Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Answering the Call, by Ken Gire

Few missionaries have typified a lifetime of laying down one's life for others more than Albert Schweitzer.  Texas writer Ken Gire tells Schweitzer's story in Answering the Call: The Doctor Who Made Africa His Life.  Gire's passion is story telling and he has an eye for film, so Answering the Call has a cinematic feel, as Gire moves from scene to scene in Schweitzer's life.  Gire clearly has a great admiration for him and wants to keep his name alive.

Schweitzer was born near the French-German border in 1875.  By the age of 30, he held doctorates in theology and philosophy, and was known as one of the world's leading experts on Bach's organ music.  But the theologian/philosopher/concert organist had made a commitment to spend his life in the service of humanity.  So he trained as a doctor, and at the age of 38 he and his new wife left Europe for Africa, where he would serve the rest of his life as a doctor.

He ended up in Gabon (equatorial Africa, on the west coast--I had to look it up).  No other doctor practiced within a thousand miles.  He started up a clinic from nothing and grew it into a hospital that is now one of the most highly regarded in all of Africa.  Schweitzer overcame obstacles such as sickness, lack of funding, lack of supplies, and being sent to a prisoner of war camp during World War 1. One can't help but admire Schweitzer's untiring labor on behalf of the people of Africa, and his unwavering faith in Jesus.

Gire's admiration for Schweitzer causes him to gloss over the theological controversies surrounding Schweitzer's work.  Gire did point out that the missions agency that sent Schweitzer was at first reluctant to send him, given his liberal theological views.  But once he arrived in Africa, that subject never came up.  When the needs are great, theological debates tend to seem less important.  Nevertheless I would have like to have read more about his theological views.  One of his themes was "respect for life." Obviously this is in keeping with a gospel perspective.  But it can also be derived from a strictly humanistic, naturalistic perspective as well.  We don't learn a lot about where Schweitzer falls in these distinctions from Answering the Call.  For someone who questioned the divinity of Jesus, Schweitzer was certainly devoted to service in His name.

2016 Reading Challenge: A book by or about a missionary

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