CENTRAL ASIA (BP) -- Flies circle the sparsely equipped operating room in remote Central Asia. One lands on an instrument tray, strutting the length of a scalpel seconds before the previously sterile instrument slices beneath skin of Jalal Hossein*.
"Allah!" the 28-year-old mullah (Islamic teacher) moans through a haze of local anesthesia that 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 advantage: 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.
"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 facility, with 60-plus beds, 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 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.
Hardship and risk
Obedience to God's call hasn't come without sacrifice. By 7 a.m. the next day, Page is eager to begin morning rounds at the hospital. But first he swings by the office to check email.
"Just another day in paradise," he jokes with his driver, Farooq* ... Read More