Geaux Life, May 2016

Vet Students Combine Faith and Career as a Way to Serve God

by Lisa Tramontana
The CVM group poses with villagers during last year's trip to Honduras.
The CVM group poses with villagers during last year’s trip to Honduras.

The connection isn’t obvious at first, but once you think about it, it makes perfect sense. It’s a connection that some veterinary students understand completely … the desire to bring glory to God through their profession. Christian Veterinary Missions helps them do just that.

CVM sends missionary vets all over the world, not just to provide much needed vet services to underserved areas, but to build relationships based on God’s word. Our relationship with Christ asks us to love and serve others with the skills and talents given to us. In doing so, we can introduce others to Christ. Interestingly, veterinarians have unique access to places that might not typically welcome foreign missionaries.

Think about it. In small villages, especially in Third World countries, animals play an important role in the survival of individuals and families. In terms of income, nutrition and farm labor, animals are extremely valuable — from the hen that lays eggs to the donkey that provides transportation. As the CVM website states, a healthy animal can literally make a life or death difference for an entire family. This is why veterinary professionals are welcome in the farthest corners of the world.

Members of the mission group attended church with the local residents.
Members of the mission group attended church with the local residents.

At Louisiana State University, vet students are fortunate to have an active and successful CVM presence. The student branch is called Christian Veterinary Fellowship (CVF), and it provides an instant bond among students that is strengthened by their shared faith. The group hosts weekly Bible studies, Christian video series, and book discussions of works such as “Forgotten God,” by Frances Chan, and “Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus,” by Kyle Idleman.

“Being part of this group has really helped me,” said Sam Sotrop. “Vet school is challenging and it’s comforting to be around other students and faculty who are faith-minded. It’s good to know that we have God with us through this experience. It’s a reminder that everything we do is related to God’s plan.”

The group also participates in outreach programs that provide free medical care for animals that belong to low income families. One example is a program that was held in New Orleans recently and was coordinated by Church of the King in the Mandeville/Northshore area. Vet student Michael St. Blanc was part of the LSU group that attended.

Amanda Wolff, left, and Sarah Beth Redding perform a neutering procedure on a dog.
Amanda Wolff, left, and Sarah Beth Redding perform a neutering procedure on a dog.

“We conducted wellness exams, administered vaccinations, treated basic conditions, and performed heartworm and flea prevention for pets in the program,” he said. “The hands-on training is valuable. But we also took prayer requests from the owners as they came through. Praying with them was an important way to bring the faith element into the experience.”

St. Blanc has been involved in CVF-LSU, along with his wife Alissa, since he started vet school. He says it has centered him. “I like being with other people who openly profess their faith, both students and faculty. It’s great that I’ve found a way to use my profession to minister to others in a meaningful way.”

CVF-LSU’s next project is a two-week trip to Honduras, which will include 20 vets, students and technicians. Amanda Wolff, who went on the same trip last year, is this year’s coordinator. “It was such a blessing to be able to use the skill set I’ve developed in school to help others,” she said.

The trip offers students the chance to gain experience spaying and neutering animals, and providing basic medical treatments. Last year’s patients included cats, dogs, horses, cows and even goats, Wolff said.

“Each day, we visited a different rural village,” she said. “We gathered with the local people, prayed with them and shared God’s word. We passed out Spanish Bibles and often, local pastors from area churches would greet us and thank us for our service. For me, the trip wasn’t just about the vet work. It was about establishing relationships with the people of Honduras.”

Kathryn Duris holds three puppies that have just received medical attention.
Kathryn Duris holds three puppies that have just received medical attention.

The Honduras trip will take place May 21 to June 4. The group will fly into the capital city of Tegucigalpa and then drive about six hours to their base camp, Rancho el Pariso, which is located in Agalta Valley. CVF-LSU partners with an organization called Honduras Outreach International (HOI), which coordinates various medical and mission groups coming in and out of the area each week.

To help offset the cost of travel and supplies used during the trip, CVF-LSU hosts several fundraisers each year. Donations are also accepted and are tax deductible if designated specifically to the LSU group.

“Vet school is a demanding program; from the sheer volume of information we are required to learn, to the taxing test schedules and the lack of time to do it,” said Wolff. “It’s easy to become overwhelmed and anxious about it all. My involvement with CVF-LSU has been my ‘breath of fresh air’ and has allowed me to set aside the trials of the world and focus on God and what is really important. It has provided me with a home group that encourages me and has helped grow my faith.”

The CVM website says it best:

Animals are a bridge to relationships. Whether at a pet clinic in urban America or a farm in the countryside of Mongolia, relationships are formed over the care of an animal. Trust is built, hearts are shared, and a seed is planted for the Kingdom of Christ.

For more information, call (225) 572-8839.