Dr. Jack Choi
“How was your trip to Malawi?” It comes off as a simple question. But I have found it difficult to answer. It’s a trip that has no end since what I witnessed in Malawi continues to change me today. Writing this is another example of this challenge. But I’ll try. Let me start at the beginning.
When I was asked to be part of the first medical mission team from our church, I wanted to say no. Most would assume the reason to be the inconvenience of serving so far from home. But it wasn’t. It was the “medical” part that was my deterrent. Working as an ER doctor for 13 years had placed me in a very dark place. So, practicing medicine would be the last thing I wanted to do outside of work. But God asked. And I obeyed, hoping for a miracle.
It’s hard for non-medical people to sympathize. They think being a doctor is fulfilling. It can be. But it had me feeling hollow. Over the years in the ER, I witnessed the many ugly faces of our fallen state, the depravity of mankind. I’ve asked myself, “Why does God care? How can He care for such wicked people? Mankind is not worth saving?!” Once the emotions of judging others wore off, I started judging myself. Witnessing sin in others highlighted the same sin in me. This vicious circle of condemnation had me spiraling into a deep depression.
Depression. It’s an unattractive word. It implies weakness, or so I thought. I soldiered on, dealing with insomnia, living without joy. I didn’t talk about it, thinking I was protecting my family and friends. In my quiet shame, I went online to find help anonymously. I discovered that physicians have the highest suicide rate compared to any other profession. It’s more than twice the general public. A physician commits suicide almost every day. Reading this, along with other doctors’ struggles, made me feel better with my own thoughts of death. It made me feel less alone. But this relief was always fleeting.
It’s because of this darkness that I needed a miracle. I placed my hope in God and got on the plane to Malawi. And our great God delivered! I was lost looking into the mirror and seeing only sin reflected back. But in Malawi, I looked in the faces of the Care Workers and saw God. Caring for others, as the Care Workers do for their vulnerable neighbors, is not of this world. It can only be God. I was reminded that “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). I was too caught up with what sin says about us. Instead, I saw what our sin says about God! Yes, we are utterly wicked and selfish. But God’s love is far greater than our sin. While we are STILL sinners, Christ died for us. Christ died for me.
Like Simon Peter, I heard God ask me if I love Him. How could I not? In Malawi, I wept and told Him that I love Him. Then I heard His call to feed His lambs. His call to tend His sheep. (John 21:14-19).
Many things have changed since Malawi. Our family moved. I work at a different hospital. But the biggest change is instead of seeing the world of sin, I see God’s overflowing love through the resurrected Jesus. How was my trip to Malawi? It was lifesaving.