by Jeff Barkhouse, FNP
Serving in a ministry context in a predominately Muslim culture is not the logical preparation path for doing health care at MercyMed, but that is exactly the career trajectory that God had in store for me and my family as we transitioned back to the United States after living and working with Albanians in the Balkans for the last twenty years. I haven’t met many Albanian speakers here in Columbus, but I have met a number of people with whom I can share the hope I have in Christ. It turns out that there are hurting people everywhere, even back where you came from.
I worked as a Registered Nurse and Family Nurse Practitioner for 10 years in the U.S.A. before moving overseas to join a team of people seeking to plant a church among Albanian Muslims. While I thought I would be doing health care overseas, I found that what was needed was the more traditional ministry tasks of teaching, discipleship, and preaching. In a society and culture with vastly more health clinics and pharmacies than churches the traditional ministry roles were a much more vital commodity than my health care background. So for twenty years I taught English, taught the Bible, preached, discipled, encouraged the fledgling church where we served, and, eventually was ordained for that work through the PCA.
As our ministry and family matured we felt the Lord’s leading to return to the States for the next phase in our lives. I was open to serving in a traditional ministry capacity, but those opportunities did not open up in Columbus where we wanted to settle, so I happily began looking at opportunities to work again as a nurse practitioner. After having served as a volunteer nurse at MercyMed when we were home on furlough in 2012, I naturally wondered whether there might be an opening for a rather out of practice nurse practitioner with lots of ministry experience. Dr. Scarborough was very gracious and generous to say he would help me in any way to get re-established as a nurse practitioner regardless of where I might end up working in the long run. That was all the indication I needed to know that MercyMed was, in fact, where I wanted to land.
So having been here now for the last two months I am excited about being re-trained as a nurse practitioner in a context where my ministry experience is not simply a historical career oddity but a valued asset in the patient care setting. It turns out the team culture of ministry is consistent across geographical and cultural borders. So being a missionary in Kosovo is not too different than being a nurse practitioner in Columbus if you have the opportunity and freedom to do it in the name of Christ. I’m privileged to do so here at MercyMed.