Oncologist serves nine times in five countries with World Medical Mission.
She’s been greeted at an airport by gun-toting soldiers, pelted with rocks, and survived a vicious cyclone that killed almost 140,000 people.
It’s all been part of a God-directed, missions-based life for gynecological oncologist Laurie Elit. That life was recently honored with an award for humanitarianism in community or global service from the Hamilton (Ontario) Health Sciences Centre, where she works. And she’s not done yet.
“If it’s in God’s will, He’ll make a road (to make it happen), even if it’s crazy and nuts,” said Laurie, who has found ways to serve with World Medical Mission—the medical arm of Samaritan’s Purse—nine times in five countries.
Guns at Haiti airport
Laurie’s passion for World Medical Mission began in 1986 with two weeks at a hospital in Haiti. That was around the time that the infamous Duvallier political regime was ousted from power. Her trip took place during the unstable aftermath, so arriving flights were met with soldiers pointing guns at passengers.
Undeterred, Laurie next volunteered with World Medical Mission in 1991. It was a two-month deployment in Bangladesh that took place just a few months after the Gulf War ended Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait.
The United States was not popular in Muslim-dominated Bangladesh during that time, so when Laurie wandered away from the hospital compound, young boys mistook her for an American and pelted her with rocks and mud.
Laurie then stayed in the compound for her protection, where she concentrated on obstetrics and gynecology. But just days later, one of the deadliest cyclones on record slammed into Bangladesh.
It brought a six-meter storm surge that covered a massive area of the beleaguered Asian nation. Besides the casualties, as many as 10 million Bengalese were left homeless.
Sees value of missionary hospitals
The hospital compound was not affected by the cyclone and Laurie found herself providing many hours of emergency health care, such as repairing traumatic wounds, performing typhoid-related bowel perforations, and treating cholera patients.
Until that deployment, Laurie wasn’t sure she wanted to work in mission hospitals. But in the cyclone’s aftermath, God showed her the value of these hospitals.
“Watching the staff working with nearby residents and with refugees showed me the impact that faith can have. It made people ask questions around why these Christians are different,” she said. “It opened a lot of conversations and opportunities to share my faith.”
Since that 1991 trip, Laurie has done medical missionary work around the globe, including World Medical Mission deployments in Guyana, Cameroon, and Kenya.
“It’s my time to be filled up”
“When I work in Canada, I feel like I’m constantly giving, but when I go overseas, it’s my time to be filled up. Even though I’m giving, for some reason I’m being filled up, perhaps because I have more quiet time, more prayer time, and more time working with Christians. It helps me for months after I get back home.”
World Medical Mission is one of her favorite organizations to work with. “It’s Christian-based, I believe in the values it holds, and the staff demonstrate those values in how they deal with physicians and people on the ground.
“They communicate, help you navigate the trips, and they care for people after they return. They’ll even say no to a trip if they’re concerned about your safety or your health.”
Since it was founded more than 40 years ago, World Medical Mission has sent thousands of medical volunteers to more than 60 mission hospitals in nearly 40 countries.
Through all this, God is working in powerful ways to save lives and bring many to faith in Jesus Christ. As He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners [to repentence]” (Mark 2:17, ESV).