Dr. Jason Fader just won the first Gerson L’Chaim Prize for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service in Burundi.
Feb 2, 2017
Jason Fader isn’t the average American doctor. The 39 year-old medical missionary, currently serving at the Kibuye Hope Hospital in Burundi, can do up to eight surgeries a day and treat dozens of people in between. His patients number in the thousands and he’s responsible for more than forty students currently studying at the hospital. His workload is heavy but according to Dr. Fader, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“God gives us talents that we’re meant to use to serve others,” Dr. Fader tells Guideposts.org. “I feel obligated to use mine in this way.”
Missionary work is in the doctor’s blood. His father, a surgeon, and his mother, a nurse, both worked in Kenya during his early years. When he was in the fifth grade, Dr. Fader saw his father perform surgery for the first time.
“He’d take me to the clinic to see the work he was doing there,” Dr. Fader recalls.
As he grew older, he discovered a love for fixing things and a passion for medicine. He returned to the U.S. to finish his secondary education. He earned a degree in medicine and served out his residency at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Michigan. Having seen his parents serve in the field, he knew working in an ordinary hospital setting in the U.S. just wasn’t what he felt called to do.
Fader and his wife connected with other families wanting to serve as medical missionaries and raised money to spend a year abroad in France, learning French and Kirundi – the two languages most prominent in Burundi. He spent time serving as a medical missionary in Kenya, learning alongside other long-term missionaries, before heading to Burundi. He chose the nation because of its shortage of doctors (there are just 13 surgeons for 10 million people) and for its teaching hospital.
Recently, the surgeon made history as the first ever recipient of the Gerson L’Chaim Prize for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service. The award is from the African Mission Healthcare Foundation (AMHF)-founded by New York entrepreneur Mark Gerson and Dr. Jon Fielder, a medical missionary serving in Kenya. It comes with a $500,000 gift that will add a critically needed new surgery ward with more beds to help patients recover faster. The gift will also help create Burundi’s first postgraduate training program.
For Dr. Fader, the prize means getting to help even more people.
“I could work myself silly and make just a drop in the bucket in terms of surgical needs in Burundi,” Dr. Fader, who's been serving the country for three and a half years, says. “But I can teach 40 students who will go on to treat even more people. That’s the goal.”
Educating the next generation extends to his own family as well. A father of two young girls, Fader knew it was important that missionary work be a family affair. He remembered the wonderful lessons of his own childhood and wanted to pass those down to his girls.
“We’re giving them an experience and a worldview they wouldn’t get back home,” Dr. Fader says.
Fader hopes his award and any recognition that might come with it can go a long way towards educating others about the true nature of missionary work.
“It gets romanticized a lot,” Dr. Fader admits. “I go to work every day and face many of the same problems I would in the U.S. There’s nothing glamorous about missionary work, but it’s work that’s needed.”
He also hopes his story can encourage others thinking about entering in the missionary field.
“Just do it,” Dr. Fader says. “It’s easy to stay at home and stay in your comfort zone. It’s much harder to follow a calling,” he says. “But it’s worth it.”