|‘Remembering Henry,’ Dr. George Robertson pens tribute to medical missionary|
|Tuesday, January 3, 2012|
For 10 years, Dr. George Robertson and Dr. Henry Farrar practiced medicine together at Lebanon’s Family Medical Associates.
For 20 years, they worshiped together at College Hills Church of Christ.
Twice, Robertson accompanied Farrar on medical mission trips to Nigerian Christian Hospital near Aba, Nigeria.
Thus, when Farrar died in February 2010 at the age of 83 from complications of a fall that caused a neck fracture, Robertson knew he had to find a way to honor his close friend, a pioneering medical missionary to Africa.
“Dr. Farrar was such a great doctor. He did so much good. I just wanted his story to get out,” says Robertson, who recently published “Remembering Henry,” a 120-page hardback book in which Robertson reflects on his friend’s Christian life and dedication to the sick in Nigeria.
“He was so caring for his patients, wanting to do the right thing for them. He was full of understanding and had a wonderful ability to listen carefully to their complaints.
“I really admired him. Even after he got old, he was still going and trying to do the best for those people over there. He was so inspiring to me. I just wanted people to know how hard he worked and how much he loved the people,” said the native of Maury City, Tenn., who has practiced in Lebanon since 1974.
An icon in medical mission, in 1964 Farrar became the first located surgeon at Nigerian Christian Hospital, a Church of Christ-supported medical mission in southeastern Nigeria. The Nashville native also served as a surgeon at Chimala Mission Hospital in Zambia. In 2004 a leader of the Aba community in Nigeria bestowed upon him the honorary title of chief. Farrar is survived by his wife, Grace, who lives in Lebanon, and their six children.
What inspired Farrar to take his medical skills as a surgeon and his zeal for the gospel to people of t
he Ibo tribe? Robertson asked him those very questions.
Farrar answered him, “My mother would read in the Bible, and I would wonder about the Eskimos with no Bible. . . . I started out just to be a family doctor, and then I realized that if I went to a foreign country and someone had appendicitis, I would have no plan to care for them. I would have to be able to take care of them myself.”
As for starting a hospital in the African bush, Farrar told Robertson, “The church wanted a preacher, and I had been preaching in all the churches around the school. The missionaries and people in Africa needed medical care, and the church encouraged me to get my medical degree.”
Today, Nigerian Christian Hospital is staffed with six fulltime native physicians, two chaplains and holds 110 inpatient beds. About 150 employees also serve the more than 20,000 patients treated there every year.
Doctors Farrar and Robertson met in 1978 as Robertson wanted to make a mission trip to Africa with his family. He heard about Nigerian Christian Hospital and called Farrar.
“He came by and showed me his slides of his tour of 20 years off and on to Nigeria,” said Robertson, who wound up taking wife Linda and children Beth and Bill to the third-world nation for several weeks.
“I was quite intimidated just going to a foreign country, but it was a wonderful experience,” he recalled. “We enjoyed getting to realize about the culture there, how the people lived and were able to make a living and the things they thought were important compared to what we have here.”
In the book, Robertson describes conditions in the hospital which could be challenging. While there were long and taxing hours due to lack of equipment, not having proper lighting, poor sanitation, lack of antibiotics and inadequate communications between nurses and doctors, he learned to adapt.
During his six tours to the Nigerian hospital, Robertson estimates he performed an average of 10 surgeries daily. The majority of them were for hernias, to remove tumors and thyroidectomies.
Since his first trip to Nigeria 24 years ago, he has made medical mission trips to Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, Guatemala, Tanzania, the Ivory Coast, Swaziland, Russia, Romania and Ecuador.
The 1978 association with Robertson led to Farrar moving here in 1989 as he joined the Lebanon doctor at Family Medical Associates for about 10 years before moving his practice to Carthage.
Robertson’s book features an interview with Henry’s wife, Grace, and remembrances from other friends who knew and served with the Christian doctor. “Remembering Henry” is priced at $25 and is sold at the College Hills church bookstore and at the Family Medical Associates office. All proceeds go to Christian education.
“Henry was very happy, very caring and full of joy, full of life. He was running over with good deeds and caring for everybody that he knew,” said Robertson, who, like Farrar, is one of Lebanon’s most beloved physicians.
By Ken Beck