A UMNS Feature
By Tim Tanton*
September 25, 2009
Dr. Bill Frist was flying low in a Cessna Caravan above the treetops in southern Sudan, an area routinely bombed by government forces during the country’s ongoing civil war.
The year was 1998. Frist, a U.S. senator, was entering Sudan surreptitiously as part of a medical mission sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse. Sudan had no diplomatic relations with the United States, which had identified the African country as a sponsor of terrorism.
In the remote Liu area, Frist flew over a site where bombing had claimed a rural hospital.
“It had been destroyed,” he recalls. “There was fighting all around.” However, his team was able to work in a makeshift clinic.
“I came back the next year, the fighting had stopped,” Frist, 57, says. “I came back the next year, and there was a little tiny village, maybe a hundred … huts there. And then I came back the next year, and all of a sudden the church, which had been bombed, was blossoming. There was a school there. There was a hospital there. Nobody was fighting.
“So then I said that, basically, there is something to this – that medicine or health is a currency for peace,” he says.
That idea became the foundation for his global health nonprofit, Hope Through Healing Hands. For the surgeon and former U.S. Senate majority leader, health care has a role to play in building communities – and building peace.
“You don’t go to war with somebody who has just saved the life of your child,” he explains.
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