Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Gift

A newlywed couple, Dr. Mark and Mrs. Sheila Bisanzo from Massachusetts recently shared how they are experiencing Advent and preparing for Christmas in Uganda. Sheila commented “...we're grateful for the opportunity to enjoy the essence of Christmas and the renewal it brings without the overwhelming American distractions of buying and spending”.

I remember Christmas during our time in Thailand, now almost 30 years ago, with the same joy that Sheila recalls. There is something liberating about being removed from what we take for granted and have come to believe must be part and parcel of the 'traditional' holiday. Shopping, wrapping, planning, mailing, often accompanied by stress that can overtake the meaning of the Holy day. Removing all these made it easier to stay focused on what we are really celebrating - 'that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son...'

In the years since returning to Southern California, I can’t say I’ve always kept this perspective during Advent and Christmas, especially as my kids were growing up, wanting to create perfect memories for them. As I take a step back and look at all of the holiday that have come and gone, I know that Christ has been at the center, even if we were momentarily distracted. Taking the time to slow down and be grateful (even after staying up until 3 a.m. wrapping gifts and making cinnamon rolls...), we have been given the opportunity to express to each other the love that God has for each of us.

There is a special gift that those serving at Christmas receive, even if like Mark and Sheila it means working at the emergency room - a gift that will last a lifetime. Sheila shared 'When we think about the Holy Family and the image of the Nativity, a peaceful time of a family gathering is the gift they shared and which we still embrace today. ‘Where two or three are gathered together,’ that's the Christmas gift.”

May we all experience the presence of Christ, though all of the errands, shopping and wrapping, and may we always recognize the real Christmas gift!

Where Two or More are Gathered...

The Holidays often mean getting together with friends and families to share and celebrate.

We are working on plans, born of this same idea, getting people together to help spread the word about Mission Doctors. Generous veteran mission doctors and dedicated friends are hosting events in their area to share the stories and to celebrate the mission with friends and family, and plans are underway for more of these events after the first of the year.

I am just about to run out the door to pick up the invitations for a gathering in Long Beach next month. Dr. Brent Burket and Dr. Jennifer Thoene will be on hand to talk about their upcoming mission assignment to Guatemala, at the home of Dr. Laura King. As we make these plans and send out the invitations, I am reminded of Jesus’ promise that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Coming together to share in the story of doctors who serve those most in need, Jesus is certainly with us. The promise is that He will be with us as we gather, as we pray, and as we serve together.

The doctors who travel half a world away to provide life saving medical care for God's neediest, and those who gather to pray for them and offer support, are certainly not acting alone. May you too feel the presence of Christ on this Advent journey and as we celebrate His birth this Christmas.

Would you like to attend or host a gathering in your area to share information about Mission Doctors?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sharing their Story

I wanted to take a moment and share with you a couple of the blogs our Mission Doctors are writing to share their mission stories.

A Step Along the Way This blog, with it’s title is inspired by the prayer of Archbishop Oscar Romero, is written by Dr. and Mrs. Richard Stoughton. The Stoughton’s have recently returned from an eight year mission in rural Zimbabwe, serving the people of St. Theresa's hospital. While their long term mission has ended their commitment to the people of St. Theresa’s hospital continues. In this season of thanks Dr. and Mrs. Richard Stoughton are sharing Eight Days of Gratitude, comparing the life lived in the US, life at St. Theresa’s Hospital and those living in the community around the hospital.

Burket-Thoene Family Mission The Burket-Thoene Family Mission is a new blog, started by Dr. Brent Burket and Dr. Jennifer Thoene. These veteran mission doctors will start a long term mission to Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala with their four children; Christopher, Elizabeth, Julianne and Nicholas. This doctor couple will be caring for the indigenous Mayan population, the Tz'utujil, working along side the people at a hospital called Hospitalito.

Please take a moment and check out their blogs, hear their stories and consider signing up as a “follower” to receive new blog posts.

Friday, December 4, 2009

We Wait Together

Advent is the time of waiting and preparing- but the word Advent is from the Latin word 'coming".

We are waiting, we are preparing for Christ’s coming – as the world waited more than 2000 years ago – but we know that in Advent our focus needs to be, not on the waiting but on who we are waiting for. We are waiting for Christ to come, waiting to celebrate once again the dawn of the new day when nothing would be the same.

Children may anticipate with joy the coming of Santa Clause.

Adults may prepare for families coming together at the holidays.

There are others in Guatemala that are also awaiting with joyful anticipation the coming of Dr. Brent Burket and Dr. Jennifer Thoene who will begin a three year assignment to Hospitalito in January.

In Uganda, the hospital awaits the coming of Dr. Ron and Mrs. Barbara Wick in January.

In Cameroon, Sr. Xaveria is awaiting the coming of Dr. James and Mrs. Terry Hake.

These doctors and others serve because Christ has already been born in their hearts and they can’t wait to share their skills and their faith with others.

Please keep all mission doctors and their families in your prayers this Holy Season.

We wait together. We know who we are waiting for, and we know that once again we can strive to be the one others are waiting for.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Courage on the Word Day of Prayer and Action for Children

When I travel to the Africa and Latin America to visit our doctors who are serving in small mission hospitals and clinics, it is the faces of children that remain etched in my memory. The children running along the road, laughing at the lady with the camera, singing in the church, and the children in the hospitals, their parents anxiously standing at their bedside.

As a mother of four, in these childern’s faces I see my own children. I recognize the joy and the fear, the laughter and the tears.

Those of us in the west however need to awaken to the reality of the lives of children around the
world. In Uganda today there are over 1.2 millions AIDS orphans. In Guatemala more than half the children suffer from chronic malnutrition. In Cameroon the burden of poverty is heightened by diseases of malaria, TB, chronic respiratory infections. The needs of these children and their communities is what drives our doctors to sacrifice so much to serve, and is what drive my own work.

Today, November 20 is the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children. On this anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, I would like to share with you the story of Courage. This story not only inspired me, but all of the doctors and nurses serving in this small mission hospital in Ghana. Courage is a young boy none of us will forget.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Imagine a World

I wanted to take a moment this week and share with you a powerful quote from the founder of Mission Doctors, Monsignor Anthony Brouwers, “Many do not know the needs of the world’s poverty; some do not care. Others know but refuse to lift a finger or open a tight purse. The present writer, on journeys through the mission lands, has had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with the reality of poverty. To see it in all its stark realism is not enough; one must smell and touch it before the mind drinks in the realities of the senses.”

His ability to help those of us here in the US understand the reality of the needs has called many of us to join in the work of Mission Doctors Association. It is true, that the needs in the Africa and Latin America are difficult to imagine while sitting at our computer screen in a warm home or office. It is my charge however, as a missionary myself, returned home, to share these needs with others and to encourage prayers and support.

Imagine a world where all needs of the poor are met. We can imagine this one patient at a time. Click this link to view a Mission Doctors video. You can meet our doctors serving and learn about the real needs that exist.

Friday, October 30, 2009


This Sunday we will hear the beautiful and familiar Sermon on the Mount, the Gospel reading that gives us the Beatitudes. These Beatitudes are a hopeful message of God’s love and gives us the template against which we can hold our actions.

Am I poor in spirit, meek, merciful, pure of heart, am I a peacemaker?
Do I hunger and thirst for righteousness and am I willing to be persecuted for it?

The dedicated doctors and their families that serve in the missions are indeed poor in spirit living simply for the sake of their faithful service. And sadly, due to limited resources they have far too many opportunities to mourn at the bedside of a patient.

At times faced with the inequities they experience, I know they have a deep hunger for a remedy that would address the underlying injustices.

Matthew goes on beyond the Beatitudes quoting Jesus "You are the light of the world." "...your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father."

The good that is done by Mission Doctors is a form of this light, may others may see the good and give glory to God!

How are you finding ways to live the Beatitudes and be the light of the world?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Many other doctors more deserving of the award...

"There are many other doctors more deserving of the award.” This is the answer our office received from Dr. Michael Fitzgerald, in response to his nomination. However, this Sunday on the Feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist, it was my honor to witness Dr. Fitzgerald receiving the Mission Doctors Association, 2009 Catholic Doctor of the Year Award at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles White Mass.

While it was a daunting task deciding on the award winner from the more than a 1000 nominations sent out nationwide, Dr. Fitzgerald stood apart for his commitment to his community and those around the world.

Dr. Fitzgerald volunteers with the Poverello Clinic, a free clinic for the uninsured. His service has also taken him to the Sacre Coeur Hospital in Milot, Haiti, as well as hosting Haitian physicians who come to the US for specialized training. Dr. Fitzgerald in addtion serves annually as a volunteer physician accompanying and ministering to the sick and disabled who make the pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, in southern France.

Thank you Dr. Michael Fitzgerald for your dedication to your patients and your ability to recognize the face of Christ in all you serve.

To learn more about Dr. Michael Fitzgerald, please read the spread on the award and his service from the Diocese of Syracuse paper.

Monday, September 21, 2009

International Day of Peace

Today, September 21st is the International Day of Peace. In 1981, the United Nations General Assembly established this International Day of Peace with the intention of having the entire world observe a day of peace and nonviolence.

In response to our own Catholic World Day of Peace on January 1, Pope Benedict XVI quoted his Predecessor Pope John Paul II drawing attention to the negative repercussions for peace when entire populations live in poverty. “Poverty is often a contributory factor or a compounding element in conflicts, including armed ones. In turn, these conflicts fuel further tragic situations of poverty. “Our world”, he wrote, “shows increasing evidence of another grave threat to peace: many individuals and indeed whole peoples are living today in conditions of extreme poverty”.

Millions of people today live in extreme poverty around the world. This poverty has the power to hold peace at bay.

Today, and for more than 50 years, Mission Doctors have served at mission hospitals and clinics to offer health care to those most in need.

While the healthcare debate rages here in the US, the need in Africa and Latin America call some dedicated lay missionaries to leave the comfort of home and family to share their gifts and live their faith. They bring their professional skills and in doing so are also bearers of peace.

May we carry peace in our heart, share it in our families and workplaces, our communities and pray to hasten the day that swords will be beaten into plowshares.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Prayer on 9/11

September 11 was celebrated in my house growing up, it was my father’s birthday. A special dinner, followed by my less than stellar attempts at a birthday cake.

Sadly, since 2001, September 11 leaves us now remembering the shock of the horrific and tragic events of that morning. Today we remember those who died and we pray for the loved ones left behind who suffered the greatest loss.

On this day of grief, reflection, service and prayer, this prayer of St. Francis challenges us to try to go beyond the pain, beyond the grief, beyond the fear, calling us to the light in the darkness.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith,

Where there is despair, hope,

Where there is darkness, light,

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may
not so much
seek to be consoled as to console,
not so much to be understood as to understand,
not so much to be loved, as to love;

for it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we awake to eternal life.
- St. Francis of Assisi

For those whose lives were lost on September 11 we pray that you welcome them to Your eternal life Oh Lord. For their families and those whom they love, may Your consolation be theirs.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Power of Prayer

Doing a quick Google news search for “power of prayer” everything, from the current health care debate, to stories of people lost at sea, come up. Each of these stories, while significantly different, has in common a belief in the power of God’s grace.

The mission doctors who serve at hospitals and clinics around the world, often with their spouses and families, do so believing in the power of God’s grace. Grace to get them there safely; to guide and protect them while their serve; the grace to offer professional care with limited resources; and upon returning, the grace to arrive home safely.

I want to take this blog post to invite you to share some of your prayers for our missionaries serving the poor around the world. If you would like to send a prayer of support and encouragement to our mission doctors and their families, you can do so here.

Thank you for becoming our partner in prayer!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Our Lady Brings the Rain

Drs Melanie and Roy Elfrink served this summer with four of their six children at St. Martin de Porres Hospital in the diocese of Kabale, Uganda. Melanie wrote about the start of the rainy season, and the link to the Feast of The Assumption, which is a National Holiday in Uganda...

Melanie writes:
One of the highlights was seeing the rainy season start. Everyone kept saying that it was going to rain on the 15th, the Assumption. It's a national holiday, and the people say "Our Lady brings the rain on her feast day". Since that was Saturday and we'd had no rain for some time we decided to see. Skeptically, like the Americans we are. Wednesday: a few clouds, no rain. Thursday: a few clouds and a clap of thunder, no rain. Friday: a few clouds, two claps of thunder, and a teeny sprinkle that barely counted as rain. Friday night: downpour. Saturday: downpour. Sunday: downpour. Repeat that last part every day since the Assumption. Father John told us at mass, "Our Lady brings the rain every year on the Assumption to show the people of Uganda that she has a special love for them because we have a special love for her."

It felt like Easter, because after months of that red dust coating everything, including your body/eyes/even teeth if you walked very far, Saturday of the Assumption the air smelled clean, the plants were all clean, and the people were so happy they were giddy with relief and gratitude. Mass was filled with beautiful music, special dancing, people pledging themselves to Mary.

May the changing of the seasons be an opportunity for us too, to recognize our dependence and to celebrate, with gratitude, the example of the lady who said yes to God!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Honeymooning at Karoli Lwanga Hospital

Mark and Sheila Bisanzo were married on June 12, 2009 (My husband Tom and I were married that same day 33 years earlier!) Unlike many newlyweds, they didn't set up their home near work or family. They are beginning their lives together serving as members of Mission Doctors Association at Karoli Lwanga hospital in rural Nyakibale, Uganda. The reflected on how, beginning their married life in the missions has given them cause to reflect on the challenges and blessings.

As we continue on this journey of acclimatization and discovery, we appreciate the significance of ritual in our daily life together, especially because we are beginning our marriage in Uganda. We are creating a rhythm of daily rituals in our new home and surroundings while we accept the lack of running water and current drought.

We celebrate the threads of joy and gratitude woven throughout our experience, such as an enthusiastic "Agandi!" (“Hello, how are you?”) and smile by a child along the road, or watching the soulful sway of parishioners dancing and singing to the drum beat at mass. A common greeting which our colleagues and neighbors extend to us says it best, "You are so welcome." The Ugandans whom we have encountered and whom we will work and live alongside have
made us feel wholly welcome, as they express warm appreciation for our coming to work at the hospital. We only hope that we can share some humble offering in return as we continue our work as part of the Nyakibale community.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I Stand on my Soapbox for the Feast of St. Luke

Did you know that St. Luke is the patron saint of doctors?

As a member of the Los Angeles Archdiocese White Mass committee, I know it is my responsibility to promote this special event. And really, what better venue to do so, than my very own online soapbox?

A White Mass is traditionally celebrated for all physicians and medical personnel on the Feast of St. Luke. This institution follows the centuries old customary Red Mass, recognizing the service of Catholic judges, prosecutors, attorneys, law school professors, students, and government officials.

It was coined the “White Mass” not because of the liturgical color, but because medical personnel typically wore white rather than the more common of the greens and blues today.

The theme, “Celebrating Health; Blessing Healers”, reflects the spirit of this event. Los Angeles Archdiocese and Mission Doctors Association have come together to celebrate the service and recognize the challenges and blessings Catholics in who serve in health care face today.

Local Catholic doctors are encouraged to take part in this event, October 18, 2009, as an opportunity to come together seeking God’s blessing on their work. To learn more about the upcoming event visit the White Mass website.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Guess what I want to do with my life?

As children we may dream of our place in the 'grown up' world and this may include a job, place to live when we “grow up”, for others the ideal position may be a connection of what others recognize in us, and what is already written on our hearts.

For Terese Bauer, her dream job, came in the voice of friend during her undergraduate study at theUniversity of Wisconsin who insisted that “You should really become a doctor...”.

On her way home for Easter she contemplated how she could use her skills as a physician working in the mission field. When she arrived home,she asked her parents to guess what she wanted to do with her life…admittedly a common question throughout the year. Her mom guessed a several different scenarios, and when each was met with a 'No' she asked Terese to just tell them. Stubbornly, she said, “No you have to guess.”

Her dad looked her straight in the eyes and said, “You want to be a missionary doctor." She knew that the Holy Spirit worked through him to confirm her call.

Since that time, her energies have been focused on following the Lord on the path of this unexpected call to love Him and heal Him in the poor. Dr. Terese and her husband Dr. Paul Bauer are in Uganda this summer serving with Dr. Mark Bisanzo at Karoli Lwanga Hospital in Nyakibale. Here they offer direct patient care on the wards and provide teaching in pediatrics and adult medicine.

What is your dream job? What do you feel called to do?

To read the complete article, sharing the story of the Paul and Terese Bauer and their family, visit the Mission Doctors website and read the 2009 Annual Newsletter.