What’s In Your Hand? Finding Career Purpose Through a Christian Worldview
Remember the story of Moses and the burning bush? Cutting through Moses’ excuses, fears and insecurities, God asks Moses a simple question, “What is that in your hand?” Moses, a shepherd of 40 years, looked down at his hand to see a familiar tool, his staff. That staff became a symbol that God was going to redirect Moses’ skillset for his purposes. Instead of shepherding sheep, he was to shepherd God’s people into the Promised Land.
Dr. Bruce Martin (BS 80) remembers the Lord asking him that same question, “Bruce, what’s in your hand?” The answer was a stethoscope and a laptop. Ever since, those two things have become the means by which he has provided medical care to missionaries, pastors and their communities around the world, all for the sake of the gospel.
A Compelling Suggestion
How a stethoscope and laptop got in Martin’s hand is a story of its own.
Martin was born in Jackson, Michigan, and was introduced to Grace College through Dr. John Stoll (BDiv 49, ThM 60) who would come to his church to host Bible conferences each year. Stoll left a strong impression on Martin, because even after selecting Adrian College, a secular school near his hometown to save money, he worked tirelessly as an EMT to save up and transfer to Grace at the start of his junior year.
Martin didn’t attend college with the intent of becoming a doctor. In fact, it was something he resisted. The long education. The tireless work. But when he transferred to Grace College in 1978, the late Dr. Richard Jeffreys cut right to the chase and convinced Martin, who was enrolled in general health science, to get on the pre-med track. Jeffrey’s pitch was effective, and Martin never once looked back.
In fact, Martin became the first Grace College graduate to go to medical school. After one year of doing research at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, he enrolled at the Medical College of Ohio at Toledo in 1981. Four years of residency later, as a specialized doctor in internal medicine and pediatrics, he moved to the Mansfield, Ohio, area where he practiced for the next 33 years.
A Medical Legacy
Despite the Christian worldview that infiltrated his courses taught by Jeffreys and Dr. Marcia Lee, Martin would tell you he wasn’t walking closely with Christ during his early career. But as his walk with Christ deepened, he began to see his work in a whole new light.
“As I started growing and maturing in my Christian worldview, things in my career started to take shape,” he said.
Martin worked at several hospitals before working for the state prison system for 15 years. During that time, he was promoted to become the state-wide medical director where he oversaw 33 prisons in the state of Ohio. His role introduced him to telemedicine, a means to provide medical care for inmates without requiring them to leave the security of the prison. He also spent several years working for an inner-city clinic.
“I’ve had some pretty unique experiences, more so than some physicians could claim,” reflects Martin. “But all along the way, the Lord was setting up my path so that all of these skills could be incorporated into what I’m doing now.”
Martin’s stateside medical service touched a wide array of people from diverse backgrounds and walks of life. Somewhere along the way, Martin’s son, Dr. Drew Martin (BS 10), took note of the impact his father was making.
“Even though my dad warned me of how hard it was going to be, I chose to become a physician because of his example,” says Martin, who now serves as a minimally invasive and general surgeon in La Porte, Indiana. “I remember going out to eat when I was in junior high and running into some of his patients. They told me how great of a doctor he was and how much he meant to them, and I knew that I wanted to do the same.”
But Drew also played an influential role in his dad’s career decisions.
Drew went on a medical mission trip one summer while at Grace with Medical Missions Outreach and came back with great things to say about the experience and how it shaped his Christian worldview. That was all it took to nudge Martin to take his expertise beyond the US borders.
“I had always been somewhat interested in medical missions,” said Martin. “I remember growing up and reading stories about missions doctors, including Dr. Viggo Olsen from Bangledesh, but it wasn’t until Drew got involved that I went for myself.”
In 2011, Martin took his first trip with Medical Missions Outreach and was immediately convinced that this was something in which he should become more involved.
“I found that even though I often cannot speak the language, healthcare services helped to open people’s minds and hearts so that when the missionary or pastor spoke, they were more receptive to the gospel.”
A Providential Call
With several more trips under his belt in 2015, the Lord began softening Martin’s heart for Muslims in the 10/40 Window. He began to wonder how he could leverage medicine to gain access to these restricted countries. Was there a way to scale down the 40-50 person trips to remain undetected and gain access to share the gospel in these countries?
While Martin was pondering these things, in God’s providential timing, a missionary who had just returned from Armenia reached out to him asking if Martin could help him. He was hoping he could gain the favor of the Armenian government by providing healthcare and medicine with Martin’s help. “I’ll pray about it,” Martin said as a stall tactic.
Within a week, TransGlobal Health Partners – a nonprofit organization that provides healthcare in hard-to-reach locations – was formed.
In one week’s time, the organization had cast a vision, secured its board of directors and was granted its status as an international charitable healthcare organization and as a 501c3 – a process that can take several years for some organizations. Not to mention, the legal fees which were projected to cost up to $20,000 only ended up being $700 through a legal group with a Christian worldview. To speak of God’s provision in the process still amazes Martin to this day.
“Even the attorney who handled our paperwork said to me, ‘Doc, we’ve never seen this happen so fast before,’” recalled Martin. “There have been so many things with TransGlobal that have happened so quickly and expeditiously that it could have only been the Lord’s leading and guidance.”
In 2016, TransGlobal sent out its first trip to Uganda, a country on the southern edge of the 10/40 Window. The group knew the country was mostly Muslim, but what they didn’t realize was that they were being taken to an area that had never been reached.
“We were kind of discouraged because most of the people weren’t very receptive,” remembers Martin.
A few years later, Martin returned to the same village and was amazed at the work God had done in a place that seemed so hopeless. The church where the missionary had been was chartered and they had ordained a Kenyan man to serve as the pastor. On that trip alone, fifty-five people came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, including many of the Ugandan healthcare workers.
A Shrewd Strategy
TransGlobal has found such success because of its strong partnerships with pastors and missionaries in-country who are able to help the teams navigate around various roadblocks and hurdles. According to Martin, they have to be extremely careful about what they do on trips.
“There are some trips where we’ve considered splitting up our group to fly in on different flights in order to keep it under wraps,” said Martin. “And in other countries, we can’t take any of our own medicine or supplies with us, so we’ve had to think through sending somebody on-site a list to gather up everything before we arrive. Every country is different. Those on-site can direct us into the places that we can be most effective.”
TransGlobal must be very shrewd as they plan out their trips. Therefore, the organization’s commission verse is Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
Thanks to the technology of telemedicine, after an initial in-country visit, Martin is able to conduct follow-ups and check-ins with patients in some of the world’s most fragile contexts without leaving the comfort of his home in Ohio. As long as his client has access to the internet, Martin can listen to someone’s heart or do an EKG anywhere in the world.
“Theoretically, I could be in Thailand in the morning, India in the late morning, Egypt in the early afternoon, Honduras in the evening and never leave my home by just scheduling this accordingly,” said Martin.
To date, Martin has been on 21 trips and visited 16 countries. He suspects that number will only grow now that he is officially retired from his private practice and continues to go on trips with Medical Missions Outreach, TransGlobal Health Partners as well as Samaritan’s Purse as a member of their Disaster Assistance Response Team. Most recently, Martin returned from a trip to Malawi, Africa, in June.
When asked about his retirement, Martin shares that because of his Christian worldview, he sees it more as a reassignment.
“I’ve got a lot of kick left in me and I want to use it in a way that is productive and has eternal impact,” he says. And so he boards the next plane, ready to serve in whatever ways God calls him to next with a stethoscope and laptop in hand.
A Simple Question Begged by a Christian Worldview
To the average person, Martin’s story may seem extreme. Most people never travel to the most unreached parts of the world, bring healing to sick children or start a nonprofit organization. But God has a beautiful plan for each and every person’s life. Many of which, surpass our wildest dreams. And they start with one simple, honest question:
What’s in your hand?
If you want to pursue your career through the lens of a Christian worldview, apply to Grace today.