When you think of evangelization and opportunities for evangelizing, veterinary medicine is not the first avenue that leaps to the mind. But a few weeks ago, while I was in Tucson and had the opportunity to attend a gathering of lay Dominicans there, one of them, a young, single, recent graduate of veterinary school named Margaret, announced that she would be traveling for three months to Mongolia - Mongolia! - as part of the Christian Veterinary Mission this summer.
Here's a brief summary of their mission:
Christian Veterinary Mission seeks to help veterinarians serve others and live out their Christian faith through their profession. We seek to change lives and communities by improving the care of livestock and other animals.
Every year, thousands of people around the world struggle to survive because they don't have the right knowledge, skills and resources to care for their animals. CVM veterinarians live and work alongside these people to encourage them and provide them with not only much needed veterinary expertise, but also the hope that is only found in Christ. As friends and encouragers, CVM veterinarians build lasting relationships with individuals and communities, helping them be transformed through Christ's love. Christian veterinarians also serve through the profession here at home, demonstrating Christ's love in word and deed.
This is the kind of "out of the box" thinking with respect to evangelization that is so cool. Obviously, trust is built between the veterinarian and those who do not yet know Christ. The very fact that someone has traveled halfway around the world to help has to raise curiosity about the motives of such an individual, so there are plenty of opportunities to talk about Jesus, his love for the poor, and the way he used agricultural and pastoral images in his teaching.
What's also interesting about this ministry is that it was born out of the gradual unfolding of the vocation of a particular individual, Dr. Leroy Dorminy, the founder and now director emeritus of CVM. Here's his story in his own words:
My family and I attended the Baptist World Alliance in Stockholm, Sweden in July 1975. There were 84 countries represented including some underdeveloped countries. This was my first encounter with people from the Third World. The glaring inequalities between the two worlds were visible to me for the first time in a personal way. During a small group Bible study one day, someone asked a lady from Africa, "how can we of the developed world be of help to you in the underdeveloped countries?" Quickly she responded, "what we need is for you to come and teach us your skills that we might do for ourselves."
Pondering her remarks and what implications it had for me, I volunteered my services to the foreign mission board but nothing was available. This pointed out to me the need for the profession's own organization that could serve as a vehicle for sending veterinarians. This would facilitate those with a desire to be involved in that process to do so.
After discussing this with some Christian veterinarians in Georgia a charter was obtained for Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) in September 1976. Immediately afterwards I was able to go to the Dominican Republic for a pilot project to work with an agricultural missionary. His focus of work was with the poor peasant farmers of the area. He recognized the need for someone with veterinary expertise to help with their animal husbandry problems. The response to my efforts was overwhelming. Thus CVM was born.
In 1977, CVM was adopted as the mission arm of the Christian Veterinary Fellowship (CVF). Great interest and rapid growth suggested the need for professional help in facilitating the administration of overseas placements. Thus in February of 1978 we became a part of CRISTA Ministries.
Notice that his call developed from a new awareness of a real need in the world - a need that he already had some skills as a veterinarian to address. Furthermore, as he began taking some steps in response to that need, doors began to open, opportunities became available, and alliances made. This is so often the way God works in the world through individuals who aren't afraid to take a first step - or to dream big.