The Backpacker Diaries: My First Impressions of South America

Notes on my Year-Long Journey Around the World

A continuation from my previous post:
Why I Quit My Job – A Partial Explanation

Santiago de Chile, Chile

My journey to South America started with fear.

Fear about leaving the city I grew up in. Fear about leaving my material comforts and  living with a few select possessions out of a backpack. Fear that I would lose the motivation to ever return to medicine. Fear of not knowing the language. Fear of all the horror stories I had been told about crime and safety in Latin America. Fear that I had made the wrong choice to leave my job. Fear that I would be simply bringing the grief of my sister’s death to a place I had no supports and knew no-one. Fear of being alone.

But if my wife was feeling the same, she didn’t show it. PK’s constant chirpiness exuded an unshakable hopefulness. Her happy smile was a light leading me through the mundaneness of customs and airport terminals…and soothed the fears in the pit of my stomach.

After a long-haul flight from Adelaide, we finally arrived at the first city of our journey: the capital city of Santiago de Chile. “Welcome to Chile, pay up!” was our greeting. Australians are charged a $117 USD “reciprocity fee” upon entry, presumably because of the similar greedy greeting that our government extends to Chilean visitors.

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Feeling the sting in our wallets, we made our way through the hordes of taxi drivers in the main terminal. “Taxi, taxi!” they shouted, hoping to rip-off weary travellers like us.

We were expecting to be met by our Airbnb host but they were no where to be seen.

Eventually an unshaven and friendly Irishman named Dom approached us. He was our man, apologising profusely for his tardiness. I didn’t care. I am embarrassed to admit it, but it was nice to hear a welcome from an English speaker in a very foreign country.

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“Wow, you guys packed light!” he remarked. I felt proud – I had gone to great lengths to ensure that we only brought the bare minimum of belongings in order to be lightweight and mobile: a single T-shirt, two pairs of underwear and pens sawn in half to make them more compact (I am embarrassed to admit that I am not joking)!

We sped off in his little car through the streets of Santiago. Dom was a friendly but hyperactive host, jumping from topic to topic as he tried to explain the city of Santiago in a single conversation. But I wasn’t listening.

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My eyes were glued to the window. These were my first glimpses of South America and I was in a new world. My first impressions were of fruit-filled markets, tall and colourful buildings, bizarre Chinese imported cars and the sun setting behind the Andean mountains. It dawned on me that here exists a huge sprawling mass of humanity, far beyond the Western world I knew. It was like another universe to me. All of the pre-conceived ideas I had about Latin America began to collide with what I was seeing around me.

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We arrived at our apartment in Barrio Lastarria, a historic and beautiful part of the city. Cobblestone alleyways, grand buildings and numerous restaurants and musicians abound. To afford staying here, the trade-off was space: our apartment was very tiny.

But this was the beginning of a truth I would take to heart in my South American journey: as long as I had a clean bed and a clean toilet, I was happy.

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Our apartment was part of a very tall block of buildings: endless rows of similarly tiny apartments extending far into the sky over a communal square. There was no air conditioning and the heat could be oppressive, so the locals had their windows open constantly. We did the same. As a result, it was never quiet – noise from the different families filtered between the apartments across the square. Adding to the cacophony was traffic and barking dogs who roam with impunity in the streets of Chile, proudly proclaiming their freedom at all hours of the night.

But I was happy to be living amongst the people, not in some fancy tourist hotel. What is the point of going to a foreign land if not to learn from the locals by living with them?

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I couldn’t sleep due to the worst jet-lag I had ever experienced. But as those first few nights went by, I began to notice a new life in me. Excitement is not the right word. Nor is the word healing. But perhaps a sense of coming alive. A sense of becoming aware of one’s surroundings and of entering a new chapter in one’s life.

Perhaps it was the journey into the unknown, or the journey into a new world. I think there is a hunger in the heart of man to see something new, to create new memories. My soul still clings to the traumas of the past, clamped down tightly on the darkness of my grief and hardened in order to survive the daily grind of hospital work.

But to see humanity afresh with a new lens… perhaps this begins the process of slowly wrenching the heart open again, bit by bit. I began to forget the fears that I had taken with me from Australia. Not conquer, but forget (there is a difference). I was thousands of kilometres from home but I was not running away from my issues. Maybe with physical distance, we are given space to reflect and look inward. We were at the start of our journey – lying before us was the open road, and the supreme feeling of an open future with infinite possibility.

Maybe what I am describing is the feeling of hope.

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Why I Quit My Job – A Partial Explanation

Cuzco, Peru

Diary entry, May 9th, 2018

So it has been an extremely long hiatus. The last time I wrote was years ago!

Life has been busy. In the last couple years, I have:

  • Graduated from medical school and started work as a junior doctor
  • Passed entrance exams into general practice training (family medicine)
  • Got married and moved out
  • Experienced medical mission work in the developing nation of Papua New Guinea
  • Lived in Jerusalem for a few months and challenged my ideas on what Christianity looks like.

So for the last three years, I’ve felt like a pinball bouncing around. No time to catch my breath. My first year as a doctor was a whirlwind. I loved it. But I struggled to find balance in my life. I struggled to find time to collect my thoughts. And I struggled to find time to talk to God.

Then some important things happened last year in quick succession. A close friend died suddenly and unexpectedly. I was devastated: he was a very young, devout Christian and someone I deeply respected. I asked my workplace if I could take leave to attend the funeral. They said no.

Later, on a different unit, I experienced prolonged and serious workplace bullying by senior doctors. I was expected to shut up, keep my head down and get on with it. I was encouraged to do the same by other junior doctors. “Don’t rock the boat” is the prevailing ethos in Australian hospitals, and I was told as such. But something inside of me forced me to stand up. I stood up for myself and things (predictably) got worse. The ensuing escalation was extremely stressful and it came to a stage where I was ready to resign if a solution could not be found.

Thankfully, the doctor’s union supported me to an outcome in my favour. But my bosses were not particularly fond of me after that and made that known on a daily basis.

I became increasingly depressed. As I began to question my work as a doctor and what life was all about, I was further exposed to the tragedy and brevity of life whilst working on palliative care (an expansion on what I had observed in the poverty of Papua New Guinea). I found the work incredibly meaningful and worked harder than I have ever before. But maybe the death I saw also made me realise my own demons: that I am still grieving the suicide of my sister and the accompanying alienation from my church community, who didn’t know how to respond in the aftermath (they chose silence).

All of these events took their toll.

My medical students commented on how cynical I had become. I laughed it off, but It was true.

I struggled to write or blog anything. I felt jaded and did not want to talk to God. What I have written before on this blog and elsewhere feels like a wholly different person. This is something I am still wrestling with – just where am I with God?

A blessing came: I took a long overdue holiday to Tasmania. I went camping with my wife in a remote national park and remembered what it was to live life again apart from work. Perhaps being in the wilderness has that effect on the soul.

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With the support of family and a few close friends, I realised that I needed a break. I felt weak to admit it (especially to other doctors), but I was burned out. I felt deeply humbled to admit my weakness, but perhaps the admission out loud freed me at the same time.

I finally decided to take a year off work. I am sad, but extremely thankful that my wife is making a sacrifice to do the same in order to support me.

We decided to spend the year travelling the world. It is hard to explain, but when we finally arrived in South America for the first leg of our journey, things just felt right.

What am I searching for by travelling the world? What am I hoping for this year? I still do not know exactly, and it’s already been three months in this mysterious and wonderful continent.

Perhaps to see humanity with fresh eyes.

Perhaps to see what life can offer outside western paradigms.

Perhaps to see beauty in the vastness of landscapes, and to be humbled by living a minimalist, frugal and nomadic life.

But above all, I wish to see God again.

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An Epiphany for Easter: The Gospel is NOT Simply Forgiveness

Confession – I think I have never fully understood what ‘the gospel’ really means.

Let me explain.

A couple months ago I was going through some hard times. Depressed and feeling distant from God, I opened my Bible to the Book of Romans. I wanted to remind myself of the key message of Christianity – the gospel – and hopefully find happiness again.

What is the Good News?

The gospel is described in the Bible with such joy, such passion.

This is supposed to be the “most glorious and majestic and thrilling message that mankind has ever heard”.

Yet, my heart remained hard as I read.

“What am I missing here?” I thought.

Hungry to find out, I stumbled across a famous sermon on Romans from 1955 by medical doctor/pastor Martyn Lloyd Jones. There, I came across a line he spoke that changed everything:

“It is again to misunderstand the gospel to think of it solely as an announcement that our sins are going to be forgiven. There are abundant statements of that in the Old Testament documents. It is not that. That is not the Good News… We tend to reduce it simply to forgiveness. Concerned, chiefly, as so many of us are, about escaping the punishment of hell… We have not seen the good news in its height and its depth, in its breadth and its lengthwe miss the greatness of it all.

Photo Credit: athena. via Compfight cc

I was floored.

I have always thought I knew the gospel inside out – that it was mainly about Jesus Christ forgiving our sins through his sacrifice on the cross. That’s what Easter’s about, right?

But author John Eldredge also argued this “reduced” gospel: “That is not Christianity. There is more. A lot more. And that more is what most of us have been longing for most our our lives…The Cross was never meant to be the only or even central symbol of Christianity.” (Waking the Dead).

“Could I have really gone this many years with an incomplete understanding of the gospel?” I thought.

Thus began my search for what the Bible really had to say about the meaning of the gospel.

 

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL

The word ‘gospel’ comes from euangelion in Greek which literally translates as “good news”.

Romans 1:16 defines the gospel as:

“the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”

So the gospel is the news that the world changed two thousand years ago when a powerful salvation came into the world through Jesus Christ.

At its simplest, salvation means “to save”.

Yes, God saves us from our past (forgiveness of sins).

Yes, God saves us from the future (saved from hell to heaven).

Many Christians stop there (just look at the top results when you Google “what is the gospel?”). But what about the present? What about the daily grind of everyday people, where people are crying out for God?

I began to discover that there is so much more to salvation then “simply forgiveness” and to think of it that way is to miss the entirety of its greatness; that which makes it truly good news.

Diary

A GOSPEL OF TRANSFORMATION

The good news of the gospel is that God has also made a new way (Mark 1:15) to save us in the present day during our everyday problems.

How?

The Good News is that God’s supernatural “power that brings salvation” is also the power to give us a new life.

A transformed life.

A new life.

Born again.

Life to the fullest.

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

As I searched the Bible – I began to realise that this power to transform the way we live life in the present is the under-emphasised part of the gospel, despite there being numerous verses about it:

2 Corinthians 5:17-18

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

Romans 6:4

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The Bible

Galatians 6:14-15

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

Romans 6:17-18

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

A BROKEN WORLD

This offer of a new life is what so many people are crying out for.

People all over the world want to change themselves. New Year’s resolutions, self improvement blogs/books, motivational counseling. But ultimately, man is stuck in his ways.

We look upon the world and see that we are all the same. We are all trapped in the brokenness of our circumstances. We are trapped in addictions. We are trapped in maladaptive behaviors and coping mechanisms that hurt the people we love. We are trapped in the rat race, the mediocrity, the mundanity, the meaninglessness of it all. We are trapped by our emotions, unable to forgive the ones who have hurt us, unable to love the unlovable. Our hearts are cold to the suffering of this world. We search for self-improvement but are trapped in our inability to really transform the behaviors ingrained in us. We are trapped by our pride, our self centredness, our hypocrisy. One glance at the evening news confirms this. When a man honestly reflects on his life, he sees this.

NO SOLUTION

And how powerless we are to fix this.

Can a doctors really change the self destructive behaviour of a patient?

Can a government really change the brokenness of its people?

Can an army change the hearts and minds of the masses?

Can a man transform the darkness of the emotions within him? Can he really change himself?

Change must come from within. Even then, even the strongest self-discipline can only go so far.

The Splendour of the Mt Lofty Ranges (Copyright https://thegloryofgodismanfullyalive.wordpress.com)

HOPE FOR TODAY

But there is a way to change. The Good News is that God did a new thing in the world through Christ – he offered the power to be completely changed permanently. God so loved the world and desired relationship with us, that he sent his only Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. But he did not stop there. He offers us the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out. With God in us, we are no longer slaves to every evil inclination of our hearts, but we live a completely changed life. The Good news is that God transforms us so drastically, that he decides to take up residence in our hearts forever. God is with us forever. Our body becomes a temple of God. And the Holy Spirit lives in this temple forever.

The Good News is that God has made a way through Jesus Christ for us to be saved in the present – the power to save us from the current brokenness and addictions of our lives today

Jesus’ death on the cross marked the atonement for our sins. But it is meaningless without the resurrection (1 Corinthians 14:15). What good is it to be forgiven from sin, but still remain stuck in our old ways without a way to live a transformed life for God? When God resurrected Jesus Christ from death – he showed the world that impossible is nothing.

God loves mankind. But mankind has turned away from him. The Good News is that God has made a way for us to make peace with God and live a new life – the life we were meant to live. The Good News is that we can become changed people. We can become transformed people. Our hearts can be changed. We can be born again and start life anew.

A NEW LIFE, WALKING WITH GOD

The Good news is that God can transform us so that we no longer live for ourselves, but instead are saved to live life to the fullest. We are brought into a state and condition in which we live to glorify God. He is the centre of our life, the centre of our conversation. We are Brought into a state where we have relationship with God, and walk and talk with him, rather than living a life apart from him. Brought into a state where we are no longer slaves to our weaknesses, but instead live to glorify God!

2 Corinthians 5:15 says:

15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

This is what makes Christianity such very good news.

Life.

Real life. The power of God to restore you.

The Good news is that the Father sent his Son not just to forgive us, but to give us eternal life, to restore us and transform us, that we would enjoy life to the fullest and live a life in relationship with God.

Man At The Cross

We are transformed, and find the person we were truly meant to be. We find our identify, we find our purpose, we learn to love the person God has made us to be. “We are saved by his life when we find that we are able to live the way we’ve always known we should live.”

Yes, we continue to struggle with sin at times. (Romans 7) Yes, we continue to have hardships in life. But we continue to have hope of steadily transforming throughout our life, as we continue to grow into our salvation (1 Peter 2:2, Psalm 84:7 2 Corinthians 3:18)

The Good News is that that power of the resurrection, the power to transform death into life, brokenness into restoration, is available to everyone as a free gift.

MY TESTIMONY

Reader, this is not all theory. Why do I say so?

Because radical transformation is what God did in my life in 2010. I had simply never connected that transformation with the definition of the gospel. Indeed, my life is a testimony that the gospel is more then simply a message that we are forgiven.

It is also a message that the power of God has been poured out to transform our way of living. No addiction, no brokenness, no darkness within us is so severe that it cannot be restored by the power of God (Ephesians 3:20). And with that, comes the antidote to depression: unceasing hope. Hope for continual transformation in this life on earth as I become more and more like Christ, not by my own strength, but by his power working in me.

RESTORING A CLICHED GOSPEL

This Easter, many in the western world are asking “why should I care about the gospel?”

The answer: it is the supernatural “power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” Anyone and everyone. History testifies to this.

Alcoholics and drug addicts are reformed (Bill Wilson, Andrew Chan).

Murderers become peace lovers (Karla Faye Tucker, Nicky Cruz, Paul the Apostle, Moses).

Prideful and power hungry men become humble servants (Chuck Colson, Zacchaeus the Tax Collector).

People suffering from depression find joy (Lecrae Moore, Augustine of Hippo).

Seekers find their identify (C.S Lewis, John Newton).

Ordinary men become courageous (Fishermen Peter and John, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Wang Zhiming).

In a world where people are realising the limits of mankind’s ability to improve itself – this is something worth caring about.

75 Bible Verses That Got Me Through Med School Exams

I must confess that during exams, I sometimes find myself spending less time with God.

Tired from hours of cramming, I start getting too tired to spend time with God after a long day’s work. I begin to lose my priorities. I unintentionally pack my days so full with study that there’s no room left for him. Before I know it, my usual routine of setting aside time for the Lord each day flies out the window. It’s not an intentional decision to turn from God… but an insidious process that happens when I lose my priorities in the face of looming barrier exams.

Library (derived from Flickr (Friar's Balsam) http://flic.kr/p/82ipB5)

But every year when this happens, one particular verse comes back to me and grabs my attention. It is a famous one which has been the recurring theme of my medical school life for the last five years:

Matthew 6:33-34
Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

When I remember this passage, I remember what is really important in life. I realise anew what is the true key to success. What amount of human effort can ever be more effective than the help that God gives to anyone who seeks his kingdom?

Every time I’ve tried to live my life in accordance with this passage, I’ve seen God do things which I thought weren’t possible. This whole blog is a testimony of those stories. Now, as I look back after five years of exams, I realise again that my success in exams so far has come from seeking the Lord, not from trying to achieve out of my own human strength.

So with my final exams of medical school coming up in six days, I’ve decided to post a collection of my favourite Bible verses (categorised by topic) that have helped me through every exam so far from the last five years. These are as much a reminder to myself, as an encourager to other students facing exams.

Lord, help me to take a break from the text books every so often and remember where my greatest help comes from:

Psalm 121:2
My help comes from the Lordthe Maker of heaven and earth.

Sticky note Bible verses

BIBLE VERSES ABOUT STRESS, ANXIETY AND DOUBT

You never, ever have to be afraid of exams.

Hebrews 13:6
So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?”

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Proverbs 3:25-26
25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
    or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the Lord will be at your side
    and will keep your foot from being snared.

I will not worry about what is outside my control. God is fully in control of my exams, my destiny, my results.

Psalm 139:16
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

You weren’t chosen because you were perfect for the task. God deliberately chose in spite of your weaknesses.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

 Isaiah 41:9-10
I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

2 Corinthians 2:15-17
15…Who is equal to such a task?… 17 …in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

It’s normal to have times of depression. But God will rescue you out of them!

“Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

1 Kings 19:3-8
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you. So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

God will help you to persevere – in hardships, distress and sleeplessness.

2 Corinthians 6:4-10
Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5…in hard work, sleepless nights through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report…yet we live on; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

2 Thessalonians 3:5
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

You do not face exams alone: GOD is right by your side fighting for you. 

1 Corinthians 15:57
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I refuse to dwell on my past failures, my past mistakes, or the impossibility of my circumstances.

Philippians 3:13-14
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I will recall past victories and remember that God has been faithful to me in the past.

Psalm 77:7-12
To this I will appeal:
    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.

1 Samuel 7:12
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

I will not evaluate my circumstances with worldly eyes.

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

For we live by faith, not by sight.

God gives you sleep and rest and peace.

Proverbs 3:24
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Psalm 3:5
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

I’m allowed to acknowledge that life is hard. But through my suffering, I see God.

Psalm 34:19 (HCSB)
19 Many adversities come to the one who is righteous,
but the Lord delivers him from them all.

2 Corinthians 4:7-11
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.

 

Photo Credit: athena. via Compfight cc

BIBLE VERSES ABOUT MOTIVATION

I will work to the best of my ability because I am working for God, not myself, or anyone else.

Colossians 3:23-24
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

God has a GOOD purpose for your life in this journey. 

Psalm 138:8 (ESVUK)
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures for ever.

Philippians 2:13
For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

1 Corinthians 2:9
However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

These trials and tribulations are God’s training for the purposes he has for you, both now, and in the future.

6 …for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Song of Songs 3:7-8
Look! It is Solomon’s carriage,
    escorted by sixty warriors,
    the noblest of Israel,
all of them wearing the sword,
    all experienced in battle,
each with his sword at his side,
    prepared for the terrors of the night.

The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

I will be faithful to the academic calling that God has placed on my life.

Matthew 25:14-21
14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more...

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

One day, God will show you that all your effort and struggle was worth it.

 2 Corinthians 4:16-17
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Eden Valley Cross (Copyright https://thegloryofgodismanfullyalive.wordpress.com)

BIBLE VERSES ABOUT GOD’S BLESSING

God is with you, and God is in you.

Matthew 28:20
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 1:23
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

God shows his favour on you, a beloved child of God.

2 Corinthians 6:2
For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.”

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.

God grants you favour in the eyes of your examiners.

Joseph found favor in Potiphar’s eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.
The Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.
Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel…

God increases your ability to study.

Daniel 1:17
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning.

Proverbs 2:6
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Deuteronomy 33:11
Bless all his skills, Lordand be pleased with the work of his hands.

Exodus 35:30-32
He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills

God helps the powerless against the mighty.

2 Chronicles 14:11
11 Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”

Be confident, regardless of my human ability, because your confidence is in God.

2 Corinthians 5:8-9
We are confident, I say…we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.
Psalm 18:29
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.

God renews your energy levels.

Isaiah 40:30-31

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Hands in worship

BIBLE VERSES ABOUT PERSPECTIVE

Never lose sight of what is really important. Exams are temporary. But serving and seeking God has value for eternity.

Matthew 6:33-34
Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

Psalm 105:4
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.

Never let exam stress make you forget to count the blessings in life.

Philippians 4:4
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Colossians 2:6-8
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Psalm 136:1
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.

Never listen to worldly advice. When everyone around me is doing things their own way, I will succeed in a different way – trusting in God, not in myself.

Psalm 20:7
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Psalm 44:5-7
Through you we push back our enemies;
    through your name we trample our foes.
I put no trust in my bow,
    my sword does not bring me victory;
but you give us victory over our enemies,
    you put our adversaries to shame.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Psalm 33:16-19
16 No king is saved by the size of his army;
    no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
    despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death
    and keep them alive in famine.

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
Psalm 91:7
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

God can do miracles. Impossible is nothing. God is stronger than you think. Exams are nothing to God.

Mark 10:27
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Philippians 4:13
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Jeremiah 32:27
“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?

God knows best. If his will is for me to fail, it’s because he has his reasons. And I know one day, whether on heaven or on earth, I will realise his good reasons.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Psalm 27:13-14
I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

God has joy over me and loves me and gives me joy no matter what the outcome of the exams are.

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Colossians 3:2
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Psalm 147:10-11
10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.

The Lord Is My Rock

“The Lord Is My Rock”

An Unexpected Spiritual Journey: Applying for Medical Electives

From the beginning, I knew I was going to need a miracle. Five months ago I decided to apply for an elective in a cutting-edge, world leading research lab in the United States. My chances of getting in were extremely slim. My CV didn’t have enough bells and whistles: I was from a comparatively unknown medical school, I didn’t have enough experience in a lab, I didn’t have any letters of recommendation or awards to distinguish myself and I was a full-time student in rural South Australia, which made it logistically difficult to do anything about these issues.

Furthermore, I had also applied to do a second elective in Papua New Guinea but had not received a reply for months. The resulting uncertainty regarding  dates of my availability made planning near impossible. When I later missed out on my first preference and the medical school gave me a timetable that was logistically incompatible with the USA elective – my dream became an impossibility. That night, I got down on my knees and prayed late into the night that God would do a miracle. I didn’t give up – I believe in dreaming big with God.

And God began to open doors.

Photo Credit: EricMagnuson via Compfight cc

EVERY TIME A DOOR…

Within 36 hours, three things happened: a student colleague offered to swap timetables with me making the elective logistically possible, Continue reading

A Realisation Through Hiking Hidden Trails at Mt Lofty (A Short Film)

I’ve been re-discovering the joy of filming.

Making short films brings me back to my childhood when my siblings and I used to make home-movies, just for fun. It was the early 2000s and the digital camera was just starting to take off. We were all still in primary school and had never owned a camera before.

Then one fateful day, a package arrived from our relatives overseas: behold – a second hand, hi-tech 0.5 megapixel point and shoot!

It was bulky and clunky (I think it even stored the footage on floppy disks!) – but none of that matters when you’re a kid. It didn’t take long for summer holidays to become movie making time: everything from sci fi’s and westerns to horror movies and comedic skits.

Childhood Camera

We would do everything: write elaborate scripts, act out the parts (low budget costumes included)… and do our own stunts of course. Afterwards we’d spend countless hours Continue reading

My First Clinical Placement: Praying for Patients, Palliative Care and Prophecy

In 2011, I was in my second year of Medical School. It was the holidays and I was at a Christian church camp listening to a visiting minister named Dylan Knight. He was preaching a sermon about the life of Jesus when he suddenly paused mid-phrase.

“Just a couple examples where Jesus responded…”

Pauses.

“You sitting down there – what’s your name?”

He pointed halfway down the crowd at someone in front of me.

“No sorry, just behind you,” he said.

I realised he was pointing at me. I told him my name.

I now quote verbatim what he said.¹

Preaching to the congregation (Photo Credit: Sarah Ross photography via Compfight cc )

Continue reading