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American Medical Missionary Wins Prestigious Jewish Prize for Work in Liberia

American Medical Missionary Wins Prestigious Jewish Prize for Work in Liberia Read Transcript

- In 2017, Jewish philanthropistsMark and Erica Gerson

created a major prizeto honor the heroic work

of Christian missionarydoctors serving in Africa.

Known as the L'Chaim Prize

for Outstanding ChristianMedical Missionary Service,

the award gives the recipient $500,000

to help improve thecontinent's medical care.

This year's winner isAmerican doctor, Rick Sacra.

Dr. Sacra has been working

in the West African nationof Liberia since 1995.

In 2004, this familyphysician from Massachusetts

contracted the Ebola viruswhile treating patients

at a Christian hospital inLiberia's capital city, Monrovia.

Less than a year afterbeating the deadly disease,

he was back in the African nation

serving the poor and needy.

Rick joins us via Skype from Monrovia,

the capital city of Liberia.

Thanks for coming on the show

and congratulations onwinning the L'Chaim Prize.

First, what are some ofthe challenges you face

in bringing qualityhealth care to Liberia?

- Thanks so much, George.

The big challenges we face,number one is qualified staff,

just finding enough doctors,enough nurses, in this country.

Yet, some of the other challenges

are just the cost of providing care.

By the time you've paidyour electric bills

and bought your drugs,there isn't much left over

to pay staff.

And then finally, it's thosecritical patients who come

who are so ill and youneed someplace like an ICU

or a critical care facilityand we don't have that

right now in Liberia.

And so it's very difficult to manage

those types of patients.

- What does the prizemean for your hospital?

- So this prize is gonnamake a big difference

over the next few years.

Number one, it's gonna support us training

Liberia's first cohortof family physicians,

fully residency trained family physicians.

Secondly, it's gonnahelp us establish an ICU

and a critical careprogram at our hospital

so that we can take careof those sickest patients.

And finally, it's gonna help us construct

a solar electric installation

that's gonna help reduceour operating costs

and help make care more affordable here.

- Liberia was among three countries

that suffered the most fromthe Ebola crisis back in 2014.

What toll did the virus take

on Liberia's health care system?

Has it even recovered from that time?

- In 2014 and 2015, about400 health care workers

came down with Ebola.

192 died.

Five of those were physicians.

It did leave a big hole.

A lot of those were our most experienced,

most capable health care workers.

But I will say, through the generosity

of people coming and sharingtheir time and expertise

and donations and contributions,

I think that Liberia is now alittle stronger than we were

in terms of health care before Ebola.

So the efforts of many different groups

have made a big difference andI think we've gone back now

to even past the levelwe were at before Ebola.

- You've served in Liberiafor over 20 years, sir.

What motivates you to dowhat you do every day?

- You know, ever since I was a child,

I was motivated by the words of Jesus

in the Parable of the Good Samaritan,

just his encouragement thatwe need to love our neighbors

and take care of those who are hurting.

I've just carried that withme ever since I was a kid

and learned that story in Sunday School.

And you know, every day, justthe relationships you have,

both the wonderfulrelationships I get to have

with my co-workers, Liberianhealth care workers,

doctors, and nurses, andthen the relationships

you get to develop with thepatients are so rewarding.

There's no job that's morerewarding than this one.

- Describe what life is likefor folks like yourself,

medical missionaries whoare serving in Africa.

- Well, I'll tell you,

it can be pretty draining emotionally.

We lose a lot of patients.

We find ourselves overwhelmed.

We sometimes don't have the equipment

to even make a diagnosis.

A lot of the times, we'reguessing as to what's wrong.

So those are sort of the negatives.

I think on the positive sideis, again, those relationships,

how close you become with bothco-workers and with patients.

I mean I have patients I'vecared for for 15, 16, 17 years

with terrible diseases, some of them HIV,

other types of problems, but seeing them

really experience theLord's love in their lives

and rise above those challenges,

that's the bright sparkthat keeps us going.

- You do more than meet the physical needs

of the people, right?

- Right, well you know,

when people come to the hospital,

of course, they're afraid.

They're afraid of dying.

In this cultural context,people are often afraid

of a curse or witchcraftbeing behind their symptoms,

their illness.

They're afraid of the painthat they're going through.

And so we can help someof those things medically,

but some of them, we can't,

and for those, we really are blessed

that we're able to pray with our patients

and bring them to the Great Physician.

We recognize that we'relimited, but Jesus is not.

- As I mentioned, theL'Chaim Prize is presented

by Jewish philanthropists,Mark and Erica Gerson.

You've met the Gersonson several occasions.

What impact is their generosityhaving on the continent,

specifically in the area of medicine?

- You know, by funding thework of missionary doctors

who have invested a lifetimein the context they're in,

in the African context,the Gersons are really

putting these funds to maximum uses.

They're giving the fundsto people and organizations

that have invested so much in figuring out

what the needs are, what themost culturally appropriate

interventions are, andthese entities can make

really cost-effective use of these funds.

So I know that these fundsare making a big impact,

and not just a $500,000 impact,but even it's multiplied

because of the groups they're supporting

and how they're being used.

So I know in the other countries,they've had huge impact.

And I know that in Liberia,too, over the next few years,

there's gonna be a great impact.

People are gonna recognize this impact

not just for the next few years,but as doctors are trained,

that's going to impactLiberia for a generation.

- And to know that this isa prize that is put forth

by a Jewish couple,not a Christian couple,

but yet, they see the goodwork that you guys are doing

right there on the African continent

and they are moved in manyways by your sacrifice,

your sense of calling to minister

in these very, very difficultconditions, countries,

many times conflict zones.

Speak to that and to their own faith

and how that propels them toreach across the faith aisle

to help folks like yourself

to minister to the most needyon the African continent.

- My wife and I did have thepleasure of joining the Gersons

in their home and meeting them personally,

and you could just really tell

this was a conviction that came

from the very depths oftheir hearts to do this.

And they've just recognized that

how could they be obedient to their faith

and God in their Jewish faith.

They referenced many scriptures

about loving the stranger or the foreigner

or the one far off and how they saw

that this was the bestway for them to do that.

Yeah, it was remarkable to meet them

and to just see how they've really made

such a practical impactout of those convictions

coming from their hearts.

- And you are the thirdrecipient of the L'Chaim Prize.

Congratulations to you

and thanks for coming on the show.

- Well thank you so much.

What a pleasure.

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