World Help CEO defines “compassion,” challenges student-doctors
With honesty and passion, Vernon Brewer passed along an important message during the Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) weekly convocation on October 21: it’s not just what we say, but what we do that mirrors the compassion of Jesus.
After beating a grim cancer diagnosis in the mid-80s, Brewer, President/CEO of World Help and Liberty University’s first graduate (1973), decided to travel to Africa to look for a new purpose. At the time, Ethiopia was experiencing a devastating famine. Brewer was a Vice President at LU.
“I felt like my life had been passing me by, and my life had been put on hold,” said Brewer.
He’ll admit: his oncologist wasn’t happy about the outreach trip.
“He said wash your hands ten times a day, be careful what you touch and only drink bottled water,” said Brewer.
Upon landing at the Ethiopian border, Brewer saw a group of grass huts nearby. He immediately asked to visit the people who lived there. A 9-year-old girl came out of the first hut he approached.
“She had matted hair, sores all over her body and was filthy. The smell in that hut was repulsive. All I could remember was my doctor saying, ‘Be careful what you touch,’ and I looked at her and said ‘Ugh’ and took a step back,” said Brewer.
Embarrassed and convicted, a pivotal moment came next.
“You know how we talk about that still, small voice of God? This is what I heard. ‘Who do you think you are? Do you see that little girl? I love that little girl. I love that little girl as much as I love your little girls back home,’” said Brewer.
Brewer says he took the girl into his arms as his heart was broken with compassion. He made sure the student-doctors understood exactly what that meant.
“Matthew chapter 9 tells us when Jesus was confronted by the multitudes; his heart was moved with compassion,” said Brewer. “Most of us when we hear that word we think of the word pity or feeling sorry for someone. The Bible defines it as suffering together with someone.”
His compassion continued. The area desperately needed fresh drinking water. Brewer immediately committed to drilling wells for the tribes. Students at LU helped raise enough money for the project, and 10 students took a semester off of school to help see the plans through.
Citing LUCOM’s efforts to improve the lives of individuals in Guatemala, Brewer reminded student-doctors to take advantage of those serving opportunities and always view their futures in the medical field through the lens of Christ.
“There may be some of you that think medical school is your ticket to the good life. Or you can look at your medical degree as a ticket to change the world,” said Brewer.
Brewer’s daughter, Noelle Yeatts, presented a short video about World Help’s efforts to treat women in Ethiopia who are suffering from obstetric fistulas. She encouraged student-doctors to join her during her next visit to the country in February.