Theodore John
Specialty: General Surgery
Location: Burundi
Call to Missions

The first time I encountered utter poverty was when I visited Kenya the summer after my first year in college. Through that experience, God gave me a desire to help the poor, and to one day return to indigent places like Kenya to provide medical care.

A few months later, I attended Urbana Student Missions Conference, at which time I committed to serve God overseas as a missionary.

After I got accepted to medical school, I deferred a year and worked as a medical relief worker in Darfur, Sudan. This experience solidified my desire to serve Him as a medical missionary and I began medical school with a focused vision.

Throughout medical school, I sought out opportunities to kindle my desire to work overseas, including attending the Global Health Missions Conference. I learned about the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS) and the model they had established to train surgeons in Africa.

I was accepted into a general surgery residency program, during which I was mentored by two Christian surgeons. The first was Dr. Hoshal, who was a senior surgeon at my residency program, who loved teaching and took me with him to Haiti for my first week-long mission trip after having acquired some surgical skills. Dr. Hoshal’s patience and steadfast support were uplifting during the rigors of general surgery residency.

The second was Dr. Cropsey, who was a retired missionary surgeon who had spent his career in Togo. He would regularly invite me and other surgery residents into his home for Bible studies and mentorship. He told us inspiring personal stories from his time overseas, and his regular encouragement and contagious enthusiasm spurred me to continue pursuing a career in missions.

After completing residency, I spent 2 years in Burundi through the Samaritan’s Purse Post-Residency Program, which confirmed God’s calling in my life as a missionary surgeon. I hope to be able to serve God overseas for many years, as long as God allows.

Healthcare Mission Work

I believe medicine and evangelism go well together, as was modeled by Jesus who would often address people’s physical and spiritual ailments simultaneously.

Whether working in the US or in Burundi, I think it’s possible to practice medicine without evangelism or church planting in mind if I am not intentionally making an effort to incorporate it into my practice. It is my desire to be involved in both surgery and evangelism together in my practice, both in word and deed, as Jesus’ hands and feet to the hurting and suffering people of Burundi.

As Christianity is the major religion of Burundi, most people are familiar with the name of Jesus. However, I have found that there is often a common misunderstanding of the idea of salvation by grace, not works. In other words, many Burundians falsely believe that doing good works, going to church, tithing regularly, participating in choir or other church ministries, etc. leads to the path of heaven rather than simply believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior. I wish to address this misunderstanding whenever I encounter it, and preach the gospel of grace as much as I can, especially when given opportunities to speak.

In addition to this, I hope to focus my efforts on helping to build the capacity of the national health care system by investing in the next generation of African doctors through medical teaching and training.

Kibuye Hope Hospital currently serves as the primary teaching hospital for Hope Africa University’s medical school. Although residency programs have yet to be established, this is being planned and anticipated for the coming years. Being involved in educating and training students and residents also affords opportunities for mentorship and discipleship, which will multiply our efforts to provide holistic care throughout Burundi.

Anticipated Impact

1. Patients with sicknesses and injuries will experience God’s love in a tangible way as they receive high-quality, compassionate surgical care. If they do not know God already, they will have an opportunity to hear the gospel message.

2. Medical students from Hope Africa University rotating at our hospital will be trained and mentored to become high-quality, compassionate general practitioners who will have then gone on to serve throughout different parts of Burundi.

3. Residents through the soon-to-be-established Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS) program at our hospital will be trained, mentored, and discipled to become competent, compassionate surgeons who seek to glorify God in providing excellent surgical care to those most in need throughout Burundi and Africa.