Hope is the best medicine. In a desert land with no hospital, diseases like TB, malaria, parasites and eye infections made life miserable. One out of two babies died. There was little help or hope.
Not until 1951 did the first hospital open in what was to become the United Arab Emirates. When Christian missionary doctor Sarah Hosman accepted the invitation of the Sheikh of Sharjah to open a clinic, she had one condition: She must be given written permission to share the gospel with her patients. The sheikh agreed. In what was surely a unique arrangement in the Muslim Arab World, staff members openly prayed with every woman in the maternity clinic, and the majority took home an Injil (New Testament). Very sadly, the Dr. Sarah Hosman Hospital was forced to close in 1994 because no replacement obstetrician could be found for the one who was leaving.
In 1960 a second clinic was started in the desert oasis of Al Ain, also at the request of the ruling sheikh. A couple who were both doctors and who had previously been with the American Arabian Mission in Iraq, responded along with some nurses; these became the first white women without masks or veils ever seen by the local Bedouin population. Although this became primarily a maternity hospital, it offered the only medical treatment for miles around and won the hearts of the people. Infant mortality rates were gradually reduced to less than one per cent.
Among the 100,000 babies delivered over the years were many of the sons of Sheikh Zayed, who became the founding father of the UAE. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed, on a later visit to Oasis Hospital was heard to remark, “Let’s face it. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you!” When plans were drawn up to rebuild the hospital, which now has about 500 staff from 30 nations, Sheikh Mohammad and his brother Sheikh Khalifa, the president of the UAE, provided a grant for the building costs. The new hospital officially opens this year. Visitors and patients are able to take away Arabic New Testaments and JESUS CDs if they desire.
A maternity hospital was also pioneered by Christian workers in 1967, in the United Arab Emirate of Fujairah. This past August 2013, this hospital–like the one in Sharjah–was forced to close because of lack of doctors.
The commitment of the foreign medical staff who came to love and care for the people led to the government of the UAE donating land for church compounds. In effect, medical missions were responsible for the birth of the evangelical church in this country. The hospitals also birthed new generations of Emiratis that are now in universities and in professional positions of influence.
God is still asking Christian doctors and nurses to follow Him to desert places. Is there anyone out there who will accept the challenge?