Snakes, Ministry and Medical Care in Thailand: an Interview with Retired OMF Worker Barbara Rahn
What was your home and family life like growing up? What inspired you to serve overseas?
I was born into a God-fearing home in Elmira, Ont. and came to know about Jesus because our parents read Bible stories to my sister and I every night before we were tucked into bed.
My mom had a friend who was a missionary in Korea. When she came on Home Assignment, she’d often visit and tell us stories of the children and adults in Korea and how she was helping them know about our faithful God. More than once she encouraged me to think about a similar vocation.
What influenced you to serve in Thailand?I read many Christian books about work in Asia but decided that I needed to attend Bible College first. After I completed a four-year course at Moody Bible Institute, my home church in Toronto commissioned me to serve with OMF in Thailand because they had a medical ministry there. Three hospitals in backwoods areas urgently needed doctors and nurses.
My father was a bit apprehensive about my calling, but when I explained that I knew this was where God was leading me, he decided that he and mom would write letters, pray and support me.
What was your actual role there and how did your ministry take shape?I worked as a Registered Nurse at Manorom Christian Hospital for 18 years. It had three floors and the exercise was good! At that time leprosy was still endemic and we had an area especially for 25 patients. Practical Nurses gave care to patients while they required treatment and, once a week, I had a Bible study in Thai with those who were able to come. One of the carpenters built a rolling library that held Thai language books, which we pushed around. We encouraged and taught people how to read. Sometimes, all we could do was tell them a story since many had very nominal education.
Were there any surprises or unusual events during your ministry?
The area in Thailand where I worked was flat and known for flooding in the rainy season, sometimes by as much as ten feet (or three metres). As a result, boats kept in storage had to be pulled out and strong men would come to our homes and paddle us to the hospital for work. Flooding meant that septic tanks would often overflow but, in all the years I worked there, no one ever developed a disease related to it. God was good in providing strong sunrays to kill any germs. From time to time, we would even notice snakes skidding across the water!
What did you do when you returned to Canada?
When I left Cambridge, Ont. to serve Asia, I told my mom, who was now widowed, if she ever needed any help to simply write and I would be most willing to return home to be with her. Unfortunately, letters took 2-3 weeks to arrive.
I eventually returned home and, not surprisingly, needed a job. Fortunately, OMF in Toronto had a position open for someone to manage its book room. I enjoyed this ministry very much but, over time, began to notice that a number of OMF retirees were not getting the help they needed. So, after bringing this to the attention of my co-workers, I initiated a ministry to support OMF’s retirees.
When driving back and forth to Toronto became too “taxing,” I left my OMF role and enjoyed volunteer ministry at the Cambridge Memorial Hospital. After more than 20 most enjoyable years there, I retired in mid-January of this year.
What’s next? I’m not sure, but retirement isn’t that bad!