‘God called us to our professions and he wants us to use those professions to glorify him, whether it’s in the UK or cross culturally’, Cathy Hunt tells me from Phnom Penh.
‘He calls us to care for people practically as well as sharing the gospel.’ Ali & Cathy Hunt have had opportunities to do just this by taking their skills as a podiatrist and occupational therapist to Cambodia with OMF.
Ali is one of the country’s first podiatrists, drawing on his experience with the NHS in Scotland to help develop Cambodia’s healthcare system. From an adult population of 12 million, he estimates between 500-700,000 Cambodian people live with diabetes. Many of them will develop complex wounds on their feet, that if not managed well, can lead to amputation. Unfortunately, diabetic foot care is not widely understood in Cambodia and as a result, each year there are an estimated 4,600 diabetes related amputations. Approximately 70 per cent of these patients will die within five years of an amputation, Ali tells me. Based at a government hospital, Ali is working to change this. He treats around 100 patients per year; however, he knows he is only seeing a very small proportion of those needing foot care so he also seeks to raise Cambodian healthcare workers awareness of the importance of diabetic foot care. This training has not developed as much as he hoped, but he is leading the translation of international diabetic foot care guidelines into Khmer. Ali is praying for a Cambodian doctor he can inspire to help colleagues implement the guidelines across the country.
Learning new skills
Cathy’s work to support children with disabilities is more local in scale but no less significant. She talks about a child she works with who needs major surgery, but whose parents can’t afford to take two weeks off to be at the hospital with him. Knowing how best to support this family, and the many others like them, is a real challenge for the NGO she works with. Doing occupational therapy here has also been a steep learning curve for Cathy. It generally means trying to find the best treatment options while working beneath homes on stilts, an area often shared with the family cow. Yet there are encouragements. Cathy tells me about a six-year-old boy she’s been working with recently. When she first saw him, he had never walked, but is now able to run a few steps, climb in and out of his hammock, and feed himself. Cathy’s care has made a real difference for families in this community.
Sharing good news
While many Christian medics serve overseas in Christian hospitals where they can freely share the good news of Jesus, Ali & Cathy are in secular settings, meaning they have to be careful about how they share their faith. Ali comments: ‘If a patient asks me a question, like in the NHS in the UK, I will feel free to answer them as best I can.’ However, they can’t preach the gospel like in a Christian hospital. It would be easy to see this only as a frustrating limitation, but serving in these places puts Ali & Cathy in a unique position. For many of their colleagues and patients, the Hunts will be the first followers of Jesus they meet. Plus, connecting regularly gives a chance for these people to see first-hand what it looks like to follow Jesus and see his love expressed in the Hunts’ work and character. While we may not see immediate results, we can pray and trust that God will use these connections over time to help people come to know him.
A supportive community
Ali & Cathy do all this while raising Abigail (13) and Kirstin (11), so what keeps them going? The support of the OMF team is encouraging, but the highlight of their week is worshipping with and meeting their Cambodian church family. Cathy shares how one friend’s prayers, focusing on God’s faithfulness first, has encouraged her prayer life. This helps her when she wonders if she is making a difference because, she says, ‘We can think about the way God works unexpectedly in the Bible and be reminded that what he requires of us is faithfulness, rather than the results that we necessarily tangibly see.’
Please pray for
- Faithfulness for Christian professionals in Cambodia as they seek to use their skills and share their faith appropriately.
- A Cambodian doctor to take on the training Ali is developing.
- Good solutions to support children with disabilities and their families in a sustainable way.
- People who meet Christians to have opportunities to find out more about Jesus’ love and come to know him.