When I serve as a team leader on a Mercy Medical Trip, I bring along my “library” of useful advice and relevant information.  If the items in my library were written books with titles, some would be very practical, like “Make Sure to Use Insect Repellent” or “Don’t Stand Up in the Canoe:  A True Story.” Others are more abstract, and would be called things like “What You are Feeling is Absolutely Normal,” or “Conflict in a Group is Unavoidable but Let’s Talk About It.”

Of course, each team is different and each location is unique, so I’m constantly adding new books to my library.  I use one book on almost every trip.  If it were a real book that existed somewhere besides my head, it would be as faded and torn as my daughter’s old copy of “Where the Wild Things Are.” It’s titled, “It’s Not About You,” and it’s something that all of us need to hear from time to time.

We’re all guilty of it—God uses us to accomplish something, and we immediately begin to think, “Wow.  I’m pretty good.  Look what I did.”  Maybe we took a meal to a shut-in member of our congregation, or adopted a family at Christmas, or maybe we simply let someone out in front of us during rush hour traffic.  Whatever it was, big or small, our sinful nature jumps in and tells us how wonderful we are.

On a Mercy Medical Trip, this usually begins to happen about the second day of clinic.  We treat hundreds of patients each day, providing relief for people who have been sick for weeks or months or even years, and they are grateful.  They thank us over and over again; they shake our hands and bow to us, and kiss us.  I’ve even had patients kneel down before me in gratitude and ask, “Why would you do this for me?”

Who can resist that?  It’s like being a rock star or royalty, and we start to believe we have accomplished it all ourselves.  As the team leader, it’s time for me to pull out my book and remind us of who we are and why we are there.

Who are we?  We are children of God.  Why are we there?  Because God called us.  We’re the instrument that He is using to do His work in that place and at that time.  It’s not about us and the things we are doing, but rather about God, and His love for the people we are serving.  The physical relief that He allows us to provide is the door to provide something far more important—the healing that is His through Jesus Christ.

A coworker here at the International Center has a sign on his door that says, “Let the main thing be the main thing.”  That’s something of which we all need to be reminded.  Let the main thing—God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ—be the main thing.

So what should we do, when someone is kneeling before us in gratitude?  Whether you are in Kenya or Madagascar or St. Louis, my answer is the same.  Kneel down beside them, take their hands, and pray with them.  You haven’t done anything—through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, God has done it all.

If you are interested in serving on an LCMS Mercy Medical Team, I’d love to talk about it.  You can reach me at tracy.quaethem@lcms.org.