Perhaps you recently read the headline: “Ebola Claims Second Victim on U.S. Soil:
Sierra Leone Surgeon Dies in Nebraska.”
As soon as I read those words, I was overcome with a dread that quickly
turned to sorrow.
In 2007 it was my
privilege to speak to the first graduating class of the Pan-African Academy of
Christian Surgeons at Banso Memorial Hospital in Cameroon. It was my honor to
meet several gifted and graced physicians from across the continent of Africa,
who made their way to Banso to be trained in the science and art of surgery.
Dr. Martin Salia was one of those gifted and graced
men. After completing a rigorous
surgical training program in Cameroon, this gentle, soft-spoken man moved to
Sierra Leone to cure people’s physical maladies, a decision that would cost him
his life. At 4:00 a.m. on Monday, November 17, 2014 in Omaha, despite heroic
efforts to save his life, Martin Salia died, leaving behind a widow and two
When asked a few years ago why he was choosing to practice
surgery in West Africa, a place filled with great danger, Dr. Salia responded:
“I knew it wasn’t going to be rosy. But why did I decide to choose this job? I
firmly believed God wanted me to do it. I knew deeply within myself, there was
just something inside of me, that the people of this part of Freetown needed
help. I took this job not because I want to, but I firmly believe it was a
calling and God wanted me to. That’s why I strongly believe its God that
brought me here to fix whatever comes my way.”
Then Dr. Salia spoke words that will deeply resonate with
readers of this blog: “I was trained as a Christian surgeon. And part of our
training enters the spiritual and physical aspect. And so by the time you
finish your training you are more or less like the pastor, you become a pastor.
And so whenever we want to start surgery we pray. I am just being used as an instrument to
carry out God’s own plan for that person’s life.”
I honor Martin Salia. His willingness to risk his life for
others is noble. There is no greater love. But at the end of the day, Dr. Salia realized
there is a calling even greater than medicine.
Martin saw himself not so much as a surgeon, but as a pastor. Medicine
has its limits. ZMapp and blood transfusions could not save Martin Salia’s
Those of us
privileged to serve at Training Leaders International chose this job not
because it’s rosy. It comes from an inner calling. We have heard the voice of
the one and only Good Shepherd, who tells us: “To whom much is given, much is
expected. Go, and feed my shepherds.” We
do so gladly.
We are called to lay
down our lives for the pastors we serve across the four corners of the world.
They too are called to lay down their lives for the sheep they are called to
serve. We do this gladly because Christ has laid down his life for us.
What about you? Perhaps God is calling you to lay down your
life in some way. Are you a pastor? A seminary student? A church leader? A business man blessed by
God? A young person considering what career path to pursue? Gifted in languages?
Is God calling you to
leave what is comfortable and safe for the raw edges of uncertainty? Are you a middle-aged
“been-there-and-done-that” with a longing for a new challenge? Much to your surprise,
have you lost the job you thought you would never lose? Or, on a happier note, did you just receive
the raise you thought you would never get, or close the deal you only dreamed
of? What will you do with this opportunity?
Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what
does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can
a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 8:35-37).
Martin Salia did not lose his life. Rather, he saved it. By
God’s grace, may you and I do the same.