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Posts Tagged ‘Wilfred Grenfell’

 

(Wilfred Grenfell, 1865-1940)

 

Dr. Wilfred Grenfell listened to the ill fisherman’s labored breathing. He took note of the patient’s fever-flushed cheeks and chill-induced tremors. The diagnosis: severe pneumonia, and possibly tuberculosis as well.

With little equipment and scant supplies at hand, Grenfell was unable to save the man. Left behind were the man’s wife and six children, subsisting in a tiny sod house.

 

 

Who would care for the destitute family? Everyone in the fishing village of Battle Harbor, Labrador was barely surviving. In fact, up and down the coast similar tragedies occurred frequently because of the primitive living conditions.

The year was 1892. Dr. Grenfell had just recently arrived on the northeastern coast of Canada.

 

 

Over the next three months of summer, he treated about nine hundred people for a variety of medical conditions. And God used those experiences to stir him into action—action for which he had been preparing Grenfell for his entire life.

During his childhood, Wilfred’s parents, Reverend Algernon and Jane Grenfell, provided a strong Christian upbringing for their four sons. Grenfell then studied medicine at London Hospital and London University under the mentorship of the highly respected Christian surgeon, Sir Frederick Treves.

 

(Sir Frederick Treves)

 

But a life-changing moment occurred for Grenfell in 1885 when he attended a tent-revival meeting held by D. L. Moody. Grenfell accepted Moody’s spirited challenge to serve Christ with passion and courage.

Not long after, he heard the Cambridge Seven speak—famous student athletes at the time, serving as missionaries in China. Wilfred felt further inspired to follow God’s leading toward Christian service.

 

(The Cambridge Seven in Mandarin garb, 1885)

 

Upon graduation from medical school, Wilfred joined the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, on recommendation of his mentor and board member of the mission, Sir Frederick Treves.

The RNMDSF already provided floating libraries, clothing stores, and chapels. Now Grenfell could add medical services to the other benefits.

 

(The Royal National Mission to Deep-Sea Fishermen,

still in operation since its founding in 1881.)

 

His travels with the mission brought Grenfell to Labrador where the living conditions were so dire he felt compelled to do what he could to improve them.

In addition to offering medical care, Grenfell held simple church services, preaching what he remembered from his father’s sermons. Numerous people chose to follow Jesus; others were strengthened in their faith.

Over the course of the next four decades Grenfell built six hospitals and opened seven nursing stations. He established fourteen industrial centers, a number of churches, and  four boarding schools.

 

 

At first, the Royal National Mission to Deep-Sea Fishermen financed his work. But it soon became necessary for Grenfell to raise monies himself. God equipped him for this aspect of the work also, and very quickly he became a successful fundraiser and charismatic speaker.

One close-call adventure Grenfell relayed often on his speaking tours, and it finally became a book. (He wrote more than thirty books—all for the support of his mission work.)

 

 

In April of 1908 he found himself drifting out to sea on a chunk of ice with no hope of survival. He’d been dog sledding across the frozen Hope Bay, headed for a remote community in Newfoundland where a young boy needed surgery.

But conditions on the bay changed overnight while he rested. The ice began to break up. Though Grenfell tried to jump from one ice chunk to another in order to return to shore, he soon realized it was wasted effort. The floe was moving too fast.

 

(Drift ice off the coast of Labrador)

 

For a day and a night, Grenfell continued to drift. He was sure the rough seas would make rescue impossible. But a small group of fishermen in a boat did spot him and came to his aid.

Later, he described his rescuers as five men “with Newfoundland muscles in their backs and five as brave hearts as ever beat in the bodies of human beings” (Adrift on an Ice Pan, 1909).

Two days later, Grenfell was able to perform surgery on the young boy, who was brought to the local hospital by boat—a much more satisfactory solution.

In addition to his accomplishments and great adventures, Grenfell’s full life also included disappointment and doubt, trouble and sorrow, even failure. But he knew where to find strength and encouragement:

 

“The word of God is the Christian soul’s best weapon,

and it is essential to have it with him always.

In doubt it decides; in consultation it directs;

in anxiety it reassures, in sorrow it comforts;

in failure it encourages; in defense it protects;

in offense it is mightier than the mighty.”

–Wilfred Grenfell

 

Thus empowered, the great doctor accomplished his divinely appointed mission–day by day, year after year—with passion and courage.

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

That is what we desire as well, Father, to accomplish the mission you’ve divinely-appointed for each of us. May we embrace with faith, courage, and passion the possibilities you present before us, in honor of you, and because your pleasure always becomes ours as well.

 

(P.S. The winter after the ice floe rescue, Grenfell met Anna MacClanahan of Lake Forest, Illinois. They were married in November of 1909, and she quickly became Grenfell’s private secretary, editor, and adviser. They had two sons and one daughter.)

 

 

 

Sources:

  1. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/grenfell_wilfred_thomason_16E.html
  2. http://www.canadianchristianleaders.org/leader/wilfred-grenfell/
  3. http://www.cdnmedhall.org/inductees/sir-wilfred-grenfell
  4. http://www.greatthoughtstreasury.com/author/wilfred-grenfell-fully-sir-wilfred-thomason-grenfell
  5. http://www.grenfellhistory.co.uk/biographies/wilfred_thomason_grenfell.php
  6. https://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/society/grenfell-mission.php
  7. https://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/fifteen-canadian-stories-wilfred-grenfell-the-daring-doctor-who-brought-hospitals-to-newfoundland

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com;www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.geograph.org.uk; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.picryl.com.

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