Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Inspired by compassion

I have been working with Mission Doctors Association for over 27 years and have had the honor of supporting these doctors and their families. Their stories of courage, disappointment, hope and healing continue to inspired me. But, the countless stories of patients cared for, babies delivered, or operations preformed are written on the hearts of mission doctors and seldom on the pages of a newsletter.

One of my roles as director is to try to persuade them to share their stories. The humble health care providers are often reluctant to recount the numbers of patients seen, or the number of nights that they have been called back to the hospital to see yet another patient.
When encouraged to do so they sometimes share a case that was remarkable; a fisherman who traveled 100 km after a hippo attack and who received life saving surgery. And on the telling, the surgeon only stresses that the patient lived by the grace of God. I agree with him; however I don’t discount the surgeon’s skills and his sacrifices to be there – that night the life of this fisherman was indeed saved by the grace of God and the sacrifice of one, and the many who made it possible for him to be there – acting on their faith in God.

The doctors are just as likely to share their frustration when everything that they could do, with the limited resources at hand, was not enough. When practicing in the states with every resource available - when the battle is still lost - they may walk away feeling powerless in the face of death - but they know that everything that could be tried was tried. The frustration practicing resource poor medicine is in the knowing that for lack of a single drug, that cost only pennies at home, a patient dies, or for the time and distance it took to get to the hospital a child is lost.
These doctors unanimously recount that they have received more than they gave, that the experience made them a better doctor in their own practice and that they have been grateful for the opportunity to share their skills and quietly live their faith. I’m grateful to be witness to their service and their faith which strengthens my own.

Monday, November 10, 2008

As a result of the work of the gen X team member in our office, MDA now has a presence on YouTube, FaceBook, MySpace, Care2, Changing the Present, and other sites as well. Jessica also said it was time for the director to have a blog. So, I step into this arena, a 53 year old mother of four to share stories of the tremendous work that it is I my privilege to witness as the director of Mission Doctors Association.

'Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world, yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.'

These words of St. Teresa have always moved me.
I am aware that we are all called to be the body of Christ in the world today, and I am so fortunate to witness a spectacular example of this in the work of medical missionaries.

Growing up second generation Irish Catholic meant that my parents made sacrifices to send all four of us to parochial school. I remember the small boxes that we filled with coins, raising money for children in the missions. In our home mission magazines were stacked on the coffee table and the stories of missionaries recounted with admiration.

In 1977, when my husband and I learned of an opportunity to share our skills in the missions with the Lay Mission-Helpers Association, we felt called to this and were so fortunate to be able to serve in the diocese of Udon Thani for three years. Our oldest son, Joshua was 18 months when we left for Thailand, and during the three years our family was blessed with the additions of son Jacob and our daughter Jessica.

After returning to Southern California in 1981, I was offered a position with Mission Doctors Association, in 2009 celebrating 50 years. Our youngest son Joel was born in 1983 and as our family grew my work with Mission Doctors Association did as well. Once the gang were grown my job also grew to include mission visitation and I have been so blessed to be able to visit with bishops and our lay missionaries serving in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Cameroon.

I hope this blog will be an opportunity to share my experiences and stories of the work of Mission Doctors Association. The web site also has lots of news, letters and video about the work;