As we seek a light unto our daily path, where is… God on The Way?
“The way of the Lord is strength to the upright.” – Proverbs 10:29
Joy Sutera is an oncology nurse, an esteemed healthcare professional to patients with cancer. She wears a sensible watch, and has that sense of calm about her that is so reassuring when you’re not feeling well, or even worse.
There is more to Joy than a stethoscope and white lab coat, however. She is a woman who is very sensitive to God’s timing — to being prepared when He calls. For over ten years she has responded to the call for medical help around the world, volunteering much of her spare and vacation time to medical missions and disaster relief.
As we go to press, Joy Sutera is in India with a team from Project Compassion ministering to victims of the devastating tsunamis. Why?
“It is a unique privilege,” she says of serving on the other side of the world, “to know that you’ve had the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life. As a nurse you somewhat do that in different ways, and we have opportunities all the time because you drive hard to learn skills, to hone those skills, so that you can be ready for whatever need, whatever moment will come up. But to be able to go to these places where they don’t have access to that, and you have a chance to get to them. It’s a very valuable gift that we as Americans have, and we have the resources to be able to go.”
The tsunami disaster, with its overwhelming devastation, is exactly the kind of situation for which Project Compassion was created.
“What we’ve tried to do is pack everything into suitcases so you can go out into the bush areas — areas where there is no clinic. With a lot of practice, we’ve put that together. When we go, they don’t really know us as Project Compassion Ministry out of San Diego, they just see this bunch of people coming in with scrubs seeing to their needs and providing free medicines.
“[In India] we’ll be hitting the refugee camps, and working with screening and treating — a lot of it will be wound care, it will be making sure they don’t have malaria, it will be some of the diseases that are now starting to pop up as a result of still waters and the infections that can come from that. If they did get cuts and scrapes and they didn’t have adequate supplies to clean it with, you’ve got some pretty nasty wounds that are brewing by now. So we have a lot of dressing material — maybe some dehydration if they’ve not been eating very well, so we’re bringing a lot of IV fluids and stuff like that.”
The ministry is more than medicine, however. Joy and the Project Compassion team will be trying to educate, as well.
“The way that the clinic is set up, whether it’s a school building, a church, a group of trees or a little hut — whatever area we go to we have the same things. We have a registration area where we have a form that follows them through. Then, while they’re waiting to be seen by the doctor, we have several people who have put together a lot of good teaching tools, with flip charts, with pictures and stuff like that, talking about hand washing and boiling water and oral rehydration – just basic things that you and I probably learned in kindergarten, but they never learned how to use to prevent a lot of the illnesses they get. A lot of these people die from dehydration because they don’t know how to rehydrate themselves.”
There will be education of an eternal nature, as well.
“After they get seen [by a doctor or nurse] they have the chance for prayer and counseling. It’s our opportunity to let them know the reason we’re there, because we want them to know that God loves them and cares about every need in their life.
“It’s not forced on anyone. Nobody has to go through there if they say they’re not interested in that, that’s fine. But most people, by the time they’ve had all this other experience, and gotten their free examination and had all this other stuff – and just seen all the smiles and handshakes and hugs – they want to know: Why are you doing this?
“We’ve found that by that time their heart is so soft, and that they’re very open to the Gospel. It makes for a neat combination.”
The Lord began preparing Joy for this week in India many years ago. A nurse, graduating from Bible school, she thought of attending language school.
“I was really gearing up, had the paperwork, and was starting the process to do all that when I got three telephone calls. It was right after hurricane Gilbert hit Jamaica and because of my nursing background, because I had done missions work, and I had done pediatrics, they wanted somebody with that background to go to Jamaica to work in a clinic there for a month.
“I kept telling them no. There was a ton of people that wanted to go, and I just wasn’t at the right place to go. I had my apartment all packed up. I was getting ready to move all my stuff back to California. I was going to go to language school. Then the third time they called me, I thought, well, maybe this is God and I should pray about it. So I told them to call me back in the morning. I will give it some serious thought. I just went and started praying about it, and I felt the Lord was saying go do this.”
Prayer continues to be Joy’s tool of choice for preparation and sensing God’s call.
“I grew up knowing about praying. I was raised in church, and from an early age developed a daily prayer time. Probably the key thing I got out of Bible school was truly how to seek the face and heart of God. Recognizing that prayer wasn’t time to get God to answer my needs, but knowing his heart — seeking to know his heart and his plan, and then just hooking up with him.
“God used the environment there at school to teach me there were times just to wait on him; that it was the only way I was going to really learn the heart of God — quieting my mind enough to hear God’s spirit speaking to my spirit; to know what he wanted to say to me.
“It was easier when I was at Bible school because that’s all I did. I worked very little and I was in school full time, and we had time to spend in the Word and prayer. Now I’m back in the work world and I’m working full time and I’m on three or four different committees and doing e-mails and family and various different things. So the challenge for me now is not only to be consistent with quiet time before I go off in the morning, but as often as I can to spend a half a day or morning or any time I can set aside on a regular basis, to seek his heart or seek His face.”
In spite of all she has done, Joy Sutera seeks a low profile, satisfied to let others lead the charge – allowing her to simply minister as part of the team.
“I recognize that there is a purpose for me in living. There’s just the reward, again, for knowing that you made a difference, knowing that God has a plan for me and I have an opportunity to fulfill it. It’s just knowing that you obeyed.
“Part of the reason I do what I do, and I have focused my life as I have is I realize that at some point, married or single, I had to give account to God for my life. I wanted to be able to stand before him some day and know that I would hear him say, ‘well done.’
“There are times when it’s easy to look at our lives and say I don’t have anything to offer. When I was growing up I really felt that way. I didn’t have any special talents. But I’ve learned a skill and I have a voice, and I can take that anywhere.
“He gave each of us something that He wanted us to do something with. I think the question for all of us is what are we doing with it.”
It’s a medical opinion worth listening to.
More information on Project Compassion can be found on the Internet at www.projectcompassion.org, or by calling (858) 485-9694. God on The Way is an ongoing series that looks at how the Lord influences the daily lives of busy leaders in our community. Is there someone you would like to hear from? Let us hear from you. Submit your ideas via the Good News, etc. web site at www.goodnewsetc.com, or contact Stu Smith at [email protected] We’ll do what we can to include your suggestions in the future.