Book on the life of Dr. Ernie Steury ’53 published
WILMORE, KY—Dr. Ernie Steury graduated from Asbury College in 1953 and was the first and only medical doctor at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya when he arrived in 1959. His life story is told by Gregg Lewis ’73 in “Miracle at Tenwek: The Life of Dr. Ernie Steury,” recently released by Discovery House Publishers.
Lewis first learned about Dr. Ernie Steury through his childhood friend, Dr. David Stevens ’73. The two discussed writing a book on the missionary doctor’s life. Because of an illness, Dr. Steury was unable to tell his story himself. Therefore, Lewis relied on the memories of Steury’s family, colleagues and upon written documentation for the biography. He said this research probably made the book “better” than if he had spoken with Dr. Steury himself.
“Ernie was so genuinely humble that I don’t know that he would have told the whole story,” Lewis said. Instead, Lewis interviewed a number of people who knew Dr. Steury well.
Lewis said that Dr. Steury had one request of the biography, he didn’t want the author to “sugarcoat” his story. Dr. Steury didn’t believe that would help anyone. Lewis said Dr. Steury struggled with exhaustion and depression in the middle of his career. Being a medical missionary wasn’t an easy task and Dr. Steury wanted people to know there were sacrifices when one is called to serve.
In the book, Lewis highlights Dr. Steury’s gift in surgery—often performing “cookbook surgeries” or operations he had never attempted or witnessed. Knowing that many of his patients would die if he didn’t try to help them, Dr. Steury would prop open a medical book and perform the procedure.
Asbury College was an important shaping influence on Dr. Steury’s life. Lewis describes in the book how Steury’s roommate encouraged him to become a medical missionary. Steury’s roommate told him, “[I]f you become a doctor you could reach more people for the Lord….” Dr. Steury was also encouraged by long-time professor, Dr. Cecil Hamann. After describing to Dr. Hamann all the obstacles that lay ahead including finances, Dr. Hamann said, “Ernie, if God wants you to become a doctor, He can take care of all of those problems.”
Lewis said that the Tenwek Hospital has transformed a whole region in Africa, an area where “people used to die by the 1000s” from contaminated water. However, the hospital’s biggest impact was the transformation of so many people for Christ. Before each and every surgery, Dr. Steury would pray over his patient—not just for their physical healing, but also for their eternal salvation. Thousands of patients gave their lives to Christ during and following their treatment at Tenwek.
Lewis and Stevens hope that readers are inspired by Dr. Steury’s story. Lewis said, “There’s no greater time than now for people to become medical missionaries,” referring to the AIDS epidemic and the ever-increasing populations in parts of the world. “Ernie is an example and inspiration to all of us of what God can do with someone.”
One of Lewis’ favorite excerpts from the book took place in Maasailand when Dr. Steury and several college students became stranded with a flat tire in the Maasai Reserve.
After discovering that they are out of tire patching glue, Dr. Steury prayed for guidance, wondering about the miles he would have to walk and the lions he would encounter on his journey. As he looked into the distance, Dr. Steury noticed a small speck of dust. As the speck approached, he saw an African man riding a motorcycle. The man stopped and offered to help. Dr. Steury asked him for tire patching glue. The man smiled and handed Dr. Steury a new tube. The man said, “I have another container that is almost full. So when I stopped and bought this at a store in the last town I passed through, I really didn’t know why. Now I do. You can keep it.” Dr. Steury looked away and then back in the direction of the man, but he was gone. No roaring of a motorcycle, no cloud of dust, he had just vanished. This lesson served as a reminder to Dr. Steury of God’s ability to provide.
To obtain a copy of “Miracle at Tenwek: The Life of Dr. Ernie Steury,” visit ChristianBook.com . If you want to order larger quantities for your organization, contact Kathy Comer firstname.lastname@example.org at Discover House Publishers.