The exponential effect of mentoring continues for generations
7 MINUTE READ
Today I am leaving a legendary location, enriched substantially by mentoring. It is the Christian Fellowship Hospital in Oddanchatram, Tamil Naidu, India.
Ever been here or even heard of it? Many people have not.
It is by far the most God-centred hospital system I have ever encountered. It’s small, it’s humble, it doesn’t seek ANY overseas aid. In fact, everything has been paid for by patient contributions alone since inception.
Since it was established to serve the poor, these contributions are meagre at best. Patients pay an AU25c booking fee, which is further reduced if the patient can’t pay. Consultations are then free. The team relies totally on God alone for all things – staff, income, land, healing. “We treat. God heals.” is their motto. The whole show is run at the lowest cost whilst still maintaining solid standards. In fact, this week they passed the national hospital accreditation process with flying colours. I was just here for two days, but it impacted me far more than most conferences I have attended!
As I met some of the numerous specialists who moved to the compound, agreed to live there for life (not just till retirement but till death do them part) and so own simply a bicycle, in order to free up more funds to serve the community better, the name Frank Garlick surfaced several times.
They told me how back in their younger days Frank mentored them – in their faith walk, in their medical skills, in their relationships. Frank seems to have left an indelible mark on many of the founders and life members who guide the hospital community, now numbering around twenty core specialists who are the leaders of hundreds of staff.
These faithful people themselves have mentored hundreds of doctors and nurses educated at the institution during its 62-year history. When I asked him about this, Frank humbly offered: “I now understand that anything that happened at that time and subsequently, was not because of me or in spite of me, but rather it happened with me. It was, as it were, a by-product of our trying to do the right thing in our walk with God in that situation.” What a great summary of good mentoring. People seeing God at work in you want to follow you!
Mentoring could be said to be walking through life together – accompanying and inspiring, encouraging and guiding. We comfort, we trust, we build wisdom and confidence, we are a bouncing board. We pray for our mentees, we seek their transformation into who Jesus made them to be. Always we provide a safe haven where the mentee can just be. We may even seek mentoring on our mentoring especially as we begin. We follow Jesus example of discipling and mentoring – two closely allied areas.
“What a great summary of good mentoring. People seeing God at work in you want to follow you!”
Mentoring is both a privilege and a responsibility to do well in God’s sight. Often we mentor people whether we know it or not. Many are the junior doctors, nurses, therapy staff, receptionists, church members and family members we may not even know are looking up to us. Occasionally someone may invite us to mentor them intentionally. More often people will watch us from a distance and pick up things from how we live. It’s a bit sobering to realise people are watching me continually – I am not sure I am always a good show!
Receiving intentional mentoring is one of life’s remarkable privileges. Some of the mentors who have invested in my life over the years have walked me through healing, restoration, business wisdom when I was in practice in Australia, team management wisdom when in cross-cultural crises and conflicts, helped me grow as a leader, and earlier, helped prepare me for marriage.
“My better mentors were more people who believed in me, loved me, were patient with me, encouraged me, and respected me for who I was/am more than wanted to see me change or become someone they wanted me to be.”
My better mentors were more people who believed in me, loved me, were patient with me, encouraged me, and respected me for who I was/am more than wanted to see me change or become someone they wanted me to be. Each helped me become more who I am in Christ. Earlier and later mentors also encouraged my spiritual life; many were simply friends I had. There is also often the opportunity for co-mentoring – iron sharpening iron.
We as parents have always encouraged teens especially to find a mentor – they may not want to listen to us parents but so often will benefit significantly from a good mentor. All three of ours did. Mentor other teens – again a privilege indeed.
On a practical note, mentoring is often best when it has goals, is intentional, is discussed as such, and is planned and regular in some way. At times we may have a negative mentoring experience or be disappointed in our mentor or the process. Don’t give up – raise the issue with your mentor where possible. Or forgive and find another.
Get a mentor
These days we teach all our Chinese counselling students that to be robust enough to withstand life’s challenges we need to be intentional about building a pyramid around us, in order that we would be strengthened to serve God more effectively. The pyramid consists of at least some of the following people ideally over longer periods of time.
• Family and friends (supportive not draining), [often we may either carry various family and friends, or at least be giving a lot as well as receiving – its great to have even one or two who are more equals or give also to us]
• Church community, including prayer partner and home group, pastor/pastoral team, lay support, e.g. a prayer support team. [Any of us ministering to others should seek at least a few people whom we can trust as powerful intercessors whom we can call on in times of need – whether when we go for a day of retreat and big picture reflection, or conversely in times of crisis.]
• Professionals and relational mentors are also helpful. Mentors assist us when we enter marriage, and if we have children, parenting can be sharpened so much by parenting mentors. Professionals can also significantly assist us (professionally and personally).
To be honest, most of us could benefit from a spiritual director/companion – someone from whom we can receive personal life and spiritual counsel, and confidential care. We doctors give thousands of hours of care to others before we allow anyone to give to us. Investing time into our own care is one of the wisest choices we can make. My own primary mentor sees a psychologist and spiritual director monthly and is so much the richer mentoring me as a result. Once when teaching on the pyramid I had a student who has no less than five mentors – one for each of parenting, marriage, mission, theology/spiritual life, and professional life.
Be a mentor
Taking time to invest in the lives of others intentionally is also a key element of following Jesus. Jesus never wrote a book, never sent an email, never WhatsApped anyone. He simply walked, lived, and ate daily with his mentees. They learnt as much by watching and example as by direct teaching – showing both are essential.
As He did, prayerfully consider choosing twelve with whom to spend time. These may be in parallel or consecutively; and may be more or less than twelve every three years. Look around. Ask the Spirit to lead, seek those who may benefit from your wisdom. You old men – find young men, you young men, find youths. You older women – there are many younger women out there; young women, there are so many youthful girls who long to be noticed and mentored.
“Ask the Spirit to lead, seek those who may benefit from your wisdom. You old men – find young men, you young men, find youths. You older women – there are many younger women out there; young women, there are so many youthful girls who long to be noticed and mentored.”
Many of us get caught up in the superannuation story – you must save enough for retirement, your kids, your life of comfort and longevity. Personally, I am not so much into that, and it’s been excellent to find others with a similar view here in India amongst these high-quality specialists of many disciplines, who have chosen the road less travelled. The dirt road, not the ‘three-lane, all lines painted annually, guttered and fenced’ road of luxury. We don’t really need all that. Actually, we don’t really need anywhere near so much. What we do need are those who are willing to walk with us; especially when we have chosen a road where significant challenges are expected.
Of course, any road that is worthwhile will be such a road. Good mentors are those travelling companions a few metres ahead, prepared to slow down and share the journey. And in turn, we should be on the lookout for those a few metres behind us, desiring to follow us. Sometimes others many kilometres behind want mentoring too – consider encouraging them to be mentored by one of your own mentees…
To be built up, and to build, results in a stronger Kingdom of God, which in the end is what we are really about. Building the Kingdom is a relational exercise. Look at what Frank did – the exponential effect of good mentoring continues for generations after one leaves. Christian Fellowship Hospital is impacting the nation of India as a result.
Get inspired! Read more about the unusual life of Dr Frank Garlick in our article “Falling Upward”
Dr David Nikles
Dr David Nikles was a GP in Deception Bay, Brisbane for many years before selling up and following Father’s call in 2005 to move to East Asia. He and his wife have lived and worked there in a missional capacity since. His life’s work is now training and mentoring Christian Counsellors to bring God-centred transformation within that country and increasingly within broader Asia. The India trip was in part to raise awareness of educational, medical and social work mission for his three adult children – mentoring his kids in mission.
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- Paul’s letters to Timothy. You would do well to read the following passages one per day and reflect on the Paul-Timothy relationship in terms of mentor/mentee.
- 1 Timothy 1:8-9; 4:11-16; 5:21-23; 5:11-21.
- 2 Timothy 1:3-14; 2:1-7; 2:1-7; 2:14-16; 3:10-4:8.
- David Benner’s Sacred Companions is one awesome book on spiritual mentoring.