Alumni lauded for work in Burundi

Thousands of people in Kibuye, Burundi will receive desperately needed surgeries and medical care thanks to New York philanthropists Mark and Erica Gerson, and the work of Calvin graduates Dr. Jason and Heather Fader, who serve as part of Serge, a global missionary organization.

The Faders and their team at Kibuye Hope Hospital were recently awarded the first African Missions Healthcare Foundation (AMHF)’s Gerson L’Chiam Prize for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Work. The $500,000 award will provide 48 new beds in a new ward to relieve overcrowding in the hospital.

According to the AMHF promotional video it will also assist in training new surgeons and physicians for a country of 10 million currently served by thirteen surgeons. Fader is the only surgeon in the region and one of very few outside the capital according to an interview with CBS.

The prize money will also provide surgeries and orthopedic care, vitally important for a country that travels by foot.

“Literally hundreds of people will walk because of this prize, thousands of people will be cared for and hundreds of thousands will be helped by the doctors we train…” said Fader.

Fader credited his Calvin education for having an impact on his current work.

“An overarching theme of my time at Calvin was learning about and wrestling with the issues of worldview and calling,” he said. “They intertwine a lot, in that how I view the world must then guide and direct how I see myself best fitting in that world and being an effective agent in it. I felt that these issues permeated most every class that I was in…”

Fader advised those who don’t yet feel a sense of calling to actively seek out opportunities to use their skills and talents most effectively in order to have the biggest impact possible for the Kingdom of God.

“Go for the hard road. be ready for opposition if you plan to go into long-term missions. It is a difficult road and there are so many who will question you– parents, friends, pastors, colleagues. Be prepared for that and engage them thoughtfully. Ask God for wisdom to prepare your heart and mind for this calling.”

The team at Kibuye Hope is no stranger to the “hard road.” The hospital treats approximately 25 thousand people a year, according to AMHF.

Fader’s biggest challenge is the difficulty of not having the capacity, human resources or infrastructure to implement the plans he and his team design and, instead, having to make do with what they have.

“When a patient with cancer can’t get the radiation and chemotherapy they need, should I still operate? Should I suggest that they sell their precious land to go to a neighboring country to get these therapies which may have limited benefit, but may have a chance actually cure them? If they sell their land, their kids won’t go to school this year or next and the family will fall further into poverty,” he said. “Should I just tell them to have faith and pray that God will heal them instead of seeking expensive, poverty-inducing medical treatment? And all these decisions need to be made in a couple minutes because there is a line of patients waiting outside the door.”

The other difficult question is where to devote valuable resources and time, “teaching medical students, operating…preaching in churches, building relationships with colleagues, spending time with my family, creating post-graduate training programs, praying with patients, establishing new programs for operations that are not available in Burundi, like cleft lips”?

To Fader, it’s all worth it: “God does not intend for this life to be easy,” he said. “Growth does not come without opposition. That being said, the satisfaction of pursuing the call that God has placed on your life is well worth any struggle.”

The biggest blessing, for Fader, is “being in a place where I don’t have to wrestle with the questions of whether what I do on a daily basis really matters.” And that work will matter to more and more people. “The L’Chiam prize will enable Fader’s team to “strategically plan for projects that will have the greatest impact on the work here, and not have to live “hand-to-mouth,” so to speak, as a hospital. $500,000 goes a long way here in Burundi…”

Professor Rick Nyhof, pre-medical advisor, taught Fader when he was at Calvin and cited Fader’s great sense of humor and people skills as “an outstanding example of what we like to see in our Calvin grads.”

He continued, praising Fader for his academic excellence as well as his Christlike behavior: “[Fader] was an excellent student – of course he was – he was able to get accepted into medical school and a first-rate surgical residency.  But, perhaps more importantly, he was an exceptionally nice person.”

Dr. and Mrs. Fader, more than anything, ask for prayer: “We need wisdom to know how best to be a part of bringing the Kingdom of God to Burundi alongside our national partners,” he said. “In many ways, we are very different from our national partners, which is so good because it causes us to see different aspects of the Gospel and enriches our faith. At the same time, getting to a point of mutual understanding can be challenging at times and requires intentional listening, patience, and humility.”

“He is an ideal person to work in a developing country and thrive in an area where surgical necessities are often carved out of everyday utensils,” added Nyhof, who also expressed his recollection of Heather Fader as a person of multiple talents.  “Together, they make a wonderful team.”