Sunday, January 25, 2009

Developing a Christian work ethic

I have just completed a very busy week at the hospital. One colleague went on leave, and then another colleague fell sick, and was admitted, and so, I ended up doing a lot more work than usual.

This afternoon I got some time to breathe and looked back over the past week. I calculated that I have been working 137 hours out of the 168 hours in the past week. Whew!

That got me thinking.

I'm sure it is not right that I work so hard, because a lot of other things suffer in the process, like time with family, time for Bible reading, prayer and quiet reflection, time for relaxation and leisure, time for friends, etc.

I'm also sure there is probably some law about the amount of work that can be expected from a worker. I know that in the UK, a doctor can be sued if he works more than 56 hours a week, because it is understood that he will not be able to provide optimum care to a patient.

56 hours! Wow!

The problem is that medicine is considered to be some sort of holy profession. Certainly, there is something special about being a doctor. Some even call it a vocation. We routinely talk about 'serving' patients. It is expected that we work with 'dedication', since we are 'helping suffering human beings'. We are also expected to consistently sacrifice our family lives and personal lives for patients in need. We have all read admiringly stories about the doctor toiling in some small mission hospital, often as the only doctor, without a break, who cancels, literally at the last minute, the much-planned and anticipated family vacation because an emergency landed up at the hospital.

The pressure to work with 'dedication' is even more when you work in a Christian institution. It is almost a sin to hope that you can take a break when there is so much of work to be done. I question, however, whether practising medicine itself has any intrinsic spiritual value. Does the fact that you are a doctor, meeting myriad human needs, justify ignoring your own spiritual life and family? If I work hard, at great sacrifice, ruining my health and destroying my own family, giving everything selflessly in the service of the poorest, but have not accomplished God's purposes for my life by entering into a deeper fellowship with Him and with my brothers and sisters around me, live in a way that does not reflect the Transformation that God wants to perform in me, and have not found the specific ministry that God has for me, it profits me nothing. 1 Cor 13:3 (paraphrased).

I am trying to develop my own Biblical Theology of work ethics, and would welcome any thoughts on this.

Some verses that come to mind are:
'Don't wear yourself out trying to get rich; restrain yourself!' Proverbs 23:4 from the Message Bible. Obviously the desire to earn more money than we need is not sufficient justification for working so hard.

'Slaves, obey your masters according to the flesh in all things; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men; knowing that from the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance. For you serve the Lord Christ.' Col 3:22-24. Obviously the desire to keep the boss happy is not a good enough reason for working hard. I need to work fearing God, working heartily as unto the Lord. Part of my God-given responsibility is towards my family and church and friends. I cannot imagine I am working as unto the Lord when I do not even have time to read my Bible or pray.

Obviously also the first statement 'Obey your masters in all things' is balanced by the second 'you serve the Lord Christ'. I cannot blindly obey my employer when he asks me to do something wrong.

Seeking that God be glorified through my work appears to be a good motive. 'Therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.' 1 Cor 10:31. I have thought till now that this means 'Work so hard that your boss and colleagues are impressed, and use that as a means to witness to them about God'. Now I wonder whether it is possible that God may be most glorified in my work when I display that I am not work-driven like my colleagues around me, and am not crazy for the boss' approval, money, position, or reputation. 'Godliness with contentment is great gain', said Paul (1 Tim 6:6). If my life reflects my contentment and the fact that I am satisfied in God, would that not be glorifying to Him?

There will always be needy people about me. I need to consider Jesus, however, who seems to have sometimes left needy crowds in order to go away to pray, or do something else that was more important (Mark 1:34-38), gone incognito into the large pool of Bethesda to heal one man, and left a large multitude unhealed (John 5) and completely ignored a lame man who sat at the temple every day as he entered (Acts 3). Obviously, merely responding to needs around me is not enough.

I pray I may find the grace to walk the fine line between being a lazy worker, and being a hard working (yet balanced) Christian worker. May I glorify God in everything I do, not just at work, but also in relationships, in the family, and in a personal walk with God that is contrary to anything this world has seen. Countertrend.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Tribute to 2008

What a year it has been!

When Arpita and I sat watching a bonfire after the watch night service in Herbertpur, even then, in the first few minutes of 2008, we knew the year ahead was going to be a very important one for us as a family. We just did not have a clue as to what was exactly in store for us.

A couple of weeks earlier, we had registered to adopt a child from Bangalore. We had been told it generally took about 2 years before a child could finally be placed with adoptive parents, and we figured 2008 would be a year of preparation for us.

Up until this point, I had been working as the only surgeon in Herbertpur Christian Hospital, a 100 bedded mission hospital 40 km outside Dehradun in Uttarakhand. The previous year had started with me talking about a lifetime in mission hospitals and working among the poorest, and even contemplating giving up surgery, in order to do Public Health. By the end of 2007, I had begun asking uncomfortable questions: What, really, is missions? What is the Church? What, really, is Transformation? Who are, really, the poorest? What is God’s purpose for a mission hospital? What is God’s purpose for our own lives? What is the relationship between a mission hospital and the local church? Has the entire model of Medical Missions we see in India been a historic mistake?

There, in front of the bonfire, Arpita and I prayed that God would lead us into all that He had planned for us in 2008.

This is what happened:
Two weeks later we heard there was a possibility that a baby would become available for us to adopt. Three weeks later, after many months of discussion about joining the staff at Herbertpur, another surgeon joined the hospital. The next day, we heard we could go to Bangalore and finally meet our son, Anand. Since, there was now another surgeon, the hospital was gracious in allowing us to stay in Bangalore for almost two months, while we went through the legal process of adoption.

We welcomed Anand into our family on Feb 7th, 2008. He has been such a blessing to us. He is such a cheerful child, and has indeed been a source of so much anand in our lives.

We went through a process of writing our family mission statement. There were a number of resources that became available to us at this time, and helped us clarify our thoughts and desires, and find God’s purposes for our lives. Among these were a number of sermons and writings of John Piper, a series of Bible studies on the Parables of Jesus that we did together with the English Bible study group at Herbertpur, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, meetings I was able to attend in Bangalore where we discussed the ‘Theology of Missions’, and ‘Missions and Enterprise’, and meetings with a number of families who had served in Mission Hospitals across India who came together in Chennai to discuss reasons for burnout in Missions and ways staff in Mission Hospitals could be nurtured and accompanied.

The result has been that we have landed up where we least expected a year ago. We are now back at Vellore, where I have joined the Department of Paediatric Surgery. This May, I will be applying for admission to a three-year programme for further training in Paediatric Surgery. Arpita finds herself working full-time as mother and wife and is thoroughly enjoying the long hours with plenty of overtime!

We do not see ourselves staying here for long, and are waiting to see what God has in store for us. We find that God continues to provide us with resources for growth and direction. We have been blessed to find fellowship and companionship here at Vellore, and we long to find and complete His purposes for this period that we are here.

One area that I feel called to get involved in is the nurture of missionaries in various situations across India. We have been blessed by reading about the Missionary Nurture Program and Barnabbas support teams at Bethlehem Baptist Church where John Piper is pastoring, ( and would like to see the Church in India get involved in missions (which have traditionally been the responsibility of various para-church organizations), so that those who are not sent themselves by the Lord of the harvest may be effective ‘senders’, supporting, encouraging and accompanying their representatives in difficult areas. In addition, we would like to be involved again with the medical and other students, and junior doctors in any way possible. We have also been renewing friendships with old classmates and colleagues, and are hoping to go out with a few classmates and their families in March for a quiet retreat and a Marriage Enrichment seminar.

Please do continue to pray for us. Pray that we may be sensitive to God’s leading, and hear His voice. Pray that we may be good stewards of all He has given us, and especially of this precious gift, Anand, who He has entrusted to us. Pray that we may be good examples, and may find wisdom and grace to bring him up in the ways of the Lord. Pray that we may be a blessing to all who come our way, and that all who come to our home may be refreshed. Pray that we may live transformed and not conformed to the worldly systems around us. And please continue to encourage and bless us with your fellowship and love in the year ahead.

Pradeep, Arpita and Anand

You can view some of our photos at

Mission statement

Mission Statement

To Find and Complete God’s Purposes In, Through, and Around me.

As A Christian
1. To rest in the Assurance of a son of God.
2. To demonstrate an Example of all that is possible in the life lived by faith.
3. To live Transformed and not Conformed.
4. To find in every place the ones God has called to be His children; to give myself to them, and for them, that I may grow with them.

As a Husband
1. To surround my wife with a demonstration of unconditional love.
2. To be a partner with her as fellow-heirs of the promise.
3. To build with her a home filled with the atmosphere of love, selflessness, and sacrificial giving, where all who enter may return refreshed.

As a Father
1. To provide for our children godly roots and wings.
2. To enable them to find love, security and purpose.

As a Son/ Brother
1. To be a dependable, loving and faithful support and friend.

As a Friend
1. To cultivate friendships that are challenging, encouraging and enabling.

As a Doctor
1. To speak for, and work among the poor and marginalized.
2. To consistently provide the highest possible quality of care.
3. To be at the ‘cutting-edge’ of appropriate technology wherever I work.

As a Teacher
1. To pass on values together with information.

1. To value People over Possessions
2. To value Quality over Quantity.
3. To value what God does over all else.