Ripple Effects: The Steury Scholarship
by David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)
Today's Christian Doctor - Fall 2016
In our first million years in heaven, I think we are going to find out all of the things we said or the things we did that impacted people’s lives here on earth—off-handed comments we spoke in passing, events we had no idea happened, actions we never considered to be important that God used for His glory.
After our first term on the mission field, I was standing in the foyer of an auditorium with a large group of missionaries from numerous countries. We were waiting to march down the aisle carrying our service country’s flag in great pageantry to illustrate the needs of a lost world. A young woman standing behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You don’t know me, but my husband and I are going to the mission field because of you.” That was a pretty good conversation starter, wasn’t it?
She shared that she had attended a service I preached at four years earlier. I remembered the service because many people came to the altar to make commitments that night, but she said, “I wasn’t one of them because I knew my husband and I needed to answer God’s call together. So, I bought the recording of your sermon, took it home and we listened to it together at our kitchen table. Afterward we talked, prayed, cried and committed our hearts to the Lord to serve Him overseas.”
Prior to that chance meeting, I had no idea God had done His work in this couple’s lives. I probably won’t see the two of them again until we gather before the throne of God, and I will never meet or know the people who have been transformed through their service. And that doesn’t even begin to consider who those people then impact. That’s how God works.
Most of the time, we only get to see small snapshots just like this of how God is using His people to spread the gospel around the world. But sometimes God gives us a more complete picture of the ripple effects.
Dr. Ernie Steury was a pioneer healthcare missionary who arrived in Kenya in 1959 to begin turning a small nurse-run clinic with a few patient beds into one of the largest and best-known mission hospitals in the world. For his first 10 years of service in Kenya, though, he was the only physician and was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
My parents financially supported Ernie and his wife Sue in their mission efforts, and they had supported them since they left for the mission field. So when God called me into missionary service, my dad encouraged me to spend the summer of 1972 in Kenya working with Ernie because, as he said, “Of all the missionary doctors I know, Ernie is the finest.” He was right. Little did my dad or I realize Ernie would become my role model and mentor. I spent my time in medical school and residency preparing to return to Kenya and serve with Ernie. After I arrived in Kenya as a career missionary in 1981, the nationals gave me a great honor. They named me “Arap Mosonik,” which means the Son of Mosonik, Ernie’s Kipsigis name.
"A very heart-felt appreciation from our family goes to the Steury committee, which has enabled us to pursue our God-given call into medical missions. We thank you for your prayers and considering our family as we continue service in Papua New Guinea."
Ernie was living in a retirement community many years later when I had the privilege to interview him and share his inspiring story on Christian Doctor’s Digest. He shared his testimony of God’s grace working through him, a poor farm boy of Swiss decent who didn’t learn to speak English until he started school. As Ernie shared, he related how he was so poor he couldn’t afford medical school after college. He learned that World Gospel Mission, a mission sending agency based in Indiana, was looking for a doctor to serve at Tenwek. So he wrote World Gospel Mission to see if they could provide any financial help for a medical student who was committed to serving with them in Kenya. They wrote back to say they regretfully had no funds but would pray for God to provide.
And that is exactly what God did. A few months later, they wrote Ernie to tell him an anonymous donor would pay his tuition to go to medical school. Ernie said, “Without that support, I would never have made it to the mission field.”
Thousands of healthcare professionals heard that interview with Ernie, and everyone who heard his story was moved. One listener was moved in a way I never expected, a way that is still sending ripples around the world.
It was such an extraordinary decision that I about fell out of my chair when I got the phone call. An ER physician who heard the interview called and said God wanted him to give a $100,000 scholarship each year to a student going into full-time missions to help pay their tuition, book costs and fees for medical school.
And thus the “Dr. and Mrs. Ernest Steury Medical Student Scholarship Fund” was born. More accurately it should be called the “Loan/Scholarship” fund because 20 percent of the loan turned into a scholarship for every year they served overseas. Otherwise the loan would need to be paid back with interest to help another student go overseas.
The first scholarship recipient in 2001 had to be selected quickly since school was about to start, so I picked CMDA’s former Northeast Regional Director Scott Lawrence who had felt God’s call to long-term missions and was starting medical school a few months later. In the subsequent years since then, CMDA has run an extremely competitive process that includes submitting an application, financial records, recommendations, personal testimony and other supporting documents. Deb Joseph, Ernie and Sue’s daughter, and Dr. Jim Foulkes, Ernie’s friend and retired missionary physician, joined me on the selection committee. We considered the selection to be the hardest decision we made each year. We spent hours “grading” 20 to 35 sets of application materials to narrow it down to three finalists who came for a day of interviews with the committee members before our selection was made.
"One of the biggest blessings at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital has been the staff we work with. There are so many dedicated and compassionate caregivers who provide countless hours of service showing our patients the love of Christ. This year due to political problems in Papua New Guinea, the hospital’s budget for staff and salaries was cut significantly. Many of the staff voluntarily took pay cuts and worked without pay to keep the doors at Kudjip open. What a humbling and awe-inspiring example they have set for us. The example of these dear friends and national co-workers has been a profound blessing in our lives. The adventure of walking with Jesus is never boring! We pray that we will continue to be faithful to follow in His steps as we minister to the people of Papua New Guinea."
We then mentored each recipient as they began their long road of training, up to a dozen years, before they arrived overseas. Let me share about a few of these extraordinary recipients.
Scott and Tina Lawrence — Scott completed his residency and then a fellowship in ophthalmology before becoming an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina. Yes, it was a more circuitous route to the mission field, but he and a colleague felt God’s call to start the Discovery Eye Institute, a treatment and training center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Having academic credentials and experience were a prerequisite to moving their families there in 2015 to, as Scott described it, “demonstrate the love of God through healing the blind, caring for the poor, giving hope to the hopeless and mentoring future leaders in eye care.” They will be doing research, providing in-service training to national ophthalmologists, starting a residency program and sharing the gospel. God is already blessing their efforts.
“C”— Many members of this OB/Gyn physician’s extended family are missionaries, starting with her grandparents and most of her uncles and aunts. Their calling had been South America, but she felt God’s call to serve in Muslim countries. She is now in the Middle East providing compassionate and loving care to women.
Benjamin and Katherine Radcliffe — This couple is serving the Lord at Kudjip Hospital in Papua New Guinea. They are both physicians, but Katherine is focused on taking care of their rapidly expanding family. Her third pregnancy was a set of twin girls delivered at 33 weeks back in the U.S. by C-section this year. NICU for the babies and complications for Katherine has delayed their return to Kudjip, but they recently returned to the mission field. Benjamin is a missionary kid and a surgeon. In fact, his parents serve as Kudjip as well, where his dad is a general surgeon.
"I’m often reminded of the two weeks I spent in Africa in September and how I realized in those two weeks that my life on a day-to-day basis looks very similar to the moms’ lives living there. Trying to raise kids to know the Lord, trying to get together with friends who don’t know Him, trying to live in such a way as to sacrifice and lay down my desires and hopes and schedule to be flexible and available and show the love of Jesus in a way that is understandable. Trying to learn and study and have conversations that make clear the difference of trusting Jesus and His finished work versus trying to live by the law."
Mark and Esther Crouch — Speaking of Kudjip, Mark, a family practice physician, and his family are now in their second term at the same hospital with their growing family. Mark is working on his master’s in public health, seeing patients and also supervising their clinical training program. He is the son of Dr. John Crouch, who founded the In His Image family practice residency in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Esther is homeschooling their three children.
Jeff and Grace Larson — They have been serving in domestic missions at Lawndale Christian Health Center while raising funds in preparation to move overseas. They plan to leave in January 2017, but like other missionaries where they plan to serve, they are having difficulty acquiring visas. They need your prayers for that aspect of the planning, their young family’s adjustment and language study. Grace delivered a baby girl in August and they also have a son.
"We have been learning as much as we can about providing holistic healthcare within a biblical worldview, as well as how to minister to locals. One of the conferences we had the privilege of attending was the New Medical Missionary Conference with CMDA. This conference was a wonderful time of fellowship with others at the same point in the journey just about to go overseas for the first time."
David and Jana Villanueva — They are getting close to heading overseas. David began an obstetrics fellowship after his family practice residency completed this summer, while Jana finished her physician assistant’s training and is now practicing. They have two children and are seeking God’s direction on where He wants them to serve overseas.
Paul and Kate Abraham — Paul and Kate are the 2016 recipients of the Steury Scholarship. Kate was a finalist for the scholarship a couple of years ago, and then she met Paul at a Christian Community Health Fellowship conference. They were married last year and had their first child earlier this summer. They live and minister in an apartment building filled with refugees in North Carolina as they finish their medical school training. They are not waiting until they finish training and travel overseas to do missions. Missions is not a place but a state of being.
This is only a sampling of the Steury Scholarship recipients over the last 17 years, but the impact of this project is bigger than just them. I would estimate we have averaged 25 applicants a year who have deeply felt God’s call into long-term healthcare missions, which comes out to around 425 applicants in all. I wish we could have given each one of them a scholarship, but that has not deterred them from their purpose to serve Christ cross-culturally. Most are or will be serving overseas after they complete their training.
The last of the Steury Scholarship money was committed this year, but that it is not the end. It is just a milestone in the process. Just like you and I don’t know the full impact of our work in His service, the ripple effects of the ministry of those lives touched by this program who will each minister to tens of thousands of patients on far shores and influence their lives for Christ will only be known in eternity.
And it all started with the story of one of God’s faithful servants, a story that motivated a faithful donor whose gift then enabled faithful responders to the Great Commission to go! God sends out the ripples of His love through faithful people like you and me who will say to Him what David wrote in Psalm 116:16, “Oh, God, here I am, your servant, your faithful servant: set me free for your service!” (MSG). Then He does great things and lets us be part of it!
"It seems that the farther along in training I get, the more challenging and rewarding each step is. The last several weeks in particular have been trying as I have finished my coursework and am now on the final leg of my pre-clinical years studying for the USMLE Step 1 boards. The study process has felt like a marathon, but I am continually reminded of the encouragement I have received from other doctors and students and the call to persevere with excellence in what Christ has called me to. God has continued to make clear His calling on Ashley and my life and, in particular, the call to demonstrate His love through medicine. And so while the preparation often feels tedious and leaves me drained, the labor has been an act of worship and one which God continues to bless."