We’ve all heard the phrase, “Like father, like son.” While it’s not always true, fathers and sons tend to resemble one another, and often sons and their dads end up with similar personalities, doing the same things.
It’s true in the spiritual realm, too. Jesus claimed a close family resemblance to the heavenly Father, saying, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” and, “Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” The Lord also said that Christians have the same opportunity to glorify God by their deeds in full view of a watching world: “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
In the case of Dr. Tom Catena, a 51-year-old Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, New York, some unlikely people are watching, and they are indeed glorifying our heavenly Father.
You see, “Dr. Tom,” as folks call him, is the only physician stationed permanently in the war-torn Nuba Mountains. The New York Times calls it the site of “the worst ethnic cleansing you’ve never heard of.” The remote region of half a million people is a frequent bombing target of Sudan’s Islamist government, which is trying to crush a rebellion by Christians and animists in the nation’s far-south.
At last count, the hospital has been bombed 11 times. When he isn’t dodging Sudanese bombs or mosquitoes carrying malaria, Dr. Tom removes shrapnel from women’s flesh, amputates arms and legs of wounded children, removes appendixes, and even delivers babies—all for $350 a month.
One of those observing Dr. Tom’s Christ-like service in this forgotten land is a Muslim named Hussein Nalukuri Cupp, who, seeing the family resemblance, stated simply, “He’s Jesus Christ.” A rebel commander, meanwhile, says, “People in the Nuba Mountains will never forget his name. People are praying that he never dies.”
Even more amazing—and I say this with tongue firmly planted in cheek—is the response of a serious liberal journalist who realizes that the world needs Christians—and he isn’t afraid to say it. That journalist is Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who is doing what no other “mainstream” journalist would dare—helping the world to see the huge sacrifices that evangelicals and serious Catholics make around the world, doing God’s work quietly and humbly.
“There...are many, many secular aid workers doing heroic work,” Kristof says. “But the people I’ve encountered over the years in the most impossible places—like Nuba, where anyone reasonable has fled—are disproportionately unreasonable because of their faith.”
Indeed. God isn’t “reasonable” when it comes to the suffering of human beings made in His image. Here’s what Dr. Tom says about his work: “For me, it’s a privilege to be in a position where [I] can offer [my] services to people. I don’t see it as a hardship. I’ve been given a lot in this life. Let me go and try to do something with it.” Amen. As Jesus also said to His children, for those to whom much has been given, much will be expected.
As I watched the Times video about Dr. Tom’s work, I must tell you I was thrilled to see him, in a rare moment of relaxation, reading my biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer, of course, was another man who refused to take the easy way, and heroically tried to do something as Christ’s follower.
In these challenging days, may we do the same, leaving the results to our heavenly Father. Come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary. We’ll link you to the Times articles and videos about Dr. Tom. There, you can also find out how to support Dr. Tom’s ministry.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: July 23, 2015