Friday, January 31, 2014

A Confession

Written by Ty

I have a confession to make.  I feel a pang of guilt every time someone in America asks me what I do in Africa.  I feel guilty because I fear I am not meeting the expectations I assume they will have when they know that I am a doctor and that I work in Africa.  They expect that I see patients and prescribe treatments eight hours a day.

The truth is that I don’t do much of that.  I do some of that—especially with the more complicated cases that the Tanzanian nurses request my help with.  I do go to the clinic often, but most of my time there is spent teaching—teaching the Bible and teaching medicine.

My calling is to teach.  It is to teach a biblical understanding of health as a philosophical foundation for helping people lead healthy lives.  This is not something I was taught in medical school.  In fact, I was taught essentially nothing in my training about a philosophical foundation for the practice of medicine.  Medicine, as it is understood and taught, is no longer about health.  This is true in the west, and because medical education in Africa has a strong tendency to emulate the west, it is usually true here.  In my experience, many health profession students in America cannot give me a good definition of health, and if they can, then they give me a definition that has little do with what they are being trained to do.  “You mean being healthy doesn’t have much to do with going to the doctor?” I reply in mock surprise.  “Yeah.  More like it means you don’t have to go to the doctor,” they tell me.  Basically, they are right.

But my confession doesn’t end there.  What we have now is a simple outpatient clinic that serves about 100 patients per week.  We need to go to the next level.  The small amount of curative care that we are providing is good, but it cannot be all that we are doing.  I don’t want this hospital to be just another mission hospital—a clone of many that are all over Africa.  I want it to be a place of investing in, teaching, and building biblical health and transformation.  Health is about so much more than pills and surgeries.  And if I spend all my time doing pills and surgeries, then I won’t have time to walk out my calling of re-establishing a biblical understanding of health as a sound and cohesive philosophical foundation for health care.

My confession is that I have been afraid to move the hospital forward because I have been afraid of it not developing into that place of health and transformation.

I’ve been thinking about: what do we need to do to go to the next level?  Will you pray with me about that?  I need discernment from God.  I think we need another person on the team—a doctor or nurse who can focus on doing some of the primary care, as well as work with our team on community health—building capacity within the community to do things that will foster their own health: such as education, agriculture, and clean water.  Will you pray that God will bring us the right person?  Maybe it’s you?

And some items for prayer:

Pray that God would give us discernment and resources in trying to take the clinic "to the next level."  I'm trying to figure out how to find and finance a full time community health worker--someone who regularly visits with leaders in villages and works with them to figure out how the community can improve their own health using their own resources.  Better water and better food are prime examples, and places where better use of already existing natural resources here could make a great impact on health.

Also pray that I am a good dad: that my kids know that I am available to them all the time, and that they are a higher priority than ministry.



  1. we love you all and are praying for you guys!!! thanks for this update. love, the Sloops

  2. Good words. You guys are on my heart.

  3. Amen Ty! Praise the Lord for your Biblical thinking! I will be praying

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  5. Amen T, re what the Lord is leading and calling you to do in Africa in regards to "investing in, teaching, and building biblical health and transformation." My heart goes out to you in prayer, especially for courage, and to rest in the Lord's leading as you pursue the next level of this vision for Africa that the Lord has given you. I will pray for the other concerns you shared, as well as continue to pray for family and friends who are with you or will be joining you soon on this journey. Love to you all!

  6. Praying with you about these things!

  7. I realized that I responded over email but forgot to post here, too. So I want to add my Amen! Thank you for writing and sharing. Praying alongside you for these things. Also, great summary of such a fundamental and significant need: "to teach a biblical understanding of health as a philosophical foundation for helping people lead healthy lives."