Both Dr. Nathan and Bethany Rudge Gilley knew they were called to missions from a young age. They just didn’t know where that call would eventually take them.
Now, they do.
In a few months’ time, the Trevecca graduates will soon move their young family to Belfate, Honduras. Nathan, who is currently finishing a three-year family medicine residency in Murfreesboro, Tenn., will serve as a doctor at Hospital Loma de la Luz.
“I’ll be working at a rural coastal hospital that also has a clinic,” Nathan said. “I’ll be doing everything from newborn care to lots of emergency room visits, clinic visits, chronic care of adults—pretty much anything that walks in the door short of major surgery.”
The couple will be serving through World Medical Mission, the medical arm of Samaritan’s Purse. Established in 1977, World Medical Mission seeks to provide quality healthcare in mission hospitals and clinics located around the globe. The Gilleys are participating in a two-year post-residency.
“The mission is to try to get young doctors before they settle into a life here in America to see if you would consider long-term missions,” Nathan said. “They get you started and hand you off to a long-term mission organization like the Church of the Nazarene or a few other long-term organizations they work closely with.”
The call to missions came early for both Nathan and Bethany.
“I felt called to do missions from the time I was probably 10 or 11 years old, largely shaped by reading a whole lot of missionary biographies,” Bethany recalled. “As I was nearing the end of high school, I was thinking about what would be useful on the mission field.”
Taking a year between high school and college to work at her physician father’s walk-in clinic, Bethany soon realized that medicine was a part of her larger calling.
“I realized that I really enjoyed medicine,” she said. “I felt that God made my brain work in a kind of analytical way and that would be a good fit.”
She chose to major in biology at Trevecca, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 2009 and completing the University’s physician assistant program in 2011. She doesn’t currently plan to practice in Honduras but is keeping the option open for the future.
“We have three little ones—4 and a half, almost 3 and three months,” she said. “I’m pretty busy at home right now. In the future, it’s a possibility that I’ll work in the medical field, but for now, I’m going to be a wife and mom.”
Nathan felt called to missions even earlier, around the age of his oldest daughter.
“I knew that I was called to be a missionary sometime before kindergarten,” Nathan said. “I was very interested in science. I had a cousin who spent a lot of time at St. Jude’s and I saw how much good a doctor can do and how they can be there for people in a very vulnerable places at the beginning and end of life and a lot of places in between. [Through that,] I came to realize that I wanted to do medical missions.”
To prepare for that calling, Nathan double majored at Trevecca, earning degrees in biology and religious studies and minoring in missions and chemistry. He spent time serving in Eastern Europe as part of a Trevecca seminar on missions and prophets. After graduation, he took a year off and spent time working in a few underserved clinics to make sure medicine was where he was headed.
He took the MCAT and applied to medical schools, eventually choosing the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine in Augusta, Ga., the nation’s eighth-largest and 13th-oldest medical school, then completed his medical internship, followed by his current residency.
As the couple plans for their upcoming move, Nathan can see glimpses of how God has been preparing them over the years.
“God has given us a lot of steps along the way,” he said. “One of those steps for me was that I learned Spanish in high school and God has continued to provide opportunities for me to use and learn Spanish. There aren’t a ton of Christian hospitals in Spanish-speaking Latin America, and this hospital had a lot of need for family doctor.”
While the move will take the couple and their young daughters far away from family, the Gilleys know that God has opened the door for them to serve in Honduras, and they must be faithful to that call.
“The hardest part has been taking the girls,” Bethany said. “But if we decided to not apply, that would have been a decision we made out of fear not faith. We applied as a step of faith, and God kept opening doors. He made it really clear that this is what He wanted us to do—and if God makes Himself that clear, you can’t say no and still claim to follow Him.”