When Ty Hopkins First Heard John Patrick Speak

(This is a continuation of the blog series, How Augustine College Began. It follows on the entry, Who Is Dr. John Patrick?)

At the Global Missions Health Conference, in his talk on “A Christian View of Development,” Dr. John Patrick addressed exactly what had long been troubling Dr. Ty Hopkins. As a medical missionary in Africa, Patrick had been living some of the same questions and problems. But he had found some answers.  He presented something like a Socratic dialogue:

“What’s the cure for malnutrition?”

“Rice and beans.”

“That’s not new, we’ve had that solution for thousands of years.” In fact, Patrick said, the soil and climate in Africa is even better for farming than America’s.

“Those in power won’t let go of the food supply. And 14 or so people intervene between the government and the mouths of the poor.”

“Yes.  But if we can’t get rid of hunger in Africa despite all the food that is grown or sent there, then why would we think we could solve Africa’s AIDS crisis even if we sent them all the anti-retroviral drugs they could possibly need?”

The problem really is behaviors.

What is driving the behaviors?

World views. Ty says, “John Patrick drives the point home better than anyone, about how the world view changes thinking which changes behavior.”

Patrick told the story of how he had gone to Congo to deal with malnutrition after the Rwandan civil war, but the science and resources didn’t work. While everything was in shambles in those refugee camps, the youngest, most vulnerable children were always the ones closest to starvation, and that was not changing. No one was sure why. Almost in despair he began teaching the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, especially chapter 6:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

The African pastors among the refugees, at least, took the teaching seriously, and literally, Patrick said. Normally, African fathers don’t even eat with their children. And that’s true from the bottom to the top of society. Children are generally considered 2nd class citizens or less. But these pastor-fathers took the teaching literally and began sitting down with the children at meal times.

And what they discovered was that the older children were stealing the food from the younger ones, Patrick said. What ended up happening was that these fathers began to make sure the little ones got enough food at meal times, and that did more good than all the rest of the malnutrition program. Without a more powerful person to protect the rights of the weak, the weak just get weaker. World views about how parents value children and how children value each other make a difference.

Patrick told a similar story about how world views and their cultural practices influence behaviors. A girl was brought to the mission hospital from a far-off village. Her leg was very diseased, and the doctors told her father that she was going to die if her leg were not amputated. The parents nodded and took the girl back home, but they never brought her back for the surgery. Later, Patrick discovered the parents had let the girl die rather than have her leg amputated.

Why?

Because, the parents said, no man will marry a girl who is missing part of a leg.

World views.  In this case, about the value of human life.  Ty says, “I wept for 20 minutes. Tears were just streaming down my face. These were answers to questions that deeply troubled me.”

Next: Dr. Patrick visits Blacksburg and is asked “How could God allow this massacre?”