Shirley Cropsey experienced God’s provision in both the exciting and routine aspects of missionary life when she and her young family arrived in Togo to join the team establishing Hôpital Baptiste Biblique.
With the hospital still under construction, Shirley settled into life in Africa: memorizing new verbs in language class, discussing faith issues with neighbors in the village, keeping up with her children’s schooling, and battling strange illnesses—all while keeping local reptiles out of the house. Throughout her daily tasks, she faithfully kept her eyes open to God’s leading and his sustaining care.
In her upcoming book, What God Can Do: Letters to My Mom from the Medical Mission Field of Togo, West Africa, Shirley offers glimpses into the everyday life of her family from 1981-1993 as they prepared for the field and landed in Togo. Through a series of letters, she pens an account of serving God in whatever capacities needed alongside her husband Bob, a medical doctor, and sons Luke, Matt, Josh, and John—and a revolving door of fellow missionaries and local neighbors.
In the following excerpts, Shirley describes the importance of relying on God in all aspects of life as her family prepared for the opening of Hôpital Baptiste Biblique.
November 23, 1983, 5:30 a.m.
It is a beautiful morning here. The sun is just beginning to show its face. Because we are so close to the equator, there will be full sunlight fast. There isn’t much of a dawn or dusk here.
Kofi comes at 6 a.m. to start the wash now. It gets so hot by midday. I like to have the clothes off the line by noon.
Today is full. I need to get us ready for our trip to see the boat people [in Benin], which will be after our Thanksgiving gathering, which I also need to prepare for today! Martha is coming to watch me do dressing for the turkey! Sure hope you are praying because Andersons put a small fortune into a couple of turkeys and then asked me to fix them! Out here, the turkeys can be tough as nails, so cooking them is a very delicate process. She also asked me to do pumpkin pies, and Luke wants a blueberry pie.
I can’t remember if I’ve shared with you about the bad attitudes the missionary kids were having out here. Prayer changes things, and all the boys are doing so much better. Luke, especially, has recognized how he was catching some bitterness and sharpness. He realized that allowing it to be part of his life would only cause more pain. Praise the Lord. I hope to see more changes soon.
Bob has been trying to make more time to have fun and do things with all the boys. He and John made a tent yesterday, which has become “John’s office.” John came in and told me he needs a fan for his office too.
Mrs. Dzagli and Adzovi are learning how to knit. It is fun to teach them skills they can use. Adzovi also cut out her birthday dress yesterday, and I’ll help her sew it. Bob made me a table in the laundry room for my sewing machine. It works perfectly.
Having an office for Bob has helped us out a lot. He can study, have class, and see medical problems out there. We also got all our medicine, bandages, etc. out and sorted.
Did I tell you John has a large sandbox now?
My health has improved, and I’m not so tired all the time. Guess the iron I’m taking is helping, but God has changed some things, too. I marvel at how He cares for each of us in extraordinary ways as we give ourselves to Him daily. I’m so unworthy of His care and faithfulness. I need to learn more about Him and trust Him in all aspects of my life.
At last count, there were around 28 extra people that came through our house yesterday. I’ve felt pretty good, so I can handle it right now.
The boys are all up, and Kofi is here starting the wash (we are still using the wringer washer and happy for it).
It has been fun talking to you this morning, and I’ll write more later, Lord willing!
June 1, 1985
Here we are. 12 days before the hospital dedication! As we work heartily as unto the Lord, you pray fervently. We desire to see God receive all the glory for what He has and will accomplish here in Togo.
First, let me tell you about the progress at the hospital.
The hospital grounds look nice. The outpatient clinic is all ready to go, except for the examining tables that are being finished up now. We organized the warehouse down to the last massive stack of shelves. (The most difficult because everything that didn’t have a place got put there!) We will have a big work day tomorrow to bring the hospital closer to completion on the inside.
I am coming out of a bad relapse and have spent most of the last month in bed. Just as I began to feel like I might be healed of this illness, it suddenly reappeared! Isaiah 61:3 speaks of giving the “garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,” and I can testify that He surely can do that. I must confess to some low moments, but as I turn to Christ, He has given grace.
With the help of Martha Anderson and three teachers that came out with the Pensacola team, John and I finished up his first school year! All the boys did fantastic this year. They worked hard and are happy for the summer break. I was elected chairman of the school committee. So for me, the work begins to prepare for next year. Our teachers have been super, and I am confident of another fantastic year with Kelli here to keep things on track.
In his salutation to the Colossians, we join with Paul that we “do not cease to pray for you” (Colossians 1:9). I prayed for you today!
July 25, 1985
The dedication day of the hospital was above all our expectations. THANK YOU for your prayers, for we are very aware that it was only through God that everything was accomplished. The outpatient clinic is now open, too.
The day before the clinic opened, many Togolese slept all night near the clinic’s doors to be the first ones in. There were about 500 people that first day. Many patients came to see if they could find help for medical problems that no one else could help. Others came to see how we would treat them or what Hôpital Baptiste Biblique was all about.
What a grand opportunity to share the gospel with so many folks! We start every day with a missionary staff prayer meeting, then an employee chapel, followed by a patient chapel. One man asked a colleague, “Just when does this eternal life begin, anyway?” For many, the first seeds of the gospel are planted, and we hope as they return again that we can water and nurture that seed to see lives changed for eternity.
The spectrum of disease is immense and very challenging. It includes the following: leprosy, cataracts, intestinal parasites of every size and shape, malnutrition, O.B. and gynecological problems, as well as other rare findings.
The people are so patient. We praise God that they are very open to the gospel!
February 24, 1986
Greetings from Togo,
In the last month, there have been many changes in the lives and surroundings of the Cropsey home!
The men started on the school floor last Saturday, and we expect that it will take from two to four weeks. The other parts of the school progress at different levels too. The best part is that it is paid for, and the books still balance!
The ministries at the hospital continue to see fruit. Dr. Dave and Dr. Bob take turns staying here for Sundays, and last Sunday, they started a chapel service for the patients and their families caring for them. Several have come to know the Lord through this ministry.
The three Bible study groups in the villages continue. The patient load remains about the same, and Bob continues to take all the night calls. The Lord gives strength and rest when it is most needed! We do not have an administrator for the hospital, nor anyone to be in charge of the continued structural changes and construction, so Bob has taken those responsibilities. But God controls the hearts of those over us! We have permission to hire a Christian man to fill our dismissed pharmacy aide person. The medical committee has committed to hiring only Christians at this point.
P.S. Did I tell you about making the boys’ lunch one day when it was still dark? I thought that the honey seemed dark in spots!? The boys came home beside themselves because giant sugar ants were in the sandwiches, and the ants were still moving! I got a detailed description from Ann of how each kid reacted. Luke just pinched his ants out and ate the sandwich. Now that’s adjusting!
Editor’s Note: To read more of Shirley’s story, check out What God Can Do: Letters to My Mom from the Medical Mission Field of Togo, West Africa. These excerpts are taken from pages 83-85, 129-130, 132-133, and 139-141.