Christian Doctor Chooses Marriage Over Missionairy Work
I wonder if the contemporary Eunuch-Makers in Christian America today, those who insist that merely wanting to get married is ‘to make marriage into an idol,’ will condemn this guy for choosing to save his marriage, as opposed to “putting his personal happiness and fulfillment aside and thinking of eternity, and putting others first”?
- by Anna Broadway
How Tim Kietzman, a successful missionary eye doctor, chose quiet faithfulness despite enormous needs in Pakistan.
As a young man, Tim Kietzman wanted to do “something extraordinary, something very risky” for God. In his mind, that probably meant following in the footsteps of his father, who’d been a missionary eye doctor in Nigeria. As an adult, Kietzman did do great things—his innovative ophthalmologist work in Pakistan earned him one of his field’s most prestigious awards in 2012.
But Kietzman’s boldest act for God may have been coming home from Pakistan to repair his marriage of almost 30 years.
How he came to make that choice involved re-understanding something Kietzman calls the “Isaac syndrome.” “Missionary kids are the sacrificial child for their parents doing what God wants them to do,” he said. “A lot of times they feel like they’re under the knife . . . like they’re second-class citizens.” Compounded by the sense of missing out on their home culture, the Isaac syndrome can leave missionary kids with spiritual baggage.
Kietzman never rejected God altogether, but he did enter adulthood doubting what God might want of him, and how his dreams and desires were valued. Would God let him become a doctor?
[skip over the guy’s story of how he became a doctor, got married etc]
By 2001, Kietzman accepted a cataract position in a remote, high-altitude hospital in northern Pakistan. When the family got to Gilgit, a large valley nestled among some of the world’s highest mountains, it proved “a perfect playground for an ophthalmologist like me,” Kietzman said. [skip details of his treatment of patients in Pakistan]
Vocation of Marriage
Yet despite his gains, Kietzman was battling depression and marital strain due to a series of forced separations from Laurel. “Almost every year there was some kind of tragedy,” he said. A third of the initial Pakistani families had left after the World Trade Center attacks; those who remained endured an earthquake, flooding, and then a terrorist attack on their children’s boarding school near Islamabad in 2002. Six of the Pakistani staff were killed.
…After only one year, though, Laurel was done with being separated. In 2003, she returned to Gilgit to homeschool their boys. When the school returned to its newly fortified campus, though, Laurel was soon drafted to help fill the many staffing gaps, and the spouses were forced apart again.
…Finally the Kietzmans realized there wasn’t any way to be together day to day and stay in Pakistan. In 2007, Tim told the hospital board they’d need to find a new ophthalmologist, but not until late 2011 did the whole family permanently reunite. Tim spent the past 15 months in Pakistan alone.
Faced with the incredible needs in Pakistan, it was hard to put their marriage above loving the people of Gilgit. Ultimately, Kietzman said, they had to accept their limits and leave things up to God. Due to his departure, Tim spent his past few years helping the hospital and clinic staff become self-sustaining.
…He didn’t say what he and Laurel write in their e-mails to supporters these days. But then, no one writes supporter e-mails about the latest mundane sacrifice made for a spouse. Though Christians are called to love both stranger and spouse distinctly, we ultimately do so in response to the love of a God who praises quiet, hidden faithfulness.