Broken vessels witnessing God’s work
By Tohru Inoue | Ethiopia in East Africa
Representative image by Annie Spratt.
I met a man who came to Ethiopia as a surgeon with his family in July 2013, but just a year later he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The illness disproportionately affected the left side of his body and, as a left-handed surgeon, it was now impossible for him to perform surgeries. This career was over – the years of medical school, the long nights in medical residency training seemed to be all for nothing. Who would ever want to use a surgeon who couldn’t operate?
Much of our understanding of mission work is that we make Christ attractive by the lives we lead, notably, by our competence and the excellence of our work. Our good qualities and skill open the door to point to Christ. Our goodness is meant to be an upward pointing example of the ultimate greatness of Christ. So, we try to be excellent in the hope people might ask about the excellent God we serve.
Brokenness, in contrast, seems to display none of Christ’s admirable features. What would point people to Christ if they saw we had trained for years only to fail to make it as a doctor? If we had tried for years to pursue a dream of becoming a missionary pilot, only to fail? If we had started a business to help victims of gender-based violence, but couldn’t keep the business afloat?
We assume a broken pot isn’t of much use. We think it can no longer serve as a pot. It is easy for a leadership team to say of a surgeon, “He can’t operate anymore? Send him back.”
When the diagnosis came, it was devastating. But that’s when God spoke to him, “You don’t have to go back home just because there is heavy rain.”
After that word, there was no doubt about staying. The God who gifted this broken vessel was not doing a recall. God kept him and his family in Ethiopia.
A couple of years later, he asked the Lord again, “Lord, I am still broken and useless.”
He replied, “Because of your brokenness I chose you.”
“But how can I be used when I am a broken vessel?”
“Because of your brokenness, I was crucified.”
“Thank you, Jesus. But I have nothing to give you.”
Jesus answered, “I have received your whole heart and that is enough.”
God sent him to serve with the Ethiopian ministry of health. While working there, God put him in contact with a community where Christ is not known. The people there grew fond of him and asked one day through a colleague, “We saw you preaching the Bible here and there [from pictures online]… Why have you not done this with us? When you come back again, share it with us. We want to hear from you.”
People wanted to hear about Christ from a broken vessel.
Make no mistake: there’s room for surgeons to serve in Ethiopia. But this mission worker and his family have had front row seats to watch God move. And now, eight years later, maybe we’ll start to see this community who have not known Jesus fall in love with him.
As a mission worker, sometimes the task of reaching certain communities seems impossible. Even more so when we feel broken. But this is when God once again rekindles hope that he can do it. That’s the message I heard from this broken vessel: “I have received your whole heart and that is enough.”
Pray with us
• Praise God that this family stayed and pray they continue to impact communities with news of salvation.
• Pray for this particular community to know Christ.
• Praise that God uses all sorts of vessels for his glory.
• Pray about whether God is leading you to serve somewhere.