Everyone loves a story where everyone lives “happily ever after.” Even though we know that life doesn’t always play out that way, we are still fascinated when God orders events so good things “just happen” to come about.
The chances were remote for Ross McCordic and Dawn Searing to meet and fall in love. Dawn was a missionary kid from South America where her parents served. On the opposite side of the world, Ross McCordic’s parents were missionaries in Chad, Africa.
Even though they lived worlds apart, Ross and Dawn had many similarities: coming to Christ at an early age; loving their lives as missionary kids; sensing God’s calling to become missionaries; and a deep interest in medicine. Dawn’s “calling” began after reading about the well-known missionary Mary Slessor. For Ross, it came at age 17 after a renewed commitment to Christ. After that experience, Ross had a great interest in medicine and wanted to serve in Chad as a missionary doctor.
How could these two people from very different parts of the world ever meet? For God, it was simple. When Dawn was 16, she went to France where she lived with TEAM missionaries Bob and Noreen Vajko. In France, she learned about TEAM and medical opportunities in Chad, and four years later, Dawn went to Chad to work at Bebalem Hospital.
Meanwhile, Ross had returned to Canada to finish high school, but that year became a disaster, and he decided to go back to Chad for a year. Both Ross and Dawn came to the same place…Bebalem Hospital, where they met and fell in love. Two years later, they were married.
Because of Ross’ unusual educational experiences in Chad, he didn’t have a high school diploma. College applications became a problem until Houghton College accommodated him by accepting him with very strict academic probation, which he completed. His unusual situation haunted him again when they went to Jordan, and the State of New York finally issued an “official” diploma…18 years after graduating from college!
At that point, both transferred to Roberts Wesleyan College where Dawn got her BS in Nursing. Ross studied pre-med and came away with a BS in Chemistry. Next came Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Dawn worked in nursing, and Ross studied medicine. During Ross’ medical school, they went twice to Gabon to serve in a medical facility. After graduation in 1988, Ross entered his residency and got experience as a pediatrician while continuing to focus on going to Chad.
For both Ross and Dawn, the goal of being medical missionaries was not an end in itself but a means to touch people’s hearts with the Gospel. A quote from the publications put out by Hospital Christian Fellowship caught their eyes: “More people pass daily through the world’s hospitals than through the world’s churches.” Ross later wrote, “I would like to be involved in the development of preventative health care at the village level where there will be opportunities to present the Gospel. I also want to be involved in the training of national missionary health care workers.”
They were accepted as TEAM missionaries in November 1996, and by the fall of 1997, they were in Belgium where they spent a year brushing up on their French and studying tropical medicine…in French! They were excited about joining a French medical missionary couple who already worked at Bebalem Hospital, but they began to hear of interpersonal issues at the hospital that were extremely complicated and intertwined with cultural misunderstandings. They eventually made it to Bebalem, but after only a year, they watched the work begin to unravel. Ex-pat staff became discouraged and left, and eventually the hospital was turned over to the national church. The stress levels were high for everyone, and toward the end of 1999, Ross and Dawn returned to the U.S. very bruised and depleted.
Had they misunderstood God’s directions for their lives? What would become of the hospital in Chad that meant so much to them? What would become of the many people in Chad they had grown to love? If Chad wasn’t the place God wanted for them, then where could they serve?
After submitting to TEAM’s leadership as well as the advice of national church leaders, they tried to think of other places where they could serve temporarily hoping that the situation in Chad would come to some peaceful resolution. As they waited, they sought the wisdom of others and made an exploratory trip to Jordan coupled with a stop in Chad to sort their belongings. Although this trip was painful, it brought healthy closure and an assurance of God direction to Jordan. The move to Jordan brought yet another round of language study. By this time, they had studied or learned English, Spanish, French, N’Gambai, and Chadian Arabic. Now they began classical and spoken Arabic in order to work at the local hospital.
Through this extended time of transition, their newsletters were laced with Scriptural insights. Rather than sinking into a pool of discouragement, they clung to the promises of Scripture. The fabric of these insights creates a beautiful tapestry of trust in the sovereign God they both loved and trusted.
For the next six years, they both served at the facility. Ross became a vital part of the medical staff, but he was also called on to “fix” things…something he had learned from being an MK in Chad. Dawn’s nursing skills helped fill a recurring shortage of trained nurses, and she eventually became the Director of Nursing.
The work in Jordan introduced both Ross and Dawn to a new dynamic in the mission world. The facility’s staff was made up of people from various cultures and various sending groups. While this created challenges, it also brought with it a distinct synergy for addressing issues in a more creative way. What they learned there would someday be helpful to others in TEAM.
Ross continued to yearn for ways to reach out to children, and during the summer school breaks, he would welcome groups of children who needed medical care to come to the hospital. He and Dawn once took in a Bedouin baby who needed medical intervention. On another occasion, Ross accompanied a group of 20 Iraqi children to India for needed medical care.
In 2007, Ross and Dawn returned to the U.S. for home assignment. Ross was asked to be the “Interim Regional Director for fields in Muslim Areas and Central Africa.” That “temporary” job eventually became permanent, and Ross gave leadership, vision, and direction to various ministry areas in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Dawn’s skills made her a perfect fit as Retirement Coordinator at the Wheaton office.
Ross’ leadership ended on July 21, 2011, when he suffered a fatal heart attack, leaving behind Dawn and their three sons. Many projects and creative ideas began by Ross are still going forward, but everyone misses his unique ability to see the big picture while taking into account how decisions affect individuals. One word that characterized Ross is a word he mentions in his philosophy of ministry: “Gentleness.” His philosophy went on to explain: “What does gentleness look like? It is how I handle a baby or anything fragile that is priceless. It’s how one handles a bomb that is ticking. Gentle is not wishy-washy; it must be firm, yet doing it with an intentional plan to do no harm. Gentle means more care for the thing I am handling than I have for myself.”
-Written by Bob Wright
-Photo provided by the family
[Originally published in TEAMHorizons, October 2012]