Doctor’s RX for conflict: Hope
Dec 10, 2012
By BP STAFF

CENTRAL ASIA (BP)—Flies circle the sparsely equipped operating room in the middle-of-nowhere Central Asia. One lands on an instrument tray, strutting the length of a scalpel just seconds before the previously sterile instrument plunges beneath Jalal Hossein’s* skin.  

“Allah!” the 28-year-old mullah (Islamic teacher) moans through a haze of local anesthesia that obviously has failed to kill the pain. 

The lead surgeon calls for more light, but three of the four bulbs in the operating room’s lamp are burned out.

Cutting edge medicine it’s not. But at the moment, the hospital—and Hossein—have at least one ace up their collective sleeves: the man behind the scalpel is Dr. Doug Page,* one of the finest thoracic surgeons in the country.

“Put that bad boy in there,” Page coaches a national colleague who is attempting to insert a catheter into the protective sac surrounding Hossein’s heart. These are teachable moments for Page, 56, a soft-spoken, Southern Baptist doctor who came to this rugged corner of Central Asia with his wife, Alice,* to be Jesus’ heart, hands and voice among a people in desperate need of physical and spiritual healing. It’s a brutal place to practice medicine, let alone share the Gospel.

URGENCY TO SHARE Doug Page (name changed), a Southern Baptist worker in Central Asia, prays aloud for a malnourished baby. Despite the best care the hospital’s staff could offer, the baby died several days later. “There’s an urgency to what we need to be about here,” Page says. “There are people who are dying every day and lost for eternity.” IMB photo
“There are so many walls here,” Page says. “There are walls around every house and there are barriers between families. … There’s fighting between villages and tribes. This isn’t just fisticuffs fighting—this is blowing up homes, setting booby-trapped mines, children being maimed, crops being burned, livestock stolen. It’s ruthless.” 

During the past several years, Page has scrubbed in for hundreds of surgeries at the hospital. The 60-plus bed facility is dirty and poorly equipped. But as the largest of only three hospitals in an area more than twice the size of the state of Georgia, it’s also the best chance of good health care for the more than 350,000 people who call this province home. That’s roughly one doctor for every 15,000 individuals.

Though those numbers are staggering, Page believes the need for the Gospel is even greater.

Islam dominates the religious landscape. Estimates place the number of Christians here at fewer than 2,000, and most national believers are forced to keep their faith a secret.

ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE

Obedience to God’s call hasn’t come without sacrifice. By 7 a.m. the next day, Page is eager to being morning rounds at the hospital. But first he swings by the office to check email. 

FIRST INCISION A team of surgeons in Central Asia work to relieve excess fluid that’s built-up around the heart of a 28-year-old mullah (Islamic teacher). Though it is a relatively simple surgery for Southern Baptist doctor Doug Page (name changed), the procedure is new territory for the hospital’s staff, who say they are grateful for his guidance. IMB photo
“Just another day in paradise,” he jokes with his driver, Farooq,* as their SUV bounces violently across a series of Hula-Hoop-sized potholes—a minor inconvenience compared with the overwhelming hardship of daily life here. 

The Pages live in a mud home with spotty electricity. Winters are especially harsh, with temperatures dropping below -20 F—cold enough to coat the walls inside their house with ice. At the hospital, Page regularly treats patients for diseases rarely encountered in the U.S. like typhoid fever, tuberculosis and dysentery. He has amputated limbs from landmine victims, removed handfuls of worms from patients’ intestines and helped nurse malnourished children back from the brink of death—all while patiently and persistently seeking God-given opportunities to bear witness for Christ.

But open cultural and political animosity toward the Gospel also means those who share Jesus do so at great personal risk, including prison, kidnapping—even murder. Vehicles must be checked for explosives; razor wire lines the walls around the Pages’ home.

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