Last week the MTC (missionary training center) consisted of a series of classes related to medicine – the electronic medical record, the medical departments and those employed therein, the resources available to us as medical missionaries, and an overview of medical pathology we might see while on our missions. As a PA, it was really wonderful. I was pleased to see that my 8 years of experience with third world medicine has been of great value. While I had seen at least one case of everything discussed, those who were in the meetings with me, and who have spent their professional lives working in the wonderful US, may have never seen these diseases. Chalk one up for traveling the world practicing limited-resource medicine!
Over the week, I met many people who had been involved with our mission application. There were quite a few who said, “so YOU are the Clawsons – I am very, very excited to follow your mission” and “we know all about you” (we’re Clawsons, that’s not always a good thing to hear – we do get ourselves into pickles now and then you know) and “we have talked long and hard about you.” All that was very satisfying but then we had an extraordinary experience, which follows.
Before I write the experience – a caveat! Have you ever sat in a church meeting, or listened to LDS general conference and heard something important? Then you talk to others or read the talks in the Ensign and can’t find what was said? I know that in a couple of my children’s patriarchal blessings I heard things (I am certain I did) that were not in the transcribed document. May I say that I know that sometimes things are heard in the Spirit that were not said by the person speaking but were heard in the Spirit. So some of the things in this story may not have actually been said out loud but were spiritual impressions I received at the time.
During one of our classes this week, I was talking with a gentleman who was familiar with our missionary application. We were talking about the needs of the missionaries and communities in the DR Congo Lubumbashi Mission. I was sharing with him some of the ideas I have about helping the missionaries stay healthy as well as some training I am hoping to do with village health workers. I also asked his opinion about some thoughts I have about some of the diagnoses the missionaries are getting – I am wondering if perhaps we are overlooking other causes for their ailments. Because of experiences I had in Vietnam and Cambodia, I know that what local populations call things – or how they describe their symptoms – is often interpreted by us as things they are not. I wonder if that may be happening in DR Congo as well.
Anyway, this brother told me that I was just what everyone had hoped and prayed for. I must have had a very puzzled look on my face as he felt the need to clarify. He told me that our application was particularly exciting for them as the DR Congo has very specific medical needs and the brethren had wondered where they would ever find such a medical person . . . and then our application arrived. They looked at our background of practicing medicine in the third-world and resource-poor areas, our experience of living in austere conditions, my doctorate in global health, Kevan’s experience with construction, our leadership roles on the USNS Mercy with Pacific Partnership and they KNEW we would be the ones for DR Congo. But then, he said, they realized that me, a GIRL, was the medical provider at which point there was quite a bit of concern and discussion. Why, they said, did I have to be female? (Interesting to me, though, because even if Kevan had been the medical provider, I would still have been going along – so what’s the difference? Perhaps I will figure that out in the near future.) He then went on to say that as they went back and forth, they finally reached the following conclusion: “She is the only medical provider in the world perfectly prepared for this place at this time. We must send them.”
I cannot express the force with which those words entered my soul. I think I actually stopped breathing for a minute or so. I have known for a long time that Kevan and I were being prepared for something special but in the midst of it all, one tends to forget that. I mean it’s not like I woke up one morning knowing how to treat patients, all the diseases in the world, or even how to speak French. Kevan and I have spent thousands of hours over the past 8 years educating ourselves and responding to every inspiration and revelation set before us.
For instance, I remember when I decided to go back for my doctorate. I had only been out of PA school for a year, we were living on a tiny island in the western Pacific Ocean, and there was no reason I needed more education. But try as I might, I could not squelch the feeling that I needed to return to school. So I applied and was accepted to AT Still University. But that was not the end of it . . . I decided to take the Advanced PA track in that doctorate. After all, that was what I was – a PA. Over the next 6 months I kept asking myself what an advanced PA was and what good this degree was going to do for me. I started looking at the other tracks – leadership and global health – and didn’t feel like those fit either. But then I knew. I KNEW what Heavenly Father wanted me to do – global health. I didn’t know why at the time, but I changed my track anyway.
Now, it’s easy to see how Heavenly Father has directed our lives over the past 10+ years – our mission to the penitentiary to teach reading, English, and job skills; PA school; Global Health; Pacific Partnership and the leadership roles Kevan and I both played as well as the experiences in the third world; Kevan’s construction background; even living in a tent (and through a hurricane) with our children nearly 30 years ago (hmm – camping in the Congo for 2 years?). Every experience has led up to this moment.
The conversation with this dear brother has opened up a deep spiritual understanding that I did not have previously. I am grateful that he took the time to share his experience of our calling with us.
I know that Heavenly Father knows me as an individual and that he has prepared both Kevan and I for this specific mission. I know that he loves me and knows that I want to help His children live better lives. I know that he has a plan for my life, for Kevan’s life, for our life together, and for the lives of our children and grandchildren.
As we prepare to leave DAY-AFTER-TOMORROW (WOW), I wish to leave my testimony with each of you that God knows who you are, what your hopes and dreams are, and how your life can be lived to its greatest potential. I testify that if you ask Him to lead you, He will do so and your life will be so much more exciting and fulfilling than if you try to do it on your own. I am so excited – I can’t even tell you! To my children and grandchildren – my parents and siblings – we love you all and pray for you daily. We take your spirits and your love with us and hold them close to us. As we go, know that each of you go with us. As I told all those who taught us French: each fabulous experience we have, you have, for without all of you, this mission would be impossible. It is your teaching, your love, and your prayers that buoy us up in the Congo. All of you serve with us.