By Dr. Robert Buckendorf, PhD
Many individuals have marked my life. Bill MacLeod is one of them and he always challenged me to go on mission trips. My response: “Sounds like a good way to get your friends to pay for your vacation.” Finally, he shamed me into going to Russia one year and Indonesia another: “Come on Bob. I know Jesus would tell you to go.” I was hooked.
As a speech-language pathologist, I work with children with disabilities. As I considered working overseas, I felt that I should merge trips overseas with my expertise. I’ve taught in lots of countries, many multiple times: Cuba (4 times), Saudi Arabia (2), Ukraine (5), Kyrgyzstan (1), Kazakhstan (3), Azerbaijan (2), Kenya (3), Macedonia (2), and Serbia (1). We have a legitimate purpose in these trips – to put together teams of specialists who teach about disability in hospitals, schools, rehab centers, and churches. Our purpose is to serve others with grace and professional competence and, when possible, speak of the Hope that causes us to come. We have so many stories and have had many adventures as other cultures are so rich in food and language and texture; but everyone has a deep, often unknown, need to learn of the Creator who provides the way to Himself through the Savior.
I have listened to hundreds of stories of loss and pain from parents whose children were excluded from school because of their disability; of the loss of a spouse or family relationships because of cultural shame; of the family’s fatigue from trying to help their child with a disability receive essential services. I’ve also seen how God changes lives from despair to hope.
I’ve been reading a book by Thomas Merton “Thoughts in Solitude.” Here’s a quote:
“Laziness and cowardice are two of the greatest enemies of the spiritual life. They are most dangerous when they are masked as discretion. …Discretion tells us what God wants of us and what he does not want of us…. Discretion flies from useless risk but urges us on to take the risks that faith and the grace of God demand of us…Sooner or later, if we follow Christ, we have to risk everything in order to gain everything.”
Mission trips, perhaps, are not for everyone. But be willing to have your life changed and stretched and to fall deeply in love with families who may exhaust you with their almost unbelievable needs but are grateful for your help and kindness.
Dr. Robert Buckendorf, PhD worked as a speech pathologist his entire adult life, opening his own practice in 1979 specializing in pediatric speech and language disabilities including autism, language and fluency disorders. He passed away suddenly of a stroke on August 27th leaving behind his wife Jolene, family, friends, and patients worldwide who, through him, came to experience the loving kindness of the Lord Jesus whom he loved with his whole being. He loved Mission ConneXion and always spoke about it to others. As he wrote this article a couple of months ago to help promote our STM (Short-Term Mission) ConneXion event next February; he had also been invited to speak in the Healthcare and Missions workshop track this coming January. He was a dear friend who will be missed by many.