Last Saturday we celebrated the graduation of PAACS’ fifth resident from Soddo Christian Hospital. Tewodros Tamiru has finished five years of training and is our newest general surgeon in Ethiopia.

At first, the ceremony seemed rather in jeopardy as the appointed start time came and went with very few people gathered. For those who have spent time in Africa, this is nothing unusual and nobody was very worried. But as time ticked by, the influx of people just wasn’t what it should have been. Finally, crowd or no crowd, we had to get started. It’s always hard as a westerner to discern that threshold… we’re basically just uncomfortable the whole time and trying to figure out when it is too uncomfortable. So I finally knew it was time to get started when our Ethiopian hospital administrator announced to me that it was too late; we needed to start. So we all lined up outside the hospital’s chapel and marched in.

One of the things that I love about PAACS is the way it demonstrates Christ’s lordship in all facets of life. Jesus is Lord when we are in church. But He is also Lord when we are in the hospital, eating together, playing games, constructing buildings, digging ditches, everything. So, in keeping with integrity, our PAACS graduation very much had the feel of a worship service. And thanksgiving to God and commitment to His glory was found in every step of the ceremony. It started with a song of worship led by Eshetu, one of our surgery ward nurses and semi-professional singer (he has a CD, if you’re interested). Mark Karnes, our obstetrician and PAACS faculty member, opened in prayer. Then we heard a sermon by a man named Solomon, a friend of Tewodros and a seminary student in Addis Ababa. Solomon is a member of the reformation movement within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and his sermon was solid and clearly articulated the gospel.

Then Duane Anderson, Jonathan Pollock and I gave shorter speeches to the graduate. Everyone reiterated thanks for God’s provision of this day, including His provision for the training program and the development in Tewodros’ life. In the intervening years we have watched Tewodros grow as a man, as a believer, and as a surgeon. We have seen particular maturation in the last few years and we have strong hopes for him. Tedi, as he is also known as, will be moving to a town in eastern Ethiopia in a region that has few believers and almost no surgeons. He and his wife, Addis, specifically see themselves as missionaries of the good news of the gospel of Jesus. They are going there to tangibly show the love of Christ and commit themselves to His service. I am very proud of him and hope that God will enable us to stay connected in the upcoming years.

We presented Tedi with his PAACS certificate and then he gave a short word. He expressed his appreciation to the hospital and his fond affection to the people at Soddo Christian Hospital. He also wanted to end his five years at the hospital by addressing any debts he might owe. By the way, by this time of the ceremony, it was packed and standing room only. Though I’m not aware of any particular incident, Tedi extended his apology and contrition for any sin he might have committed at the hospital to anyone, and he asked for forgiveness if necessary and reconciliation. He again affirmed his commitment to serving the Lord with his career and confessed that God had brought him and his wife to this commitment during his time in training.

After this, it was “open mic” time and we heard testimonies from many people at the hospital about Tedi’s heart, his faithfulness to the Lord, his love of patients and hospital staff, and expressions of gratitude. It was an encouraging time and showed yet again that we’re going to miss our graduates. One of the testimonies in particular was from our second graduate, Dr. Solomon Endrias. He is currently practicing in Hawassa and has been very busy in his work. Solomon pointed out that 85% of the referrals at the referral hospital in which he is working come from the region Tewodros is going to. Solomon encouraged Tedi to see his work not as an opportunity for personal ease, but as an opportunity to bring relief to others. He described how he was talking to a patient earlier that week that was from the region Tedi is going to. Solomon shared how he encouraged the woman that a surgeon was coming to her area and would help bring needed relief there. She asked what kind of doctor he was. Solomon shared with her that he was a good surgeon but that, even more importantly, he was a man of God and wanted to show God’s love.

Having worked and wrestled with these guys for the last four years, I can assure you that they are humans, just like the rest of us. Like me, they have their flaws and we have all butted heads sometimes. It has been a sanctifying process as cultures and personalities collide. But I’ve seen God work in all of us and I am proud to call them brothers in Christ. Please pray for Tedi and his family as they move on the next phase of the life to which God has called them. Please pray for PAACS as we work alongside of them for the glory of the Lord.