A Resurrection At The Hospital

We’d like to report that we’ve witnessed a resurrection, a return to life. It’s an institution that lives again: the Gaziantep American Hospital in southeast Turkey. Many of us thought it was dead, but it is rising to a wonderful new life of medical services for the people of southeast Turkey.

We’d like to report that we’ve witnessed a resurrection, a return to life. It’s an institution that lives again: the Gaziantep American Hospital in southeast Turkey. Many of us thought it was dead, but it is rising to a wonderful new life of medical services for the people of southeast Turkey.

The Gaziantep American Hospital was founded in 1880. The capital came from a group of doctors who had graduated from Yale. One of their classmates, by the name of Smith, joined the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions soon after graduation and went to southeast Turkey. He died there from typhus within a few short years. His Yale classmates gave enough money to found a hospital in his honor. You can see Azariah Smith’s gravestone today in the garden of the Gaziantep American Hospital. A plaque has been set up recently in that corner of the garden, with words in both Turkish and English, to say something to visitors about the gravestones found there.

"The inscriptions on these stones point to the many people who, trusting in God, left the country of their birth to serve and befriend the people of Anatolia. Their accomplishments in medicine and education are still with us. Some of them died within a short time of arrival; others had long and distinguished careers. Whether their lives were brief or extended, they make us pause in this garden of peace and remember that it is God who forgives all sins, who heals all sickness, and who inspires us to selfless living.”

The gravestones, like the hospital, had been falling into neglect in the past few years. The facilities were decrepit and patients were few. The current owners of the hospital, the Health and Education Foundation, who are mostly graduates of the American Board schools in Turkey, faced the question of its closure. But investments were made, facilities were upgraded, new government policies helped private hospitals, and the Gaziantep American Hospital has sprouted back into life.

We were present at the recent opening ceremony of the hospital’s new outpatient complex, much needed because at least 500 people per day show up at the hospital gates. There were festive balloons everywhere, floral wreathes, clowns, food, live music, and stirring speeches. Specially present that day was Dr. Barclay Shepard, the last American doctor to head the hospital, and his nephew, Whitman Shepard, now principal of the school in Uskudar. They represented four generations of health and education mission work in Turkey. That length of commitment deeply affected many of us in the audience.

One of the gravestones in the hospital garden belongs to Fannie and Fred Shepard, Barclay Shepard’s grandparents. Both were doctors. They served in the hospital for the first 30 years of its life. The inscription on their gravestone refers to John 12:24. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” That verse made us think of the hospital, which was planted there by American missionaries in the 19th century. They did their best with it, and then passed on, trusting the soil of Anatolia to nurture the seed. They should not be disappointed, as local leadership has now produced a flourishing, modern, first-rate institution serving large numbers of patients in a part of Turkey in ever greater need of more medical services. The hospital’s young and dynamic medical staff well knows the heritage of quality, pioneering work that it brings to Gaziantep and southeast Turkey.

Our photo shows the main entrance to the hospital, with its original stone façade. More information on the hospital can be found on its web site: www.sevakfi.org/eng/hospital.htm

Peace,
Ken & Betty Frank

Ken & Betty Frank serve as missionaries with the Near East Mission, assigned to the American Collegiate Institute, Izmir Amerikan Lisesi.  Ken is a teacher of math and works in the area of Christian-Muslim Relations.  Betty serves as the librarian and also works in the area of Christian-Muslim relations.