Tuesday, September 22, 2009

“The Woman Who Couldn’t Say No”

A parking lot becomes a waiting area for patients waiting to be seen by doctors at the Christian Medical College Emergency Room in Vellore, India

Dr. Suranjan Bhattacharji, director of the Christian Medical College Hospital in Vellore, India met the UMCOR team shortly after our arrival at the Guest House on the campus of the medical school. Dr. Cherian Thomas, the head of UMCOR Health and leader of the team that also included Dr. Peter Fasan, dean of the School of Allied Health Sciences at Africa University and Niels French from the Methodist Hospital System in Memphis had come to Vellore to discuss ways in which this mission hospital could assist the fruition of the dream to start a United Methodist Medical School at Africa University. A secondary outcome was to make a connection with various departments within the hospital to see if it was possible for the hospital to provide some additional training for doctor/nurse teams from Africa. The trip was very successful with much information shared and commitments made. Another step along the journey of significantly improving the United Methodist Church health care systems in Africa was taken.

As Dr. Suranjan welcomed us that night he reminded us of the beginnings of the Christian Medical College and the Hospital as he told the story of Dr. Ida Scudder, “the woman who couldn’t say no.” Ida Scudder was the daughter of an American missionary couple in Tindivanam, India. In school and in America, enjoying a full and active life filled with activities with her friends, Ida had no desire to spend her life as a missionary. Visiting her parents in India, Ida was busily writing letters to her friends back home when she was interrupted by a knock on the door.
A man had come to seek her help with his young wife who was experiencing a very difficult labor. Ida explained that she was not a doctor, her father was, and she didn’t know what to do. She urged the man to let her father come and attend to his wife. He refused her offer with great sadness as his culture would not permit his wife to be seen by a male doctor. In a little while, another man came pleading for help. Later, another man also came. Three visitors, three pleas for help, three refusals to allow her father to see their wives—three preventable deaths.

Ida began to hear the voice of God calling here to become a missionary doctor in India. She couldn’t say no. She had to serve the women of India. Graduating from medical school she moved to Vellore where she began her work in a one room clinic where she lived. With the determination that only comes from God, she met challenge after challenge and with God’s help overcame them all. Today, the CMC Hospital serves an average of 1,900 in patients and more than 5,000 outpatients a day. It is an incredible site as people come from all over the country to be treated at this great place. It shows what can be done when we don’t say “no” to God.

Dr. Scudder expressed the vision of the hospital like this: “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” For the CMC Hospital it is a true today as it was at its beginning. By sharing this vision, it becomes possible for we United Methodists to achieve our goal to significantly improve the health of the poor and the most vulnerable through the Global Health Initiative.

By the Rev. Sam Dixon, Deputy General Secretary for UMCOR

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