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Six months a year, Chicago MD serves as a medical missionary

CHICAGO (BP)–Few Christian doctors make a personal sacrifice to serve Jesus the way Tina Slusher does.

Every year she leaves her job at Rush Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago — where she is assistant professor of pediatrics and attending physician in the pediatric intensive care unit — and spends four to six months meeting spiritual and medical needs in Nigeria.

As a sophomore in medical school, she struggled when God posed a question to her: “Are you willing to give up medicine for me?” Her response was to give up her life.

“I go to Africa to introduce people to the gospel,” Slusher says. “I see medical ministry as very, very consistent with the gospel. Many times in the New Testament, Jesus used healing as the door to share the gospel. That’s how I see what I do.”

A self-described “country bumpkin,” Slusher prefers the farm life she knew as a child in Kentucky. That’s where her interest in medicine began. “I’d always pull for the runts of the litters born on our farm. I did all I could to see that they’d live.”

Years later, when officials of Rush Hospital approached Slusher with a job offer, she basically designed her own job description, including working in Africa up to six months a year. In return, Slusher agreed to sacrifice six months’ pay and to take medical students with her to Africa.

“The trips provide a wonderful chance for the students I teach to be exposed to the gospel,” Slusher says, her blue eyes sparkling. “Even though they are from the States — and you think they’ve heard the gospel — many never really have.”

When she is in Nigeria, Slusher spends most of her time — about 18 hours a day — teaching and practicing medicine at Eku Baptist Hospital. She also travels to the Baptist hospital in Ogbomosho. And she treks into the bush to give medical care in rural villages.

But with Slusher’s ministry, there’s more going on than meets the eye. She gets even more mileage out of her strategy of using medicine as a vehicle for the gospel.

“One very important thing I do on the mission field is teach local medical doctors at our Baptist hospitals. If they become better doctors, they’ll have a broader witness to Muslims who would otherwise choose a less-qualified or less-trained doctor.

“If Muslims come to the doctors I train, then they’ll hear the gospel.”

In her daily prayer time, Slusher is on the lookout for God’s will for her life. Living just one day at a time, she tries to stay attuned to where God is working in her life — always seeking a better way to serve him.

“I spend a lot of time wondering where God will take me next,” she says. “I wonder if the Lord will change my Africa assignment someday.”

Amid the questions, Slusher says God has never let her down — like the time she entered customs at an airport in Nigeria with 22 pieces of checked luggage. Agents inspected only one bag and let her pass.

As for the questions about future ministry, God provided an answer. Slusher left work in Chicago one evening last August, hailed a taxi and told the driver where she was headed. The driver replied in a booming British-inflected African accent. A couple of questions later, the two were exchanging greetings in the cabbie’s Nigerian dialect.

After a lively conversation in which she described her ministry, the driver noted: “Isn’t it ironic? I left my family and a struggling Nigerian economy to come to America for a job.” His voice softened. “And you leave your country and a doctor’s salary to go to my home and help my people.”

In the waning afternoon sunlight, as the shadows of Chicago skyscrapers flashed across her face, a Kentucky farm girl leaned back in the seat and smiled a silent answer at the cabbie’s rearview mirror.

It’s not irony; it’s providence.

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  • Norman Miller