Faith and Medicine in Action, speaking louder than words

In every continent of the world, you will find wonderful hospitals begun by Christians or Christian institutions. There is just no disputing this fact. I have visited numerous great hospitals, especially in China, and very often the local people will tell me that way back in the very very beginning, it was a mission hospital set up by Christians from overseas. This amazing fact reminds us, again and again, that theory and philosophy could be one thing, but “the fruits of the tree,” the practical results of theory and philosophy, should be the real proof. And this kind of result and proof should be ideally tested for its long lasting impact, say for hundreds of years, and not just a “flash in the pan,” just for a short time.
在世界的每一大洲, 有很多由基督徒或基督信仰机构创立的医院。这一点毋庸置疑。我到访过很多好医院, 尤其在中国,当地的人们总是告诉我很久很久以前,这家医院原本是由海外基督徒创立的教会医院。这样的事常常发生,它提醒我们:理论和哲学是一回事,但“树上所结的果子“,即理论和哲学所产生的实际结果,才是真正的检验。这样的结果应该经得起时间的考验,例如说其影响经百年而不衰,而非过眼烟云,转瞬即逝。

Photo 1A: The impact of Christian faith is evident on all continents of the world. Photo 1B: The picture that many surgeons of faith often carry in their own thoughts, that Christ the Great Physician is always there with them, helping them make the right decisions for their precious patients.
(照片上的文字:。。。我就常与你们同在,直到世界的末了。– 马太福音28章20节)

In my own family, the impact of Christian faith on medicine has been overwhelming. My paternal grandfather was a doctor and director of the Christian mission hospital in the small village town of WuKingFu (Wujingfu) in Guangdong province, and Elder of the village church. His son, my father, was educated in the mission school of that village, went on to be a Hong Kong University trained medical doctor, and briefly also director of the same village mission hospital. My maternal grandfather was trained in medicine in a Christian facility in Shantou, before coming to Seattle, USA in 1904, as pastor of the first Chinese congregation of the city.
就在我的家族,基督信仰对医学产生的影响是深远的。我的祖父是一名医生,他是广东省一个名为五经富的小村子里的教会医院的院长, 也是村里教会的长老。他的儿子,即我的父亲, 在村里的教会学校上学,后赴香港大学学医成为医生,他也当过一段时间村里教会医院的院长。我的外祖父曾在汕头一个基督医院接受医学训练,后于1904年赴美国西雅图,成为该市第一个华人教会的牧师。

Photo 2A: Modern medicine came to China through men and women of faith. 2B: My ancestral village Mission Hospital, where grandfather and father were once directors. It still stands today, under a government name.
照片2B: 我祖籍村子里的教会医院,我的祖父和父亲都曾在此任院长。今天医院还在,政府给改了名。

My father in law was also trained in a Christian facility in Guangdong province before migrating to southern Thailand in the 1930s, to practice medicine in the then small town of Haadyai, where he was church Elder, and where my wife was later born. My mother-in-law was also trained by Christians in midwifery, in China, before moving with her husband to Haadyai. In our own family indeed, everywhere we turn, we find linkages with this great tradition of faith and medicine.

It might be strange to some, but, even as a child, I was always personally interested in the specific topic of leprosy, partly because it exemplified to me Christian faith in its starkest practice. To the shock of observers of his time, when Christ met leprosy patients, he had compassion on them, deliberately touched them, and then proceeded to heal them. In stark contrast, most people of the time felt that people with leprosy were “unclean,” kept far from them, and refused to touch them, or even contact things they had touched. As in Christ’s day, throughout history, and worldwide, leprosy patients have been feared, ridiculed and excluded from normal society. Even today, there are areas in the world still with leprosy, where patients are indeed hidden away in mountain areas, away from the rest of civilization, shunned and feared by many. However, Christians of history, wherever they went, dramatically focused on this disease to help the suffering patients, to encourage, protect and heal them. This is clearly a vivid real life proof of the truth of a noble religious faith.

Even in many countries where the dominant religion is not Christianity, such as in predominantly Hindu India, we often see Christian hospitals, Christian nursing schools, and Christian medical schools, often set as the role model for medical care. I remember well, visiting the Vellore Christian Medical College, where my mentors Dr. Paul Brand and Dr. Margaret Brand both worked, and was reminded that, for many years, their medical college was considered the top medical college of the country. Inside the hospital, I was totally floored to see the obvious care and compassion, and high standards of medical care and cleanliness. And at that time, it was a huge contrast to the surrounding squalor of the many cities and villages, and sadly, even some public hospitals I was privileged to visit. During the days I stayed in the Vellore hospital compound, I truly felt I was in an oasis of calm and beauty, among luxuriant tropical trees and swarms of crows perched on tree-tops. It was a great reminder to me of all the dedicated Christian clinics and hospitals set up literally in every continent.
哪怕是在许多非基督教的国家里,比如印度教占多数的印度,也有许多基督教医院,基督教护理学校,以及基督教医学院,并且常被视为业界楷模。我曾拜访我的导师白兰德博士夫妇(Dr. Paul Brand and Dr. Margaret Brand)曾经工作过的维洛尔(Vellore)基督教医学院,我清楚记得当时这家医学院被常年公认为印度最顶级的医学院。在医院里面,我被洋溢着的关切和爱心,高水准的医疗水平和清洁度所折服。当年,这医院与其周围的城市乡村(包括我曾访问过的公立医院)的肮脏不堪,形成强烈的反差。白天我呆在维洛尔医院内,真切感受到那是一片平静美丽的绿洲,期间热带树木郁郁葱葱,树梢上乌鸦成群。这家医院让我想到了遍布世界各大洲的致力于服务大众的基督信仰诊所和医院。

Wherever Christ himself went, 2000 years ago, he did at least 2 things: he taught, and he healed. Because of my strong family medical background, (likely 30 members are in the medical profession, that I know of), I have always loved to read about accounts of healings done by Christ, and the compassion and love reflected in those acts of healing. These miracles were not done to entertain people, but were a direct expression of the love of Christ and the biblical theme, “God is love.” The Christian faith emphasizes a lot about the character of God, and a key character indeed is love.

You might not be aware, but this is strikingly not the same as other religions, where God’s character is often not the key issue, but His will is more important: so that, submitting to his will, regardless of His character, becomes the central theme. But the Christian faith is infused with the concept of love: God is love, He loves us, so we love him, and we love others, as He would want us to. In a sense, it is that simple, and again the emphasis on medical care shines through in expressing this love, and therby, God’s essential character.

In today’s world, we can Google search for Christian hospitals and clinics, nursing schools and medical schools, and we will be amazed at the practically limitless numbers of these that are described. There is no other faith that comes anywhere close to the pervasive impact that Christianity has on this sphere of life. Every time we go into a hospital, we are often being blessed, directly or indirectly, by Christ: we might even be able to trace the original clinic or hospital, or first doctors and nurses, or founders, back to the very beginning, and discover it was often related to this faith in some way. Though sometimes, ownership is transferred to other institutions or to governments, or wars and messy records might obscure the trail, at least for a while.
当今世界,我们可以通过谷歌搜索基督教医院,诊所,护理学校和医学院,你会讶异地发现这样的机构数不胜数。没有任何其他一个宗教可以与基督教在医疗方面的巨大影响相提并论。每次我们去医院,我们总是直接或间接地蒙基督的福。 我们甚至可以追溯一家诊所或医院,初创时的医生和护士,或创办者,会发现其与基督信仰有关。虽然有时候这追溯并不容易,因为医院几易其主,已归其他机构或政府所有,或因战争或其它原因,院史记录或残缺或不准确。

Touchingly, many hospitals in the West were originally started in order to take care of babies left at church doorsteps, knowing that the ministers would try to find a way to take care of the infants. Thus baby shelters became orphanages, which then became children’s care facilities, or clinics. Often it was the church women’s group that took the initiative and the responsibility to care for these children, find proper nurses, find doctors, fundraise and then start building, from a modest clinic, ultimately to a hospital. At many hospitals, all over the world, I like to read these founding stories on the boards displayed in hospital lobbies, and often I see a variation of this touching story. Sometimes, these stories don’t appear because of political consideration, but, in a funny way, how the hospital chooses to admit its Christian roots, gives me a good idea of the current state of politics, and willingness to be frank and honest with history.

Maybe we don’t need to be reminded, but indeed nearly all the hospitals in the USA itself, were started by churches, or in some cases, Jewish organizations. As you may know, Christianity bears a strong historical, religious and cultural connection with Judaism, and early first century Christians used to even meet in Jewish synagogues. In both faiths, a central issue is God’s love of mankind. Oftentimes, however the faith related connection to the modern hospital may no longer be officially obvious, but it’s foundation, ethos, and traditions are eminently Judeo-Christian.

Just in the Cincinnati area, which I lived for 47 years, 19 of the 21 hospitals are related to the church. My own hospital, the Children’s Hospital Medical Center was started by Episcopalian Christians, and it’s main statue from early days is one of Christ, carrying a lamb in his bosom, and His cross is on the rooftops. Similarly, most hospitals in town bear names that are Bible derived, such as Christ, Bethesda (where Christ healed at the Bethesda Pool), Good Samaritan (the story that Jesus taught of taking care of the wounded victim of robbery), Deaconess (a Bible term for a female deacon, those who serve in church), St. Elizabeth, St. Luke (Christian saints), and on and on it goes.

I have often been amused, that, in some places which do not like to admit that there has been a Christian influence, there is sometimes an effort to whitewash the story, to ignore the very beginnings of the hospital. I remember visiting a hospital like that, where a very smart local person pointed out to me, “look carefully at the name of the hospital, and you will see that, faintly, beneath the white paint of the new title, is the old name, “Christian mission hospital.” We can sometimes whitewash history, but fortunately, I often think, truth ultimately emerges, sometimes in amusing ways.
有些时候,某些地方不愿意承认某医院的基督教影响,有时会想跳过医院的初创历史,以“洗白”其历史,这实在令人啼笑皆非。记得有次我到访一家医院,当地的陪同跟我说:“仔细看医院的名字,你可以看到,医院新名字的白漆下,其老名字‘基督教会医院’,若隐若现。” 或许有时可以洗白历史,但我常常想,真相总会最终出现,有时令人忍俊不禁。

Photo 3A. Jesus healing the 10 leprosy victims, an iconic record of faith, joy and love. Photo 3B. The very famous West China Union University, renamed as West China University in Chengdu, started by 5 Christian mission agencies from North America and Britain.
照片3A: 耶稣医治10个大麻风病人,这是标志性的记录了信仰,喜乐和爱。
照片3B: 位于成都的著名的华西协和大学,后改名为华西大学,是由5家北美和英国的基督宣教机构创办的。

Personally speaking, I love medicine, its discipline, its training in logic, and its ability to heal. And to teach generations of medical students, residents and fellows to go literally into the world to heal and to comfort, is an inspirational mission, entirely in synchrony with my personal faith. In addition, my love of science and research gave me an extra energy boost in pursuit of medical research, particularly to improve care of newborn babies, and provide better nutrition. Over the years of my medical career, I was privileged to help train over 80 fellows in newborn care and research, and, more recently, welcomed more than 500 visiting pediatric doctors from China, as part of the greater goal towards better worldwide health. But most importantly to me, I love medicine because I believe it is one of the best ways to reflect the love of the Great Physician Himself, ultimately bringing compassion and healing to the many who need it.
就我个人来说,我热爱医学,其学科,其对逻辑的训练,以及其医治的能力。能够教导一代代的医学生,住院医师,和医生,使他们能够去到世界各地去医治和安慰病人,是一项崇高的使命,与我的个人信仰十分契合。得益于对科学和研究的热忱,我能够有额外的精力去追求医学的研究,尤其是在对于新生儿照顾和营养这一领域。在我的医学生涯中,我参与培训了80名新生儿科专家,近年来,组织安排了500多名来自中国的儿科医生访问学者,这是我参与推进全世界健康的大目标的一部分。但对我来说,最重要的是, 我爱医学,因为我相信医学最能反映至高大医生他的爱,对于许多需要的人带来爱和医治。