by Malcolm Butler
“I saw fear everywhere.”
Local Ruston resident Natalie Wise saw fear and more in the faces of the people of war-torn Ukraine during a recent month-long mission trip where she served as a nurse practitioner with Samaritan’s Purse.
Natalie, a member of First Baptist Church of Ruston, and her husband, Chad, both feel that Natalie’s participation in this mission trip and others is a part of God’s calling. She has participated in about 10 to 12 medical mission trips internationally, something she began after a conversation with a friend.
“I applied to work with Samaritan’s Purse after being encouraged by a good friend who thought I would be a good fit,” said Natalie. “I have worked with them for four years now, and it’s a passion that I love. They are a gospel focused, people loving organization that I highly recommend and respect.”
According to First Baptist Church Pastor Chris Craig, mission trips like this are a huge part of God’s ministry around the world. And it takes people like Natalie and Chad to minister to both believers and non-believers.
“Chad and Natalie Wise are great examples of real Christianity,” said Craig. “They love Jesus, and they love people. And they love bringing people to Jesus.”
Although Natalie isn’t a rookie to mission trips, she did say this one was the first time she worked one in relation to an active war.
“When I feel like God is asking me to go on a trip or disaster response, then saying ‘No’ becomes harder than saying yes,” said Natalie. “I have said no before when I knew God was calling me to serve in a country in the Middle East. Out of fear I backed out.
“Since then I knew I missed an opportunity to meet God closer than before. Leaving my husband, children, job and other responsibilities definitely weighs on the decision process and a lot of prayer and discernment go into the decision-making process.
“But every trip, it never fails, God challenges me more, equips me in ways I never expected, meets needs I didn’t know I would have, and grows my faith and my joy in him.”
With two children and a husband at home, Natalie’s decision to go to Ukraine wasn’t made in a silo. But Natalie left the comforts and safety of home for a month with Chad’s full support and understanding.
“Getting past a worldly fear and trusting God for her safety, but ultimately understanding that whether in life or death His calling for our life and following it, brings all glory to God and is where true joy and peace is found,” said Chad. “It was during this mission that I can say that I gave my wife over to God and trusted him for the total plan for not only her, but to comfort my two young girls and fill the gaps while mom was fighting spiritual battles in Ukraine.”
Natalie’s team of missionaries stayed in the western part of Ukraine. And what she saw was heart-breaking yet confirmed the need for the group’s presence.
“I was witness to cities overcrowded with refugees,” said Natalie. “Three or four families sharing a school classroom as their new home indefinitely. I saw people with only a suitcase to their name as they have left everything they have worked for their entire life. I saw fear everywhere.
“I saw tears and heartache from mothers, wives, and children who watched the leader of their family leave to fight in the war not knowing if it’s the last goodbye. I saw men torn between the responsibilities of serving their country or protecting their wife and young children who are now homeless.
“I saw a country heartbroken by Russia where so many of the people from Ukraine and Russia have existed as friends, family, and neighbors for so long. I saw a country being physically demolished in areas that will take decades to rebuild and a loss of infrastructure that has taken away homes, jobs, and security, and left people wondering how they will ever survive. I saw people so tormented by the attacks they witnessed and were physically injured by that they may never fully recover from.”
Yet she also saw God working.
“God used his people (our team) to show compassion and meet needs of Ukrainians who are at their lowest, desperate, and wondering where God is at during this time,” said Natalie. “I heard responses consistently of Ukrainian’s crying, thanking us because now they knew God had not forgotten them.”
Craig said First Baptist Church uses some of its resources to help support missions such as Natalie’s and many others throughout the year – both locally, nation-wide and even world-wide.
“Our church gives a lot of money to mission causes for Ruston and throughout the world,” Craig. “We also take trips yearly to different parts of the country and around the world to minister. But it is also great and important for people like Chad and Natalie to find places where they can plug-in with other mission organizations to serve the Lord. It just helps further the cause of Christ and for reaching people for Him.”
Individuals can learn more about the organization at SamaritansPurse.org.
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