This is what Jesus called me to do: to use the gifts given by my heavenly Father and the life experiences He brought me through to love and help heal His people, to bring His new creation here, right where I lived.
It was four years before I re-entered clinical medicine. I had graduated medical school and entered a family medicine residency program all while being a part of the Air Force. Over the span of two years my world was rocked by severe depression and while I knew that God was the reason I was still alive, my perspective was wholeheartedly focused on my little kingdom rather than His much larger one. I completed 32 months of the 36 month residency before the depression incapacitated me. I eventually went through an Air Force medical board, and was medically retired from the Air Force. Recovery was a long and tedious process for both my husband and me.
After I was able to take up the mantle of clinical medicine again, I realized that I needed a change. I had grown weary of reading in the New England Journal of Medicine about the 60- or 70-something year old person with diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol etc. I thought to myself, “I want to try to prevent these diseases.” So I found myself drawn to pediatrics. God used this time to do instrumental work on my heart. Before I restarted residency, I was blessed to be part of a Bible-believing church in Centerville, and was involved in a wonderful ministry called Grace Works—a ministry for children with special needs. It was here where God softened a spot in my heart for these children and their families. My favorite program was Date Nite, a night held once a month to take care of special needs kids so their parents could have a night out for themselves.
When applying for pediatric residency, I listed Dayton Children’s Medical Center at the top of my list, because my husband and I already lived in the area, and they have a tremendous program. I had mixed feelings when I learned on “Match Day,” when Residency Match released its results, that I had matched at Advocate Christ Medical Center/Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois. It was not an unfamiliar place—32 years prior, I was born there. My family still lived nearby. I would be going “home” to live for the first time in 15 years; but my husband could not go with me. He still had one more year in his Air Force emergency medicine residency at the Wright-Patterson Base. We believed that God had this in His hands and had a plan for me in Illinois. True trust in the Lord was starting to take permanent residence in our hearts.
God gave me a clear vision to start a Date Nite program in Oak Lawn. He provided the means and opened door after door to achieve this hope. By the time I graduated the residency program, the Date Nite Respite Project was supporting up to 30 special needs children at each event, allowing their parents and caregivers a night out knowing their children were in good hands. God provided enough volunteers every time. The joy of serving God’s precious children and their families in this capacity was indescribable. I began to see how God wanted me to use my gifts as a pediatrician to work for His Kingdom. While working in private practice in Springfield, I had many opportunities to show God’s love and compassion to families who were in need, whether that need was financial, emotional or spiritual. I was able to pray with teenagers, moms of small children, and my staff. This was not the mission field of Guatemalan villages or some remote, third world country. But this was where God placed me, and where He gave me opportunities to show the love of Christ to His hurting and needy people.
This is what Jesus called me to do: to use the gifts given by my heavenly Father and the life experiences He brought me through to love and help heal His people, to bring His new creation here, right where I lived. My husband is still in the Air Force and received an assignment to be the commander of a medical squadron in Japan. I planned to go with him and minister to the people in Japan. We were very excited about the opportunity and felt God’s hand moving in it. I gave notice that May 31, 2014 would be my last day at the Springfield office. I had to prepare to move overseas. But God had a different plan in mind. Because of my history with depression the Air Force denied me clearance as a dependent in Japan. So we stayed in Dayton. Perhaps for another year or only a few months. Wherever God opens doors we will gladly go.
While I find myself without a typical job, but with plenty to do. God gave me a husband in 2001, and we have been through quite a bit already, but now I can focus on serving him for the glory of God. I can also put more efforts into serving at Kiser Public School in Old North Dayton with my pediatric skills. When I first stepped foot into the building, it was love at first sight. Randy Chestnut, pastor of Hope Community Church, partnered with Apex to serve there, and he jokes that I caught the Kiser fever. Right now, only God knows if I will re-enter the “traditional” workforce as a pediatrician. Perhaps that is where He will have me. Or perhaps not. I may work for His Kingdom in a less traditional way, from the American cultural perspective. I now am beginning to understand and obey God’s call to surrender it all to Him: my marriage, my job, my skills, my free time, my soul, my everything.
Author: Leanne Mihata as told by Robin Zastrow