Dr. David Thompson is on call. First came the call of God to medical missions; then a phone call announced the brutal murder of David's parents at the hands of the Viet Cong. Later another call carried the determined missionary kid through medical school. Today, David Thompson responds to the persistent calls of the sick and dying at the Bongolo Mission Hospital in Gabon, West Africa.
About the Author
DAVID THOMPSON was born in the U.S. but grew up in Cambodia where his parents worked for 16 years. When he was 14 he and his father tried unsuccessfully to save a Cambodian man who was seriously injured when a truck and a bus collided. God used the incident to plant in David's young heart a desire to become a doctor and help people who had limited access to healthcare. David graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1973 with a M.D. degree and eventually completed five years of residency in general surgery in southern California. In 1977 he and his wife Rebecca moved to Gabon, Africa and for the next 34 years built a 150-bed full-service hospital to provide medical services to Gabon's least served provinces. In 1966, Dr. Thompson helped establish the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS), an organization that trains African surgeons at Christian hospitals throughout the continent. Since 2014, Dr. Thompson has been working as a volunteer to train Egyptian surgeons at Harpur Memorial Hospital.
Read an Excerpt
By David C. Thompson
Moody PublishersCopyright © 1991 Zur Ltd.
All rights reserved.
It is 1932 in French Indochina (now known as Southeast Asia). A lone American drives through a small Cambodian village that straddles the road. He is weary and although he knows no one in the village, he stops. Perhaps the village chief will offer him a place to sleep. He hopes that at least he will be accorded the same respect as the French rulers.
He parks in front of a prominent house standing on eight foot high mahogany pillars. A crowd of curious villagers immediately gathers and the village chief soon appears from another house. The stranger introduces himself as a protestant missionary. The chief seems honored to be able to comply with the request for a night's lodging and invites the missionary to eat with him.
The missionary's arrival is an exciting event in the life of the village of Kabal Chua and after supper people crowd around the chief's house. The missionary is granted permission to speak and haltingly tells his rapt listeners the most amazing story they have ever heard, the story of the Creator-God. They are surprised to learn that this God is interested in them. Their amazement grows as the pale man tells how the Creator's Son, Jesus, came to earth, how He performed great miracles and healed the sick, how He invited the people of the world to turn from evil to serve and obey the Creator who loved them.
The Creator's Son is so very different from the lord Buddha. The listeners shake their heads in dismay when the missionary relates that despite the miracles Jesus performed, the people did not believe He came from the Creator. They are shocked when he tells them how some turned against Jesus, rejected His message and then killed Him on a cross. When he tells how this Jesus was buried, then rose from the grave three days later, their amazement fades into doubt. How could someone rise from the dead, even if He was the Son of the Creator-God? Perhaps He never really died. Had lord Buddha not taught that when a person dies he will live again as an animal or even as an insect, depending on how he has lived his life?
And what's more, says the missionary, this Jesus told His followers that if they believed in Him and obeyed His teachings, they would live with Him forever in a paradise. The crowd is polite but skeptical as the missionary recounts how Jesus ascended from the earth into heaven, promising someday to return. The people thank him for the interesting story. But the missionary is not finished.
"This Jesus has sent me here to tell you this good news. If you wish to follow Him, stay and talk with me." They quickly cover their embarrassed smiles. Nobody would do anything so foolish. They can hardly wait to leave so they can talk and laugh among themselves. All leave—except one.
Both the missionary and the chief are surprised. The young man's name is Lop. He is about 20 years old. Hesitantly he asks the missionary to explain more about the story he has just heard. They talk for several hours. It is very late when Lop bows his head and prays a simple prayer. He asks God to forgive him for the evil he has done in his life; he acknowledges that Jesus is the true Son of the Creator-God; he vows to obey His teachings. Lop promises to come by in the morning.
The missionary is up early and after a breakfast of rice and fish begins packing his car. Lop is walking towards him, a wide smile on his young face. They sit down on a fallen tree trunk to talk. Lop wants to know when the missionary will be back. With a heavy heart, the missionary tells him he doesn't know. But he promises to stop and see Lop if he ever passes through Kabal Chua again. And he promises to pray for Lop. That is all he can do.
Anxiety and sadness cloud Lop's eyes. How can he follow Jesus if he doesn't know what to do? The missionary responds gently but firmly: "Lop, you must pray to Jesus every day and you must ask Him to help you. He will hear you and He will show you what to do and what not to do. And you must do one more thing—you must ask Jesus to send someone to you who can teach your people about Jesus." Lop looks down at his calloused hands. He has decided to follow this Jesus, the Son of the Creator-God, but he will be the only believer in his village.
It is difficult for the missionary to leave but there are so many others waiting for him. He is responsible for them, too. The Lord will have to take care of Lop and the village of Kabal Chua.
At planting time Lop did not participate in the animal sacrifices to appease the spirits and at harvest time he did not celebrate the traditional ceremonies and festivals to thank lord Buddha for his benevolence. His refusal shocked the entire village, because in their view his unreasonable behavior was endangering them all. The religious leaders and village elders tried to reason with him, but Lop refused to change or to stop praying to Jesus. Various social measures were taken to punish and isolate him. When social pressures did not work, the religious leaders invoked the spirits to cause him harm, even to kill him. Yet Lop continued to pray daily to the Creator-God and to His Son, asking Him to send someone to teach him and his people how to follow Jesus.
As Lop prayed, a seven-year-old boy named Carl was growing up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. His coal-miner father was an alcoholic. When the boy was four years old, his father drove home from a tavern and in an alcoholic haze ran over and killed a child. He was put in jail and, while awaiting trial, hanged himself in his cell. Carl was one of his two surviving children.
Times were hard and Carl's mother remarried hastily. Within weeks she knew she had made a great mistake. Her new husband took a particular dislike to Carl. When the boy was disobedient, he beat him brutally. More times than he could remember his mother had to pour hot water on his back in the mornings to free the bedsheets from his wounds. Once, because he was holding his fork incorrectly, his stepfather punched him in the face so forcefully that he fell backwards in his chair and down the cellar stairs. Though Carl's face was bleeding, his stepfather insisted he resume his place at the table and hold his fork correctly. Not surprisingly, the boy grew to hate his stepfather.
One day Carl's mother went into the nearby town of New Kensington to shop and to visit friends. Passing by the doors of a Christian and Missionary Alliance church, she heard singing that stirred childhood memories in her battered heart. She turned and entered the church. That day she met Jesus Christ.
The change in her life was breathtaking. The entire family was surprised that she no longer responded angrily to her husband's insults. Later that week, when he got drunk and made fun of her newfound faith, she answered him gently. When he got angry and struck her, she did not hit back.
Carl, now 16 years old, noticed the change and when he asked her why she was so different, she told him she had given her life to Christ. He asked to go with her to church the following Sunday. His stepfather was not pleased, but allowed the two of them to go. The pastor talked about Jesus Christ, about sin, about hell and heaven. When he invited the congregation to follow Jesus, Carl went forward weeping. He and his mother returned home rejoicing, but their happiness and joy only served to further enrage his stepfather. As Carl tried to explain his newfound faith, his stepfather turned white with anger, snatched a shotgun from over the fireplace and, pointing the loaded gun at Carl, ordered him to leave the house and never come back. Carl had no choice but to walk out the door. He never lived in his mother's house again.
Carl found lodging in someone's attic in New Kensington. He worked part-time and attended the church where he had met Christ. The church people provided the love he had missed all of his young life.
One day a missionary came to the church and told about the people of Asia waiting to hear about Christ. God spoke to Carl and he announced his intention to become a missionary. After training at Nyack Missionary Training Institute, he, along with his new bride, pastored a church in western Pennsylvania. In 1948 they sailed from New York to Cambodia.
Carl and his wife were appointed to plant a church in the provincial capital of Kratie, in eastern Cambodia. The governor, however, was a strong Buddhist and forbade them to evangelize or establish a church in the town. Instead, they began visiting the villages surrounding the town, preaching the gospel and hoping to plant at least one church. One day they drove into the little village of Kabal Chua.
The Cambodians were fascinated to see not only a white man but his white wife and two small white children. They marveled at the children's blond hair, fair skin, freckles and blue eyes. The missionaries set up a flannel-covered board on the hood of their Jeep. Although Carl spoke with a strange accent and made funny mistakes, the village chief agreed to let him speak to the crowd.
It had been about 18 years since Lop had chosen to follow Jesus Christ. He had suffered greatly for his decision, but had not turned back. He had even won a grudging respect from the villagers.
The crowd in the center of the village attracted Lop's attention. His heart stirred when he saw the tall white man. Could this be ...? He was afraid to finish the thought. He had been disappointed so many times before and now he hardly dared hope. Probably it was just another Frenchman.
He was surprised to hear the man speaking Cambodian. Lop listened intently, caught up in the story and intrigued by the pictures the white woman placed on the board on the Jeep. At the mention of the Creator-God, Lop felt his heart jump in his chest. Could it really be? He had to be sure. The white woman put a picture of a baby on the board. There were strangely-dressed people kneeling in a circle around the baby, bowing to him, with cows looking over their shoulders. The white man said the baby was the Creator-God's Son, Jesus.
In an instant, Lop jumped up and began shouting. "You've come! You've come! You've come for me!" There were tears in his eyes, but he didn't care. He was too happy to care. The Creator-God had answered his prayers!
I marvel at this story even today. God took an abused and unloved child, an outcast teenager from an unchurched, violence-filled, indigent home and took him around the world to teach Lop and his people about Jesus. Lop became the head elder of the church that was established in Kabal Chua. His testimony served to win many to Christ. He served God faithfully and joyfully until 1975, when the Khmer Rouge swept over the land, killing Lop and all who were known to be Christians.
I write this story as I heard it from Carl's own lips. Carl Edward Thompson was my father. I was one of the white children in Kabal Chua the day Lop's prayer was so dramatically answered. Carl's wife, my mother, was Ruth Stebbins, whose father and mother were pioneer missionaries to Vietnam. My mother's mother grew up in the West Indies, the child of missionary parents. I am the fourth generation of my family to serve God as a missionary.CHAPTER 2
The Telephone Call
The college cafeteria was still nearly empty at 7 a.m. on that wintry morning in February, 1968. I had just begun to eat breakfast when another student hurried into the cafeteria to tell me that there was an urgent, long- distance telephone call in the Dean's office, and that the Dean was holding the line open. I left my tray and hurried to his office, trying to imagine who might be calling me at this time of morning. A chill of premonition went through me as I climbed the steps and entered the building.
There were six or eight faculty and staff members in the room. The Dean greeted me solemnly and showed me to the phone. My heart was pounding. I wondered if the others could hear it.
"Hello, David? Is that you?"
"David, this is headquarters in New York. I don't know how to tell you this, but there has been heavy fighting in Vietnam over the Tet holidays. We have just received news that your mother and father have been killed by the communist forces." There was a pause. "David, we're all shocked and so sorry."
A hundred thousand images flashed through my mind, stopping finally at the last day I saw my parents alive.
It was a warm, summer morning in Nyack, New York as we stood outside our rented home and said goodbye. I had to leave for work. Since Cambodia had closed to all missionaries, my folks had agreed to go as missionaries to South Vietnam. Their flight that day would take them to Saigon. There were tears in our eyes as we hugged each other.
"Goodbye, Mom, Dad. I'll be praying for you that you'll be safe."
"We'll be praying for you, David," Mom said. Dad was strangely quiet for a moment, his eyes misted with tears.
"You may never see us again." His words seemed overly dramatic. "No matter what happens, son, I want you to follow after Jesus."
I disliked mushy farewells and this was turning into one. I smiled and hugged them again, my eyes dry, my heart unsuspecting.
"I'll be fine. You be careful!" I turned and walked away. At the top of the bank I glanced back, waving to them once more. They stood together, tears in their eyes, just looking at me. Finally they waved back.
The rest of the telephone conversation, even the rest of that day, remains shrouded in a kind of gray mist. I walked alone across the campus to my room and locked the door. I wept on my knees for what seemed like hours, but was probably less than 45 minutes. All the while, a single word filled my mind: Why? When there was no answer, a kind of rage began to grow in my heart. Why, God, why did you let this happen? In reply—only the silence of an empty room.
Why don't you answer me, God? Don't you care about how I feel? Why won't you tell me why you let both my parents be killed now? If you made the worlds, why can't you give me an answer so I can understand why this happened? It was as though He did not want to answer. In the silence I struggled to understand a God who had saved my parents from death on previous occasions. What had they done wrong to deserve death this time?
I remembered how God had intervened when Mom and Dad had first gone to eastern Cambodia during the French-Indochina War. The roads were mined and cars were often ambushed by the nationalist rebels. The Mission had assigned them to Kratie, but there was no safe way to get there. The French military authorities discouraged them from even attempting to drive, but when they saw that my father was determined to go, they counseled him to wait for a military convoy. Dad felt this was just as dangerous as traveling alone and told the French commandant that he preferred to travel by himself. God had sent them to Cambodia and if God wanted them to preach the gospel in Kratie, He would have to protect them on the way.
The French commander was appalled that Dad would even contemplate such a risk. Didn't the Reverend Thompson know that the rebels had skewered French children on upright poles as a warning to foreigners to get out of their country? Did the Reverend think that he looked any different than a Frenchman? But Dad was not to be deterred. Reluctantly, the commander agreed to let them travel alone. He advised Dad to drive as fast as the roads permitted and warned him not to stop under any circumstances—an invitation for ambush, he said.
I was too small to remember the trip but I heard the story many times from my mother. She told how Dad drove at breakneck speed and finally broke a spring on the rough road. While Mother desperately prayed for our safety, he stopped the Jeep to survey the damage. A French army truck full of troops came up behind us. For a wonderful moment we thought that the Lord had sent the troops along to protect us, but to our dismay, the truck swept on by in a cloud of dust. One hundred yards down the road, the truck hit a land mine and overturned. While we watched in horror, rebels hiding in the bushes poured gunfire into the burning wreckage, killing everyone. Had God not stopped our car with a broken spring, we would have been the victims.
The second time God spared Dad and Mom was even more dramatic. Dad told the story publicly so many times that I know it by heart. We had been in Kratie for perhaps a year. French troops were garrisoned in the city because it was a provincial capital. One day the French commander received secret information that a large force of rebels was going to attack the French rubber plantations outside of the town of Snoul, 80 kilometers away. Confident that his information was correct, the commander loaded his troops on trucks and raced to Snoul, hoping to surprise the rebels. The purported attack never materialized. It was a rebel trick.
Excerpted from On Call by David C. Thompson. Copyright © 1991 Zur Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 The Heritage,
2 The Telephone Call,
3 The Miracle,
4 Medical School,
5 The Mitchells,
6 Finding the Open Door,
7 Slow Boat to Africa,
9 The Plan,
10 The Outhouse,
11 Medicine in the Wild,
12 The Leper's Burial,
14 The Goat War,
16 The Man with Two Wives,
17 Showdown at the Louetsi,
18 The Prefet's Wife,
19 As Small as a Mustard Seed,
20 The River,
21 No Family—New Family,
23 Lebongo's Wives,
24 Nearly Lynched,
26 Casualties of the Warfare,
27 Into the Night,
29 The Bridge to Bongolo,
30 If You Could Only See ...,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book helped me to get a better idea of what it will be like to serve Jesus Christ as a medical missionary. Dr. Thompson did an excellent job telling his story as a medical missionary in Africa.