By Will Copeland, MedSend Neurosurgeon serving in Kenya

“Why?”  That’s the most common question we’ve been asked during our time back stateside these last few months.  

Not “What have you been doing?” but “Why did you do it? Why did you just spend two years after residency in Kenya?  And why are you going back?”

“Who am I that I should go?” That’s actually the first question Alisa asked herself when God began directing our family to move to Kenya. She was willing, she just questioned whether she was the right person to go.  I, on the other hand, tried to ignore God at first. I was busy with what had become most important to me – my career and trying to position myself to be one of the best. Sure I said my relationship with God, and my marriage, and my kids were my top priorities, but deep down I knew – and Alisa knew – that wasn’t the case. 

During my fifth year of residency, I was applying for sub-specialty training and beginning to inquire about jobs, not once thinking about living overseas.  I had some elective time and decided to take a trip through the Mayo International Health Program to this placed called Tenwek Hospital to see what doing neurosurgery looked like in a developing country.  The trip literally changed my life.  I found myself face-to-face with people in poverty and sickness like I’d never known before.  Face-to-face with people whom I’d read about Jesus caring so much for, but people who were so far from my mind.

The look of despair on faces like this mother’s was hard to ignore.

When I returned home, I was unsettled.  I was trying to reconcile the world I had just visited with the world I was living in.  Shortly thereafter Alisa and I learned of an opportunity to serve for two years at Tenwek through the Post-Residency Program with Samaritan’s Purse.  About that same time, I began to receive job offers.  All my hard work was paying off and the very thing I had wanted was now in hand.  But somehow it didn’t seem to shine so brightly anymore.  I couldn’t shake the immense need for neurosurgical care that I’d encountered at Tenwek.

I remember thinking “If I turn down such and such a job they will easily fill my place with the next person in line.  But if I don’t go to Kenya, who will?”

This dilemma actually irritated me. 

I was perplexed with God.  “You brought me to an institution where I’ve received some of the best training in the world, and now you want me to go serve in obscurity?!  Don’t you know how hard I’ve worked to get to this point?  Don’t you know how much money I could make?  Why are you asking this of me?!”

I believe God was asking Alisa and I to put what we were clinging so tightly to all on the line.  Not because He was testing our allegiance, or because He’s insecure and needed the reassurance.  But because He is good and wanted to free us of the things that He knows can never satisfy.  And because He knows that in our choosing Him over ourselves, His worth is put on display for others to contemplate.

Please don’t hear me say that to be satisfied or to honor God you have to drop all your ‘stuff’ and move to Africa. 

 I don’t believe that. 

But I do believe that our ‘stuff’ has the potential to harden us to the needs of others and to deceive us into thinking that it will bring us happiness. 

Alisa and I are finding instead our greatest joy in treasuring God and serving others.  The reason why we’re doing what we’re doing is because we are learning what the writer Paul says in Philippians 3:8 to be true – “I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus.”

I don’t get paid to work at Tenwek.  We are able to do what we’re doing only because of the generous financial support of people who want to be a part of serving the people of Kenya with us.

Thank you to those who have supported our family and the work at Tenwek financially and in many other ways.  It is so very encouraging to us.

Find out more about Dr. Will and his work in Kenya in this profile.

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