Stories for Heaven’s Campfire

JAMES E. APPEL, MD, is a young 2000 graduate of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine who says he went to medical school “for the sole purpose of doing missionary work.”

His blog (included in this site’s blogroll) of a front-line medical missionary doctor’s life in Africa is inspiring and moving—and as utterly real as blogging gets. As medical director of the Beré Adventist Hospital in a remote area of Chad (sometimes spelled Tchad) in central Africa, Dr. Appel’s blogposts at Beré Adventist Hospital bring one face to face with the poverty and pathos of our fellow human beings locked into a life few of us can even imagine.

The hospital has electricity only four to five hours a day by a generator and no phone service. Beré has 60,000 people, most of whom, Dr. Appel says, “live in mud huts and barely survive through subsistence farming of rice, millet and peanuts.” Temperatures can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit, but at least there’s air conditioning in the surgery area.

“I wanted to go to a place where no one else wanted to go,” Dr. Appel says. “I wanted to fill a need there that no one else wanted to fill.”

Below this post appear three videos. The first — approximately five minutes long — is from an original 27 minutes of footage by Paul B. Kim, edited down by Todd Gessele of the North Pacific Union. Paul, a former youth pastor, is a gifted young Adventist filmmaker. His full-length documentary on Beré—“Unto the Ends”—won Best in Show at the SONscreen Film Festival in 2004.

In this first brief clip below, Dr. Appel shares his thoughts on his work—and that of his wife, Sarah, a nurse at the hospital also featured in this segment. Sarah Andersen, from Denmark, had been working as a volunteer nurse at Beré for several months when Dr. Appel arrived in early 2004. They soon married. Of their work there, Sarah says, “We’ve been in many hopeless situations that make me long even more for heavenmake me see that suffering was not a part of God’s plan.”

I found personal inspiration in the closing words of this dedicated young couple on the first short video:

“Only the person who takes risks is truly free.”—Sarah.

“I want to look back on my life here on this earth and feel like I’ve done something worthwhile that can be told around the campfire in heaven.”—James.

The second video, entitled “An African Experience,” is longer—approximately 20 minutes—and chronicles a mission trip to Beré by a group of 14 medical and other professionals from the Markham Woods Adventist Church in Longwood, Florida.

And the third—a 17-minute video—is entitled “I’m not Afraid: The Story of Samedi and the Beré Adventist Hospital.” Samedi is a nurse who has worked at Beré for 28 years. Starting out as a janitor there, he acquired so muchexperience that during the years when there was no doctor at the hospital, he was able to save many lives by doing emergency surgeries in addition to all his other duties. (Note: This video contains scenes of surgery in progress.)

As a young man in college, I was challenged by the life of the late Dr. Jack Provonsha of Loma Linda, who was both an ordained minister and a medical doctor. That dual ministry inspired me to take both a theology major and pre-med. But besides wanting to be a preacher and a doctor, I also had dreamed from the age of 15 of being a writer and editor. One lifetime hasn’t been enough to do everything. I did become a pastor and then for most of my career, a writer and editor—but ultimately could not accommodate medical school as well.

But Dr. Appel and his wife are living out the life of medical mission service that I still wish I had another lifetime to pursue. Though I’ve never met them and may not till around heaven’s campfire, I can’t even begin to say how much I admire the commitment and sacrifice of James and Sarah Appel.

If you’d like to help, follow this link to the Beré page on Adventist Health International. AHI is a Loma Lindabased medical missions organization. Richard H. Hart, MD, DrPH — chancellor of Loma Linda University — serves also as AHI’s president. If you visit the AHI page, scroll to the bottom and read Dr. Appel’s July 8 letter, in which he describes a harrowing recent surgery he performed.

Also recommended: A powerful cover article by Dr. Appel entitled “Where God Led Me,” published in the Adventist Review. And this article on the Adventist News Network website.





One response to this post.

  1. Good find!
    Thanks for this post ken


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