee
-Location: Chattanooga Valley Church of the Nazarene – the Field,
2853 Chattanooga Valley Rd, Flintstone, GA 30725

September 15th:   7pm-8pm   Sunday Evening Service – Q&A with the Gilleys
-Location: Chattanooga Valley Church of the Nazarene – Fellowship Hall,
2853 Chattanooga Valley Rd, Flintstone, GA 30725

 

Hoping to see you all soon,
Nathan & Bethany Gilley

T-Shirt Promotion

Ready… Set… Begin preparing for launch!

To help raise support for our mission work in Honduras, we have designed an awesome T-shirt for all of you! By ordering it you can help us financially, and by wearing it you can remember to lift us up in prayer, check our blog, and share our story with your friends. (While you are on our blog, subscribe)

This is the t-shirt design that we created (10 inch diameter – centered on the front of the shirt):

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The design looks on the coastal mountains of Honduras where we will be working,  with the hospital nestled in the mountain’s foothills over the ocean. The hospital we will be serving at is called Hospital Loma De Luz which means “Light on a Hill,” an allusion to Jesus’ call in the Sermon on the Mount for his followers to be light in a dark world (thus the light rays and reflected cross). Arching over this design is the beginning of the Lord’s prayer – a reminder and request to cover us in prayer as often as you think of us. And at the bottom of the design, our web-page and goal, to be a family that embodies the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Bethany and I love a good T-shirt, so we have gone to the local t-shirt printing store to ensure we will receive soft, and comfy t-shirts that you will want to wear all the time.  We will be offering these shirts in the 2 colors as below.

Front Tshirt Proof

We are asking for a donation of $20 per shirt. We are not planning on shipping these shirts individually but would be happy to figure out how to get your shirt to you. If you would like to tell us what you and your family want we can settle up when we get the shirt or shirts to you.

 

 


 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission.


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A Blessing – Graduating Residency

Last night my family medicine residency came to its completion. My formal training as a physcian is done (at long last – praise be to God). It still feels surreal. I offered this blessing last night at the beginning of our graduation dinner and ceremony.

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Father God,
We give you thanks:
For long hours, hard work, difficult patients, and demanding training,
For by them you have refined us into ready and resilient physicians.

We give you thanks:
For short days, simple tasks, grateful patients, and gracious teachers,
For by them you have freed us to be refreshed, faithful, and fun.

We give you thanks:
For 3 years of hospital food – that we may have neglected to bless,
For 3 step exams – we’ll never have to sit again,
For 3 years of family medicine residency – completed.

And now we ask your blessing:
On tonight’s food and friends –
may the calories be short-lived and the friendships eternal.
And on tonight’s graduates –
May the Lord bless us and keep us,
With grace, guide our service and attitudes,
With peace, guide our actions and our stillness,
With joy, guide our hopes and dreams,
With love, guide our hearts aright,
Send us forth in your spirit of healing and love.

In Jesus’s name,
Amen.

-Nathan Gilley, Murfreesboro TN, June 29th 2019

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My Family –  Celebrating the Completion of Residency.
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The faculty and graduates of UT – St. Thomas Family Medicine Residency, Murfreesboro, 2019

 

Reflections – At the End of Residency

I come to the end of my residency very soon now (June 28th). You see, after graduating from medical school I, like most newly minted doctors, committed myself to a residency. For me it was a three year Family Medicine residency where I hoped to see numerous patients, treat diverse diseases, and learn essential procedures under the guidance and direction of more experienced doctors called attending physicians (attendings, for short). And, like the doctors that make them up, there are good and bad residencies, and I thank my God that I have had the privilege of being trained in a great residency.

Saint-thomas-rutherford[1]

I was excited but nervous when I interviewed at the Family Medicine program in Murfreesboro. It was one of my last interviews, but also one of my most eagerly anticipated. Before we even interviewed it seemed like the best place for our young family to get the support we knew our burgeoning family would need. Bethany’s parents live about thirty minutes from Murfreesboro, and my dad lived one and a half hours the other way. At that time we had a toddler Elizabeth an infant Lydia, and we knew that despite my plan to spend every spare minute with my family, the majority of my time and energy would be dedicated to my residency training.

After visiting and interviewing in Murfreesboro, Bethany and I knew we were going to rank it as our first choice. The clinic was devoted to helping the underserved and marginalized, including refugees, homeless, and uninsured persons. The hospital was run as a ministry of the Catholic church, with prayer and spiritual care offered daily for patients, and this mission statement: “Rooted in the loving ministry of Jesus as healer, we commit ourselves to serving all persons with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable…” And the faculty were committed to a residency that maintained the breadth of family medicine training, including obstetrics, pediatrics, adult medicine, and geriatrics. Then we waited, trying to express our interest without seeming desperate.

PrayerChapel

Finally, by the grace of God, and the inscrutable match algorithm (a computer program that accepts all the ranked preferences of applicants as well as the ranked preferences of all the US residency programs – and outputs the fate of those doctors and programs) I found myself matched and moving our family to Murfreesboro.

And now, three years later, I look at it from the other side. The UT-St. Thomas Family Medicine Residency Program in Murfreesboro has been all I hoped for and more. Where many programs chew up idealistic doctors and spit out (or defecate) cynical and selfish graduates, my program has cultivated my compassion and joy in medicine. I have felt valued by our faculty, and together we have promoted the dignity of the work we do and the people we serve in our hospital and clinic. Finally, my attendings have encouraged and supported the value and priority I give my faith and family.

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Although I have much to learn, I feel ready to step forth as a family physician. I have been equipped with a solid clinical framework, a repertoire of procedural skills, a healthy respect for what I don’t know, and an awareness of some of the obstacles and work-arounds for providing care to the undeserved.

Thank you,
Dr. Glass – for pointing out my knowledge gaps and encouraging me to always ask at least one more question of myself and my patients.
Dr. Singer – for loving us like your children, and spurring us on in research and comprehensive patient care (even if I occasionally bucked).
Dr. Banker – for being candid about life and medicine and always ready to supervise or teach any procedure.
Dr. Garg – for your keen ability to give feedback, see multiple perspectives and solutions, and help us to see them also.
Dr. Reno – for carefully placed words of encouragement and reassurance that have given me confidence and hope.
Dr. McRay – for encouraging me to take the time for existential moments with my patients, and for delivering my third child into this world with grace and peace.
Dr. Streicher – for helping me learn from my mistakes and then helping me move forward again by sharing your own mistakes and giving me a clean slate.
Dr. Dunlap – for making our residency possible by pouring yourself out, and trusting us enough to graduate us (hopefully).

Sincerely,
Nathan Gilley

St. Patrick’s Shield

This is a prayer I wrote to be prayed when rising for the day. It is based off of an old prayer called St. Patrick’s Breastplate – a prayer that Celtic Christians often use to start their day. I painted this new prayer onto a sheild that I recieved when I was knighted as an eighteen year old (bit of a story there – we’ll save for later). And hung it over our breakfast table to remind us to open our day with prayer.

Here it is:

We bind ourselves today, in life and love, to the Trinity in unity,
By the power of the spirit, and this example:
Christ before me.

We arise today, in the power of Christ’ baptism,
dying to sin and living into Godliness;
Christ when we go down,
Christ when we arise.

We bind ourselves today, in faith and hope, to the Church;
Taking up the obedient disciplines of the faithful;
Christ over us,
and partaking of communion, the body of Christ;
Christ with us.

We arise today, in a world of God’s creation – fallen in sin,
Inspired by the invisible attributes of God in creation;
Christ all around us,
embracing opportunities for laboring in redemption;
Christ on our right,
Christ on our left.

We bind ourselves today, by the love of God for His glory;
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of us,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of us,
Christ in the eye that sees us,
Christ in the ear that hears us.

We arise today, for He is risen,
Christ is risen indeed.

Rites For the Christian Year – From Ashes to Water to Oil

Ash Wednesday

At the conclusion of the Ash Wednesday service, this rite is spoken by the one recieving the imposition of ashes (by repeating and or reading), the first part is said immediately before the ashes are imposed on the forehead in the form of a cross, and then second follows.

Merciful God,
In humble repentance
We mark ourselves with ashes and dust, a sign of mourning and repentance.
You formed us from the dust of the earth and to it we shall return,
We confess we have sinned against you, our creator, in what we have done and left undone.

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[Imposition of ashes]

Righteous Lord Jesus
In humble hope,
We are marked with the sign of the cross, a sign of your faith.
You emptied yourself to become a man, and in perfect obedience you went to the cross.
Grant us this Lenten season to take up our cross and follow you, to Jerusalem and through Good Friday.
Amen


Easter Sunday

Upon entering the church on Easter morning, this rite is spoken by the one remembering (or anticipating) their baptism, the first part is said immediately before the celebrant takes up the baptismal waters and make the sign of a cross over themself. The second part is said thereafter.

Faithful God,
In joyful celebration*,
We touch the baptismal waters, a sign of cleansing and resurrection.
You sunder waters and call forth life, you raise the dead to life.
We confess we have been enslaved in sin, dead in our trespasses, buried.

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Remembrance of Baptism

Loving Lord Jesus,
In joyful remembrance*,
We are marked with the sign of the cross, a sign of your faith
You were crucified, dead, and buried, but by the power of the Holy Spirit you were raised to life.

Grant that we may die to sin and live to Christ this Eastertide.
Amen

*For the not yet baptized, “anticipation” should be substituted


Pentecost Sunday

At the conclusion of the Pentecost Sunday service, this rite is spoken by the one being anointed with oil, the two parts are said immediately before and then after the pastor anoints the celebrant’s forehead in the form of a cross.

Gracious God,
In reverent dedication,
We anoint with holy oil, a sign that we are consecrated and baptized by your Spirit,
You are the breath of life in creation, and the pledge and seal of Christ’s redemption.
We confess we have been unfaithfully in loving you with all of our spirit, soul, and body.

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Anointing oil

Holy Lord,
In reverence and boldness
We are marked with the sign of the cross, a sign of your faith.
You poured out your Holy Spirit on the church at Pentecost.
Grant that we may be sanctified through and through, our whole spirit, soul, and body kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen


Purpose of these rites:

I belive our church and especially our children should have tangible ways of worshipping, engaging and understanding the faith. Let’s find ways to allow our children to not just hear, but also see with their eyes, and touch with their hands the proclamation of eternal life that is our fellowship with the Triune God.

2. Mentee and Mentor – Nathan Gilley

Around middle school, by the grace of God, and the diligence of many teachers, I began to make large strides academically (I would later learn that persons with dyslexia who are helped to overcome the difficulties of basic literacy and numeracy- often find more advanced conceptual learning to be relatively easy due to their unique nuero-cognitive design). So in fifth grade I stopped being pulled out of the classroom for special education sessions and by 8th grade I was in all advanced classes. For this remarkable transition I credit the almighty God, who answers prayers and works all things for the good of those who love him.

Yet God did not work this change in my life directly. Rather, as He so often does, God chose to do his good work to me through willing members of the body of Christ. And he continued to bless me throughout middle school and high school with many relationships that formed me into Christ-likeness and began my formation into a missional family doctor:

Dr. David Redd

I had the rare privilege of being taught advanced freshmen biology, and later AP biology by Dr. Redd, a medical doctor, board certified in general surgery and a devoted Christian. He shared a beautiful portion of his testimony with us when asked why he was teaching high school biology when he was a doctor: after completing his general surgery residency he had been working full time as a surgeon while raising his family, but one night he had a terrible dream. In his dream he saw his daughter come to him crying after he had missed her kindergarten graduation due to work. He reached down to comfort her saying, “Sweety, Daddy is so sorry he couldn’t come to your kindergarten graduation…” But as she turned into his embrace she grew into a young woman and sadly said, “Dad, it wasn’t my kindergarten graduation you missed- it was my High school graduation – you’ve missed my life.” When he awoke, he began to pray and discussed with his family about what radical changes they needed to make to heed the providential warning he had received. Ultimately, he chose to cut his practice of medicine back to part time, live more modestly, and start teaching and coaching part time at his daughter’s school.

I was in the first biology class that Dr. Redd taught after his paradigm shift. My classmates and I remember well those first weeks of advanced biology. Dr. Redd was an engaging teacher, a gifted medical artist, and a wealth of first hand knowledge with stories that brought biology to life in unmatched depth and detail. But the depth and bredth we covered was like trying to drink water from a fire hydrant. I remember working with my friend Carter late into the evenings struggling to pack all the molecule names, processes and equations into our memories- after only week of classes. Despite our whole hearted efforts I think we all failed the first quiz (excluding Katherine). But the lessons we mastered were well the worth the struggle. Dr. Redd, taught me several lessons that have stuck with me. Firstly, a lesson about lessons – the most life changing lessons are those our teachers and mentors embody for us rather than teach to us. Secondly, the Christian call is to a counter-cultural value system and way of life that balances family, finances, vocation, and discipleship in a way that the watching world finds at least curious if not unsettling. Thirdly, people can often rise to the expectations applied to them- no matter how high – if given a patient and supportive teacher. Finally, Dr. Redd furthered my passion for science and was the first of many exemplary Christian physicians that God would use to light my own path to becoming a physician while maintaining the primacy of Christ in my life.

Chaplain Matthew Atkins

Matthew Atkins came to be the associate pastor at the Church where I grew up, Chattanooga Valley Church of the Nazarene, when I was finishing middle school and starting high school. He served our church in many ways, but most prominent in my recollection was his service as our youth pastor. He was and remains one of my foremost mentors in the faith. Prior to coming to our church he had been an Army Ranger. And while serving at our church he continued to serve in the U.S. military as an army reserve chaplain, he openly anticipated that God would call him back to full time chaplaincy, but for a few years in transition, he and his family made their home in Chattanooga Valley and shared their lives and hearts with us. Matt has taught me several lessons about Christ-likeness (and probably has a few more to teach me yet):

First, Matt taught me about the holiness of play, that we can and should glorify God in all of our activities (especially ultimate frisbee). And to look forward to times of play as an opportunity to disciple and build each other up. For children and teens especially, play creates an incredibly formative opportunity to create patterns of excellence and virtue- to work out being Christ-like under the pressure and adversity of a game. Second, Matt showed me by example the freedom and favor that an attitude of repentance and ready confession brings a leader. In the Wesleyan tradition and American culture a man who is quick to apologize and confesses his sins, shortcomings, and mistakes is a rare and refreshing witness to a God who freely gives a costly grace. Ironically, after Matt left our church to be an active duty chaplain, the faults and flaws that he readily owned up to were quickly forgotten, and the legacy of humble Christ-likeness remained entrenched in our minds. Finally, Matt built on the solid foundation of my childhood to cultivate a passion for Christian service. As a man who grew up in the Salvation Army denomination (yes, they are a Christian denomination), Matt led us to show our faith by our works- regularly finding opportunities to have the youth serve the church and the least of these: the homeless, the elderly, the HIV positive outcast, the person trapped by addiction, or trapped in cyclical poverty. He led us on mission trips locally and abroad. It was one such trip that sparked my passion and love for the Mesoamerican people, culture, and language. A passion that would grow and eventually give geographic direction to my call to missional ministry.

CVNaz Guys Small Group-

Under Matthew’s leadership, I was inspired to take up a mentoring and discipling role within our youth group. It began out of a confession to my peers, who already looked to me as a leader because of my calling and because I was a few years older than most of them. I confessed that I had grown complacent in my walk of faith, that I had taken for granted the grace of a loving savior and settled into a faith that went no deeper than regular church and bible class attendance. Particularly, I was convicted by Jesus’ difficult words: “You will know them by their fruit,” (Matt 7:16) and I felt like my life had produced very little that evidenced my faith in my teenage years. That confession, as many confessions will, domino-ed into others making similar confessions and grew into a peer accountability and Bible study group for the core guys in our youth group: Kaiser, Josh, Logan, Corey G., and whenever possible Kenny and Daryl. The depth of vulnerable confession, genuine love, and mutual challenging that we had was unique and blessed. It catalyzed my formation into a mature Christian, and helped me to understand and value the Christian community. I learned many lessons from those years together, but my biggest take away from our small group was that biblical discipleship requires elements of living life together: more than just a once weekly meeting for confession and study, discipleship needs opportunities to live and shape life together: breaking bread, sweating together, facing adversity, and sharing spaces. It is my hope that missional family medicine can be part of creating a community that is knit together in a similarly deep and intimate way.

One particular church mentoring relationship was a peculiar answer to a specific prayer. After learning so much about the Spanish language and Mexican culture during my summer stay in Mexico as a fifteen year old (part of a Jesus Film trip under Matt) I regularly prayed for another such immersion opportunity. But my next summer began without a hint of such an opportunity arising. Instead, on the Sunday before our church’s summer Vacation Bible School (VBS) was to start, a mother and her son who spoke very little English came to our church having just moved from Mexico. One of the adult members of our mission trip to Mexico, had met and ultimately married one of our Mexican co-workers from the trip. That Sunday, I invited the son, David, to our VBS and offered to translate and guide him (as well as I could) through our nightly VBS. I requested all the teacher’s lessons and instructions ahead of time each night so I could translate them with the help of a Spanish-English dictionary prior to that evening’s VBS. That was the beginning of lasting relationship. Through David and his family, God gave me the opportunity to regularly immerse myself in the Spanish language, in the context of family life and church life over the course of most of my high school years. As David mastered English, I became more and more conversational in Spanish, and we both grew in our faith together as we regularly dug into the Spanish Bible together.

Chattanooga Christian School Peers-

In addition to the already mentioned relationships, I was also blessed with an exceptional group of friends at school who were everything the book of Proverbs recommends a young man should seek to find in his companions. At the stage where my formation was the most affected by the character of my friends, Carter, Tom, Joseph and Audrey were the iron sharpening my iron. Megan, Katherine, Janel and Ellie were wise counsel and kind words. Jeremy, Beau, Chris, Matthew, and Jacob were faithful and encouraging brothers. God surrounded me with more friends than I can name here, all of us pushing one another towards excellence and Christ-likeness in everything from poll vaulting to ballroom dance, mentoring classes below us, competing for better grades even while helping each other study, and holding one another accountable for personal devotional and righteous conduct. A praying mother could not have asked for a better group of friends – my mother’s words, not mine.

I thank my God for the countless friends, teachers, family members and fellow believers who were the hands of God forming me into the young man I became as I emerged from the cocoon of Chattanooga Valley Church of the Nazarene and Chattanooga Christian School and took flight towards college.

P.S. – If anyone of you have a good picture or two of this period in our lives please consider sending it to me so I can post it above. I seem to have lost most of mine.