Where angels fear to tread: A dangerous calling

Gina Grate Pottenger
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
One year ago, Dr. and Mrs. Brown moved their family from the United States to an undisclosed location to serve local people through medical ministry.
 
It was the kind of move that relatively few would consider due to insecurity and conflict in a nearby region. The intensity of the conflict was driving thousands from their homes, communities, and families, causing them to become refugees near where the Browns now live.
 
What motivates a couple to live, and even raise two children, in such a place? How can a family carry on in a land mangled with uncertainty, spiritual attack and social isolation, while adapting to the normal complications of cross-cultural communication and adaptation, as well as work stress? Why would anyone leave a place of security and take such an assignment?
 
Engage magazine first sat down with the Browns a few weeks before their move in early 2015, and then checked in with them early in 2016 after about one year had passed in their new home. Their story is thus presented in two parts: before, and now.
 
Their names have been changed for their protection.
 
Dr. Brown first sensed God’s call to mission work as a 9-year-old at a traditional Nazarene Missions International service in Southern California.
 
“It was a culture of missions and my family brought me up in the Nazarene church, so we just talked about missions a lot,” Dr. Brown explains. “My parents even took us on some vacations to South America and other places of the world that gave a culture of missions, so it was quite natural for me.”
 
ImageMrs. Brown grew up among Native Americans, where her father ministered. She also recalls listening to missionary speakers at church and thinking God wanted her to do that, too. The calling was confirmed on an overseas trip she attended after completing her nursing degree.
 
Dr. Brown first believed that becoming a doctor would allow him to serve as a medical missionary, bringing physical healing to people in various world areas. Later, he realized that God was calling him to teach others how to practice medicine, so that Dr. Brown would multiply healing ministry beyond himself.
 
When the Browns were married, they attended a Nazarene mission ministry course in preparation. During this time, the Soviet Union was breaking up, and doors opened across Eastern Europe for Christian workers. The Browns eventually became pioneer Nazarene tent-maker missionaries, entering as medical missionaries to an undisclosed nation. Through the help of another missionary, the church was planted, and after she left, they continued to cultivate the congregation.
 
During that 12 years of service, they learned through practice, since they had little prior experience. They met with the local believers six days a week for prayer, which helped to deepen the maturity of the entire group and root them in the truth. 
 
About five years ago, after returning to the U.S., the Browns realized God was stirring their hearts and urging them to move to another area with desperate spiritual and physical needs. An opportunity opened for them to work in this new location. Dr. Brown would assist in a government medical clinic while providing support to a local Nazarene church.
 
ImageThe nearby conflict has cast a shadow over their move.
 
“I like the word ‘shadow,’” Dr. Brown said. “It’s like in Psalm 23, ‘walking in the valley of the shadow of death.’”
 
“That psalm is not about death, but about the shadow of it,” Mrs. Brown added. “It’s talking about a place where there are bandits and threat.”
 
Going to such a place requires fervent support and prayer from others. Some have been able to give that. Others have been concerned.
 
“We have friends that say, ‘Are you sure you should go there?’” Mrs. Brown said.
 
“Jesus had put our goal ahead of us, and even though there were people that were telling us, ‘Take your eyes off this goal,’ … we said ‘No, get behind. We are looking to Jesus. We aren’t looking at what’s going on in the world or the news headlines.”
 
In preparation for such a difficult assignment, the family sought out prayer networks and intensified their own prayer discipline.
 
“We were learning how to pray for churches and for cities and for regions, so we were understanding God’s heart of how to intercede.” Dr. Brown stops, unable to speak from emotion. Then continues, “Learning to see people in areas through God’s eyes, and praying into them and seeing them as not what they are but what they can be in the Kingdom of God.”
 
As Dr. and Mrs. Brown stepped into a new mission field, the ability to see people for what they could become would be a necessity. Tomorrow, read more about the experiences they encountered in their new creative access mission field in the second half in this story: “Where angels fear to tread: God supplies.”