Belmont alum Eric McLaughlin shared his experience as a medical missionary at Homecoming Chapel the Neely Dining room Wednesday morning.
“Eric McLaughlin is the kind of person that we want to have back during homecoming week to remind us what God can do with a Belmont education and a willing heart,” Vice President of Spiritual Development Dr. Todd Lake said.
Graduating from Belmont in 2002, McLaughlin went on to medical school in Ann Arbor, Mich. where he met his wife and four other friends pursuing a career in medicine. But instead of setting goals to work in a hospital or medical facility in the United States, this group of doctors found their calling a little farther away, somewhere out of their comfort zone.
“Instead of getting the biggest house they can get, the nicest car and the most comfortable life, they and their children have allowed God to call them to the continent of Africa,” Lake said.
In 2009, McLaughlin and his wife, along with their four medical school friends, became missionaries serving communities in Kenya and Burundi. At the Hope Africa University, McLaughlin practices family medicine as well as trains a future generation of doctors for long-term medical work.
Through the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows during time abroad as well as during seven years of medical school, he has learned about limitations and the reality of the goodness of God, McLaughlin said.
“Most doctors, I would put myself in this category, don’t really want to think about their limitations,” he said. “It’s not really why you go into medicine. You go into medicine for the cases that you can help and not necessarily for the cases in which you can’t help.”
It wasn’t until he lived in Africa that those limitations were illustrated.
In the U.S, there is probably enough technology and resources to largely sustain the illusion that there are no limitations, but this is not the case in rural Africa, he said.
Although limitation bring into perspective for missionaries like McLaughlin the nature of unfortunate loss, with this loss comes appreciation for the reality of the goodness of God.
It was sometimes tempting to pass over patients who were getting better and focus all attention on those who were not, he said.
To make sure this didn’t continue, McLaughlin created a new tradition for his hospital rounds.
“As we would go around and see these cases, we would stop, and we would remember just how badly this could have ended,” he said. “Together with their families, we would thank God for the healing that has come.”
By bringing resources and the teaching of medicine to the people of Africa, McLaughlin has been able to apply what he has learned to his own life.
“With the goodness of God in the world, I think it’s mostly a question of having the courage to see it,” McLaughlin said. “Every drop of rain, every half-funny joke, every rendered path, every hand shake, each of these has so much beauty and goodness in it. And every once in a while, we get eyes to see it and a heart that feels it, and it can crush you with the glory of it…. It’s probably the brightness of this light all around that makes the darkness so apparent. This is what I learned.”
For more information about McLaughlin and his mission, you can follow his blog at Word and Deed: Faith, Medicine, and Community in Africa.