Dr. Will (’93) and Allison (Smith ’95) Caire learned something about God’s timing while serving as missionaries in Peru.
They expected to be there long term, but then God intervened. That experience taught them to forget about long-term plans and leave things in God’s hands.
“We thought we would be in Peru forever,” Will said, “and yet God made it clear that there was something different for us.”
Today, the Caires are in East Africa, a long way from Peru. Will is a family medicine consultant serving with Christian Health Service Corps at AIC Kijabe Mission Hospital in Kijabe, Kenya. Allison teaches upper-level and Advanced Placement Spanish at Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kijabe for children of missionaries. She also is head of the International Language Department for the academy.
The Caires are among several ACU alumni practicing in underserved parts of the world through Christian Health Service Corps. Other alumni are Drs. Jared (’07) and Jenny (Fulkerson ’07) Brockington and Dr. Kent (’03) and Amber (Carroll ’06) Brantly. Haley McNeese (’17), a registered nurse, will begin serving with CHSC in northern Mexico in spring 2020.
Will and Allison knew each other at ACU but didn’t date until later and were married in 2000. They joined CHSC in late 2011. The Caires are no strangers to the mission field. Both participated in mission trips growing up. For Will, that was in Edmond, Oklahoma, while Allison grew up in Dallas. At ACU, both took part in Spring Break Campaigns. They both were encouraged by the culture at ACU that emphasizes making a difference for Christ in the world.
“Particularly, my good friends I made at ACU have been a constant source of encouragement and assurances that ‘you are making a difference’ when it often feels like I am not,” Will said.
Allison recalls the influence of Dr. Chris Willerton, former director of the Honors College and now retired.
“He was always concerned with what God was doing worldwide,” Allison said.
Allison also studied abroad as an ACU student in Oxford and witnessed the post-Christian state of Europe, an eye-opening experience. Attending Abilene Mission Church while a student allowed Allison to connect with people who were interested in missions, especially in the Spanish-speaking world. Although Allison was an English education major, her professors at ACU, friends and international chapel all encouraged her to serve the Lord internationally.
“There was a sense of the grandeur of the world, the grandeur of God’s grace,” Allison said, “and the possibility of many wonderful people who would either go with us or pray for us from afar.”
Associating with people who had an interest in international missions no doubt influenced the Caires. After college, they had prayer meetings with a group of people who wanted to do missions, led by Brent (’93) and Julie (Griggs (’94) Pennington. Almost everyone in the group ended up going somewhere to plant churches, in such diverse places as Thailand, Hawaii and Croatia.
Later, when the Caires were living in Curahuasi, Peru, and working in with Christian Health Service Corps, they had the opportunity to see the same spirit affecting current students. The couple hosted four ACU students through the WorldWide Witness program while in Peru.
“The students,” Allison wrote, “were outstanding examples of the committed, others-focused Christians who were willing to lay down their lives for the poor and suffering.”
One of the students the couple hosted in the summer of 2015 was McNeese, who will join CHSC next spring.
With all that spiritual influence and support at ACU, it’s no surprise the Caires ended up in the mission field. During Will’s final year at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, he served for a month in a small medical clinic in Guatemala with Dr. Tony Rector, former ACU campus physician and now a member of the board of CHSC.
The Caires believe they have found their place in Kenya – at least for now. Both have fulfilling careers and love the people and culture. Will’s main job at the hospital is teaching doctors, and he finds the relationships he forms through that work to be rewarding. He also loves the diversity of the medicine, and the opportunities to become a better doctor.
“But most of all,” Will said, “I love doing meaningful work taking care of the poor, and mentoring and training the next generation of doctors in East Africa and Kenya.”
The doctors Will trains want to make a difference in the world. They come to Kijabe Hospital knowing it is a Christian institution and that it has a standard of excellence.
“They come to be trained to take that knowledge and excellence to areas of East Africa where it would be very hard for me to go,” Will said. “They are a great example to me.”
At the same time, Allison is filling a vital role teaching at the Rift Valley Academy. Her service, joined with other teachers, allows parents to continue to serve in challenging areas of Africa working with people who have little to no experience of the Gospel.
“Those parents are making a great sacrifice,” Will said, “and Allison loves the mission to serve those parents and their kids.”
Through their service in various parts of the world, the Caires have cared for people of many nationalities. In Peru, where Will was a direct care physician, he served the Quechua people, a marginalized group living in the Andean highlands. At the Kijabe hospital, patients are the poor of the area as well as from other areas of East Africa. Many of the Somalis who come are Muslim.
“It is great to be able to show them the love of Christ through what I hope is godly compassion and excellence,” Will said.
At the hospital, Will trains doctors and clinical officers, who function somewhat like physician assistants, from countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, Somaliland, Burundi and Rwanda. The hospital is a place for residents to train in a variety of areas, from family medicine to more specialized fields such as orthopedic surgery. The hospital also has a fellowship program for training in areas of plastic surgery, pediatric surgery, nurse anesthetist and more.
Will has learned that medicine is similar in every part of the world, but in underserved areas illnesses and injuries may be far advanced by the time the patient gets help.
“That can be a real challenge,” Will said, “and it also means more of my patients die here than they did when I worked in the U.S.”
The Caires love where they serve and the people they serve, but they have learned it is best to leave long-term plans in God’s hands. They have four children, David, 16; Peter, 15; Annie, 13; and Sarah, 11. The family tries to come back to the United States every 18 months, but Will acknowledged those trips might become more frequent as the children begin attending college. They hope to stay in Africa at least until Sarah, a sixth-grader, graduates from high school.
When the time comes to pull up stakes, the Caires will have mixed emotions. They will know that God is calling them to serve elsewhere, they said, but they will miss the people they have grown to respect and love.
The physicians Will works with are committed Christians who have sacrificed to work at Kijabe. They are excellent physicians pushing for excellence in healthcare at the hospital, something that is exciting and rewarding for Will.
“They want to see the Lord’s work done here,” he said.