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Sarah Thebarge ponders the intersection of faith and medicine in this insightful narrative of her medical mission trip to Togo, West Africa. After facing death herself in her battle with breast cancer, she decided to move to West Africa and serve in a mission hospital, where she worked with a variety of patients to help make the world “well”. She describes her experiences in gripping detail and reflects courageously about difficult and deep human connections-across race, culture, material circumstances, and medical access. It is not a question of why does God let suffering happen, but why do we?
Number of Pages: 336
Publication Date: 2017
|Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.50 (inches)|
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Sarah Thebarge, a Yale-trained physician assistant, nearly died of breast cancer at age twenty-seven, but that did not end her deeply felt spiritual calling to medical missions in Africa. Risking her own health, she moved to Togo, West Africa-ranked by the United Nations as the least happy country in the world-to care for sick and suffering patients.
Serving without pay in a mission hospital, she pondered the intersection of faith and medicine in her quest to help make the world "well." In the hospital wards, she witnessed death over and over again. In the outpatient clinic, she daily diagnosed patients with deadly diseases, many of which had simple but unavailable cures. She lived in austere conditions and nearly succumbed herself in a harrowing bout with malaria.
Her experience exemplifies the triumph of surviving in order to share the stories that often go untold. In the end, Well is an invitation to ask what happens when, instead of asking why God allows suffering to happen in the world, we ask, "Why do we?"
"With a style and voice that is powerful, eloquent, and sincere, Sarah Thebarge takes us on a journey of faith through her own physical struggles as well as those experienced while working in a hospital in Togo, West Africa. Many books attempt to provide answers, but few do it in such a profound way-while walking us through the honest deep questions that arise from the messiness of life and the mystery of God. WELL is an important book that will stand the test of time and it will profoundly shape and inform your understanding of Christian spirituality and the love of God." Ken Wytsma, founder of The Justice Conference and author of Pursuing Justice and Create vs. Copy
Praise for THE INVISIBLE GIRLS:
"Wonderfully written, the book will have you staring through it, into a world that seems to have been made new. I am grateful there are new writers in the world like Sarah Thebarge. You'll get caught up in the strength of her kindness and the girls she describes even as we gain our focus to slowly see them, and so many others, for ourselves."Don Miller, author of Storyline and Blue Like Jazz
"Intertwining her own excruciating story of loss and rejection with the stirring story of a family of Somali refugees, The Invisible Girls is a testament to unwavering tenacity, resilient faith, and ineffable grace."Karen Spears Zacharias, author of The Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder
"Honest, enlightening, heart-touching and, at just the right times, funny. Sarah's expertly-crafted sentences sing and sometimes sting, flowing smoothly, then suddenly jumping off the page. The interweaving of her story with that of a Somali mother and daughters is masterful. This isn't the American dream. It's a vibrant and authentic story of loss, disenchantment, discovery, and a reawakening of faith and hope."Randy Alcorn, author of Heaven and If God is Good
"[Sarah Thebarge's] story is a double gift because her raw, honest wrestlings with God free us to be honest with God ourselves, and because her generous passion for The Invisible Girls reveals the healing that comes from pouring our broken selves out for others. Sarah's writing reminds me of Lauren Winner. I loved this wonderful book!"Carolyn Custis James, author of Half the Church
"I picked up Invisible Girls and could not put it down. Thebarge fixes a loving eye on a family of Somali girls and an unflinching eye on her harrowing ordeal with breast cancer. No one can lead you out of a desert better than the one who's already been there. Beautiful writer, beautiful book, beautiful soul."Susan E. Isaacs, author of Angry Conversations With God
"A raw, honest and powerful witness of the dangerous mercy of God...Her story will humble you and inspire you."Rick McKinley, Lead Pastor of Imago Dei Community in Portland, OR and author of A Kingdom Called Desire and This Beautiful Mess
"With a faith shaped through service and sharpened by real experience, Sarah Thebarge responds from the depths of her heart with the question we should have been asking all along: not, 'why does God allow suffering?,' but 'Why do we?' Sarah's piercing, loving insights in this book, told through the stories of her medical service in West Africa, will grow your faith, improve the questions you ask, and help you on your journey to find better answers. WELL will move you." Michael Wear, author of Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America
" Words like love, compassion, courage, and faith easily become cliches ... feel-good sentiments that go on greeting cards. If you read Sarah Thebarge\'s new book, those words will become more meaningful for you than they\'ve ever been ... sturdy, substantial, incandescent. Sarah is a supremely gifted writer and she has a powerful story to tell that is worth your precious time."Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration
"This book shook me to my core. It is harrowing and beautiful. It challenged my faith and strengthened it. Sarah asks the hardest questions over and over. She sifts our platitudes until all that\'s left is truth and love strong enough to hold us all."Sheila Walsh, author, co-host of Life Today
"In a brilliant story perfectly capturing the heart of Divine Love, Sarah Thebarge gently proves we are never too far for rescue, never too broken for wholeness, and never too sick to be made well." Reba Riley, author of Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome
"This is a beautiful and soul-piercing story of Jesus with skin on, walking the halls of an underfunded, understaffed and overcrowded hospital in West Africa. Of selfless love poured out. Emptied. And then poured out some more. Told with such self-effacing honesty and emotional transparency, it wholly unmasked my own indifference. I closed the last page in tears, and said, 'Lord, I am so sorry. P|lease help me love like this.' I haven't been this moved by a story since Heavenly Man." Charles Martin, New York Times Bestselling Author of Unwritten, Long Way Gone and The Mountain Between Us
"In the course of our lives' adventures, some of us learn how to practice compassion, and some of us run away from it. Sarah Thebarge's work reminds me that compassion is not a character trait as much as it is a learned behavior. Pressing through the pain of life, as well as embracing its glory, has the power to teach us that all will be well. Sarah's most recent work demonstrates the truth that compassionate action is something that transforms lives. People who wonder about the cost of transformation owe it to themselves to share in Sarah's journey." Paul Fromberg, Rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco
"Sarah Thebarge has penned a magnificent and moving book! It reminds us the question in life isn't 'Why does God allow suffering to happen in the world?' but rather, 'Why do we?" A must read!"Ian Morgan Cron, author of Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me and The Road Back to You
"Sarah Thebarge's WELL doesn't simply teach us about God's love and compassion in a world of suffering, but takes us on a journey with her to experience God's healing in the places most of us would rather not go. Courageous, vulnerable and uplifting, you will be equally enchanted by Sarah's daring and her writing as she reveals the faces of people God loves and Christians often forget."Sean Palmer, teaching pastor at Ecclesia Houston, author of Unarmed Empire.
Allison5 Stars Out Of 5A Powerful Book That Everyone Should Read!!November 7, 2017AllisonQuality: 0Value: 0Meets Expectations: 0I was first introduced to Sarah Thebarge when I read her memoir, The Invisible Girls (2013). That story was so powerful, beautifully written, and heart-wrenching. When I heard she had written a new book called WELL, I knew immediately I would have to read it. I devoured the book in a few days and was incredibly taken with it. Sarah's writing is deep, heartfelt, passionate, real, transparent, and overall, so articulate and moving.
In the pages of WELL, Sarah takes us on her journey to Togo and shares the stories of the people she cares for in a hospital in rural West Africa. The stories of suffering and loss, healing, hope, and new life are astounding. I found myself caught up in the storiesmoved to tears at the suffering and loss, and fully experiencing Sarah's tenderness with those frail patients who were leaving this earthly life; she was literally the hands and feet of Jesus to these fragile ones. I also found myself laughing out loud during lighter moments of humor and joy, such as playing soccer with the sweet FIFA Boys in the nearby village.
This book has too many incredibly thought-provoking experiences, stories, and reflections, to mention here. However, at least one takeaway I had from this book is that it challenged my own thoughts and attitudes on suffering, compassion, and serving others.
In the midst of a serious bout of malaria, Sarah examines the nature of compassion. Sarah writes, One night I woke up in the early hours, sweaty and thirsty, unable to fall back asleep. As I lay there in the dark, I started thinking about the word compassion, which comes from the Latin words co, which means with, and passion, from the word pati, which means to suffer. So the word compassion literally means to suffer with. I had always thought of compassionate people as people with tender hearts. But after my Togo experience, I realized that in order to practice compassion, your heart needs to be tender but the rest of you including your emotions and your commitment and your will needs to be tough as nails. Compassion, in its most extreme forms, is not cute; it is costly. It isnt always sweet; sometimes it is downright scary. Compassion makes you suffer and sweat and smell. It requires you to pour yourself out, sometimes, until theres nothing left. Togo gave me a new appreciation for Jesus. Instead of having sympathy for the human condition, Emmanuel, God With Us, came down to suffer with and for us. He took the cup of hardship, loss, grief, pain, and death, and he drank it to the dregs. Maybe, I thought as I lay in the dark that night in Togo, maybe Jesus was calling me to that same level of compassion, calling me to love the world at a great personal cost that I never wouldve chosen if it was up to me. To take the cup of suffering and drink it all, down to the dregs. I didnt know yet what radical compassion would look like for me when I got back to the United States, but in Togo, when the sun came up the next morning, for me, having compassion meant picking up my nearly empty water bottle, walking over to the clinic, and seeing patients in a malodorous, muggy exam room while I was hot and thirsty and tired. It meant sharing with the Togolese people in this hardship, drinking the cup of suffering down to the dregs. Down to the very last drop.
These are powerful words. I am challenged and encouraged and spurred on toward love and good deeds after reading these words. This is such a great reminder that compassion, love, and serviceespecially to the least of theseis not a sweet sentiment, but instead is costly and often painful. Ultimately though, this is what Jesus demonstrated and modeled for us and it is the best way to live. Sarah shows us an amazing example of this level of compassion in WELL. This book will challenge you and encourage you and will change you (if you let it!). I cannot recommend it highly enough!
bookwomanjoanOak Harbor, WAAge: Over 65Gender: Female5 Stars Out Of 5Short term mission work memoirNovember 6, 2017bookwomanjoanOak Harbor, WAAge: Over 65Gender: FemaleQuality: 5Value: 4Meets Expectations: 5Thebarge is a physician assistant who went to Togo, West Africa, to work in a mission hospital for three months. She shares her experiences, her observations, and spiritual lessons learned. Her studies in journalism show as this is a very well written memoir of a difficult time.
Her stories of the people she met are heart warming and heart breaking. Her buying a soccer ball for local boys was a heart warming experience. Her losing so many of her patients was just heart breaking.
I was surprised at Thebarge's account of how the whites in the mission hospital treated the local employees. While there was not outright racism, it was disappointing to see that the Togolese hospital workers were not invited to the Sunday church service.
The memoir is a good look at working in another culture. Thebarge writes about the plight of women in the country, for example, and the painful custom of female circumcision. She shares the anguish she felt when medicines so common in the US were not available for her to use in Togo.
Thebarge shares her struggles with God, asking why so many suffer and die. She also shares spiritual insights she gained from her experience. When she was deathly sick with malaria, she asked God to heal her with the same Sunday morning power with which He raised Jesus from the dead. Then she realized that same power from God was active on Friday, giving Jesus the strength to suffer and die for us. We want the Sunday power but often receive the Friday power instead.
Thebarge hopes her story will encourage readers to help those in developing countries. I recommend her memoir. You will read an honest and insightful account of work among people who so desperately need the help of others.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
SuzieNashville, TNAge: 35-44Gender: female2 Stars Out Of 5Solid Two and a Half StarsOctober 30, 2017SuzieNashville, TNAge: 35-44Gender: femaleQuality: 3Value: 2Meets Expectations: 1Solid two and a half stars.
The first quarter of this book felt like the author patting herself on the back for her decision to spend three months working at a hospital in Togo, Africa for three months. Almost like shes checking it off her Christian bucket list. Theres also a bit of self-promotion for her previous book. I couldnt help think of the scripture in Matthew 6 that says do not let your right hand know what your left is doing when giving to the needy.
When Thebarge finally arrives in Mango and at the Hospital of Hopea hospital she states if better than the government run facilities in Africashe begins to question the organization and her follow workers (many of whom are lifetime missionaries). I couldnt help but wonder why a journalist didnt do more research into the organization before arriving.
The author states her time in Africa was lonely, that she never connected with any of the people there but proceeds to tell stories in which she is teased, encouraged, cared for during illness, and even asked when she will return. She seems to only connect with one person when they are working together. When you are a part-timer in a group of life-timers, connection is going to require some work on your part. An effort Thebarge didnt seem to put forth.
The bestand most heartbreakingparts of this book are the stories of the Togolese patients. In a world where first world problems is a popular hashtag, its easy to take the medical advancements of the western world we enjoy daily for granted. The African people daily fight diseases such as malaria and tuberculosisdiseases which are non-existent in the US.
There is a lot of medical jargon throughout the book and much recounting of Thebarges time in college and PA school. I would have rather read more storiesmore happy onesfrom Thebarges time in Africa.
Well does relay the practice of loving others, of showing compassion in a tangible way, of pouring ourselves into other lives until we have nothing more to give.
I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including NetGalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255.
richard r blakeBridgman, MIAge: Over 65Gender: male5 Stars Out Of 5Lessons You Can Learn When Love Looks AroundOctober 29, 2017richard r blakeBridgman, MIAge: Over 65Gender: maleQuality: 0Value: 0Meets Expectations: 0After reading the editorial reviews on Sarah Thebarge's new book, "Well - Healing Our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa" I knew I had to read the book for myself. I thought I was ready to consider the hard questions we seldom want to face.
Author, Sarah Thebarge, a spokesperson for Compassion International, describes the seemingly hopeless conditions in Togo, West Africa, including: the suffering, disease, the cultural conditions, and the discomfort of the climate extremities.
Chapter after chapter, Sarah kept me spellbound as she related her experiences. From baggage claim at the airport in Lom the capital city of Togo, her first shift on the job at the Hospital of Hope in Togo, right on through her three months of Medical Ministry, I was drawn into the reality of a broken world and burdened by a deep concern to find my place in making a positive difference in the healing process.
Sarah writes with candor and an intense vulnerability that draws the reader into the conflicting reactions of the physically demanding, and emotionally challenging trauma of her experiences and in her search to find hope in an intolerable situation. Sarahs writing grips your heart. Her sense of compassion becomes contagious.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.