Faith Matters for April 21, 2012

Physician finds calling in India

Ethel native Anna Alexander can’t imagine anything more fulfilling than her call to be a missionary doctor in India.

“I think for me it’s a means of living out my faith, doing what I really feel God has called me to do, in a place where he’s brought me. So there’s great peace in that,” she said.

Alexander and her husband help run a 50-bed mission hospital in Manali, a small hill resort town in the Indian Western Himalayas, about nine hours from the capital of Delhi. Alexander said her husband, Philip, whom she married in 2000, is a native of India and a surgeon.

“I think it’s not that we’re doing anything extraordinary. We’re just ordinary people living out our faith in a different way,” said Alexander, whose “home” church is First Baptist Church of Zachary.

Alexander’s first missionary trip was to Macau as a medical student at LSU-Shreveport, which she attended after graduating from Silliman Institute in Clinton and Louisiana College.

“I really felt God touch my heart for people in those kinds of places,” she said.

Not long after becoming a doctor, her heart still longed for foreign missions. So much so that she moved to India in 1998, selling her home and first working six years as a volunteer before drawing a salary. Alexander maintains a medical license in Louisiana and returns home once every year to two years to do some work in the emergency room at Lane Memorial Hospital in Zachary.

Her latest trek back home to the United States began in late December and culminates on May 3, when she, Philip, and their 15-month-old adopted son head back to India.

The return trip includes a six-hour flight to New Jersey and a 15-hour bus ride from Delhi to the remote Manali.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Alexander said.

But the work has been a blessing, she said.

“It’s just a joy and I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said.

Thanks to donations and missions, Alexander said, the Manali hospital is able to offer surgical services. The next nearest hospital to offer such services is 300 miles away.

Alexander said the hospital has received support from First Baptist Church of Zachary, Community Church of Zachary, Community Church of Wilson and Park Forest Baptist Church of Baton Rouge, among others.

“It’s great seeing people giving to a work and ministry they’ll never actually see but has such a huge impact,” she said. “We’ve been able to buy an ambulance, which is the only ambulance in the whole state that has a ventilator, and that comes through the support of all these churches and individuals who give. People just can’t imagine how they impact lives.”

Seeing some people get medical help also helps open the doors for Alexander to talk about her faith in a place where Christianity (about 3 percent) is a distant fourth behind Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism.

“To see their testimony and commitment is quite encouraging, and that translates into our being able to share the gospel with them,” she said.

CASA in church

CASA is reaching out to churches.

Emily Hebert, the recruiting coordinator for the Court Appointed Special Advocates, has been speaking at churches seeking volunteers.

“The reason we ask to speak to church groups about CASA is because we are able to reach a large number of people who often are looking for ways to be involved in the community,” she said. “Typically, most churches want to do community outreach but they don’t always know where and how. By telling members about CASA’s mission and our need for volunteers, we’re able to present them with an option.”

Hebert said volunteers are trained to speak up in court for the best interests of children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned and are living in foster care.

“CASA’s mission is to advocate for safe and permanent homes for the children we serve,” she said.

Hebert said 90 percent of the affected children are black, while only 40 percent of the volunteers are black. Last year, Capital Area CASA Association had 157 CASA volunteers who provided a voice in court for 262 children. Of those children, 118 reached a safe and permanent home, she said.

Volunteers, who must be at least 21, typically spend eight to 10 hours a month working on their case. Hebert said CASA offers training courses to prepare volunteers to meet with their CASA child and others involved in the case, as well as write a court report that is submitted to a judge.

Orientation sessions are held several times a month at the CASA office, 848 Louisiana Ave.

Hebert is available to speak to full congregations or small group ministries.

To reach Hebert or for more information, call (225) 379-8598 or go to http://www.casabr.org.

Sign of faith

“God wants full custody not weekend visits.” — On a sign at Fairview Baptist Church, 1636 Braddock St.

Danger in the water

One moment in time changed Baton Rouge resident Ridgley B. Merritt Jr.’s life forever.

In his book, “One Moment With God” (Authorhouse Publishers), Merritt recounts the night he nearly lost his life during a traumatic scuba diving incident in 1982.

“There’s an element of danger involved in scuba diving in any type of water; however, high seas can appear in a short time, as can various species of fish. Unforeseen events that occur under the ocean’s surface could be hazardous to your health,” he writes.

The book is a short read, with only 39 pages, but Merritt says it serves as testimony to help people restore their faith in God.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Reach Terry Robinson at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com.