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One day as I sat in my car inching through traffic, a familiar billboard came into view. "Let Us Inspire You!!" In my car, I reflected on the word inspire and the numerous people who have inspired me professionally and spiritually over the years. They've served as role models, resources of knowledge, spiritual mentors and encouragers. Above all, one person stood out vividly in my mind: Cyndi Bradbury.

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I met Cyndi eight years ago when I first became familiar with Project Compassion, a Christian organization that provided free health care to our southern neighbors in Tijuana, Mexico. After attending several day-trips to Mexico with the group, I began to wonder who developed the program and what kept it going. This is what I discovered.

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In 1991 Cyndi, a labor and delivery nurse in San Diego, California, became ill with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. During a year of recovery and rehabilitation, she reflected, prayed and sought the Lord's will for her life.


"I was being led to start a medical mission program but did not have a clue what that meant," Cyndi said. "I kept reading Luke 10:9,"Cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'" Her husband, Jack, a businessman in the aerospace industry, also felt the same leading from Scripture. That confirmation gave her impetus to start a project that would forever change her life.


Cyndi began recruiting anyone who was interested in a medical mission program. By the end of the year, she had gathered a small group of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and helping hands who visited Tijuana monthly to conduct clinics. Working with local pastors, they offered free medical care, prescription medications and the opportunity to hear the gospel and receive Bibles and other Christian literature.


"Some days only five or six people were willing to go. When we showed up at the clinic site, several hundred people were waiting for us. Those were years of learning, growing and leaning on the Lord to keep his vision of the ministry before us," said Cyndi. At the end of that first year, Project Compassion was incorporated as a non-profit, non-denominational, Christian medical relief organization in the state of California.


Supplying the clinic with staff was only one challenge; paying for the supplies presented another. According to Cyndi, God has been faithful over the years, bringing local Christian churches of various denominations to help financially. Pharmaceutical companies also donate medications.

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In 1995 a missionary in Colombia, South America, invited Project Compassion to provide care in needy villages. It was the start of intercontinental care by the group. Since then, Project Compassion has held clinics in sixty-three refugee camps, orphanages and remote villages. Within thirty minutes, they can set up a clinic in a church, school, mud-walled, thatched-roof hut or even an open field. They can provide care for approximately 1,000-1,500 people in a week-long clinic.


The all-volunteer team has grown from a handful to over 1,600 volunteers around the country. Teams of health care workers and helping hands have provided care, health promotion and disease-prevention education, while presenting the gospel to thousands of people on six continents, in such places as Thailand, Nepal, Marshall Islands, Malawi, Romania, Peru, the Amazon rain forest of Venezuela and all through Central America. Project Compassion has been able to respond to world disasters including relief work in Nicaragua and Honduras following Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and in El Salvador following the devastating earthquakes in early 2001.


I am inspired when I think of the faith it must have taken for Cyndi to take that first step in starting a medical missions program. I marvel that one nurse, even with the support of others, can accomplish so much. Along this journey of hard work and commitment, trials at any point could have halted her efforts.


In 1996, Cyndi was diagnosed with breast cancer. During her treatment, she continued to prepare teams to go, taking care of details and providing spiritual encouragement. "Those were dark hours, wondering why God would allow an illness to threaten my life when I felt so much was left for me to do," Cyndi reflected.


One day, after her cancer recurred and appeared to be metastatic, I asked Cyndi what gave her the strength to continue with the ministry. "You just cling to God's promises and trust that he is in control, even when things seem out of control," she replied.


Cyndi underwent stem cell transplant, radiation and chemotherapy over the next three years. Complications and setbacks appeared at every turn during this time, yet she remained committed to seeing Project Compassion continue to expand its outreach to those in need. All around her were inspired by her faith.


A goal that Cyndi held close to her heart was taking a team to Africa. "Even as a young child, I knew God would send me there," she said. In August 2000, Cyndi and I, along with thirteen others, traveled to Malawi, a small country in the heart of Africa.


Cyndi had just recovered from pneumonitis, a complication from radiation, when the team left. We were concerned about her health, her ability to tolerate the long travel and her exposure to a vast population of ill people. Cyndi approached the trip, as she does all challenges in life, by seeking the Lord's direction. "Is this what God wants from me? If so, he will prepare the way," she repeated constantly.


Her faithfulness was rewarded. Project Compassion provided physical and spiritual care for over 1,300 people. At one small village, the team watched as Cyndi assisted with the birth of a baby. As I observed her care for the newborn, I reflected that, in the midst of poverty, disease and death, this woman had traveled thousands of miles, risking her own health, to be faithful to what God had called her to do. She trusted the Lord to use her as an ambassador of his love and mercy.


Today, Cyndi is healthy and working to open new doors of service for Project Compassion. She envisions a permanent clinic in a developing country, where health care professionals can go to serve for months at a time. She actively participates in four international outreaches each year. She continues to share her vision of reaching others with the gospel, her passion for providing health care for the poorest of the poor, and inspiring those around her to be open to what the Lord can do. "You never know where he will lead you and how he can use you," Cyndi reminds us.


Few of us are led to take on such a huge endeavor, but each of us is called to be a role model and encourager to our patients, colleagues, family and friends. In doing so, we inspire others.