Friday, August 13, 2010

Medical Workers Afghanistan

I had a bit of a shock recently when I was reading the news on-line. The headlines mentioned medical workers had been killed in Afghanistan, and the story ran an image of a young woman who looked very much like my children’s first pediatrician in Texas. That pediatrician was a young woman who had already spent several long stints in remote areas of developing countries to provide medical treatment to children in underserved areas. She was a remarkable doctor, and I knew she had a child of her own. My heart sank to think this wonderful pediatrician had been killed.

But I read the story and it turned out the pediatrician we knew was not one of the medical workers killed. That was a relief, but my heart also broke to read about these strangers who traveled in rugged terrain and sacrificed so much to provide people with much needed medical care. The doctors had traveled to a remote part of Afghanistan under the auspices of a Christian relief group, but they deliberately did not proselytize. They did not share God’s love expressly by telling patients with words about him, but they did God’s work by being his hands and feet to his people in need.

Personally, I find that type of sacrifice to be beautiful. When I lived in France as an au pair, the aunt of my French mother was a nun who had spent nearly her entire career in Afghanistan despite great dangers. I remember listening in awe to my French family’s description of her dedication and love for the people of Afghanistan. She did not wear a traditional nun’s habit, but adopted local norms of dress to be more effective in her work. Like the medical workers killed in Afghanistan, she did not proselytize but simply lived with God’s people to minister to their needs as a nurse.

My first teaching job was at a Catholic school where my principal (also a nun) had just come from years of serving a rural community in Liberia. At the time, the leaders of her religious order had just evacuated all of the sisters because of the intensification of civil war violence. Despite the dangers, these strong-willed nuns had resisted the evacuated until the end and tried in vain to convince the leaders of their order it was not necessary. While in Liberia, these nuns did not proselytize but instead ministered to the needs of their neighbors to provide fresh water wells and education.

My husband and I aspire to do similar types of work once he finishes his education and our kids are a little older. As a nurse, he will have valuable skills in such a setting, though there will likely be little call for my amazing talent for statutory construction. I joke that he can give the inoculations and listen to people’s lungs while I can tag along and try to find something useful to do like holding his stethoscope, disposing of the syringes and/or doing paperwork.

We really admire the self-sacrifice of these medical workers. The accounts I’ve read of these murdered medical workers in Afghanistan indicate over and over again that they knew the risks, but they had a passion for the kind of work they were doing. What a beautiful testimony to God’s love.

The links below contain news reports about the murders, and tributes to the medical workers.

Romans 12:1

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

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