Title: Paul Brand: Helping Hands
Author: Janet & Geoff Benge
Series: Christian Heroes: Then and Now
Major Themes: Doctors, Leprosy, Missionaries
Synopsis: After becoming a doctor and surgeon during World War II, Paul Brand spent his life trying to help people suffering from leprosy—and made many advances in research on the disease.
Months ago, we took a family trip up to visit with friends several hours away from home. We started listening to Paul Brand: Helping Hands, but only managed to get through the first hour or so of the book. So, when we had another long trip coming up, we decided we’d try to get through the whole book this time! We don’t want to listen to stories just all the time, of course, but we should be able to make a hefty dent in the story, and have something profitable to think about while we’re all stuck in the vehicle for a while! This book ended up being the perfect diversion—even though we’d already listened to some, it still held our interest and kept us going on our way to and from our friend’s house. We only had 20-30 minutes left to listen to by the time we got home, and we got through that in a hurry!
In some ways, Paul Brand’s story starts out similarly to what I remember of Ida Scudder’s story. After seeing his father perform a particularly disgusting treatment on a patient, Paul decided he would never get into the medical field when he grew up. Through his difficult teenage years, Paul struggled to find motivation for schooling—and when his father died suddenly, his world seemed ripped apart. After apprenticing to a builder for a while, Paul realized he wanted to be back on the mission field, but to do that he either had to do some medical training or go to Bible school—neither of which appealed to him, but he finally decided on the short medical training as the best passport to get him where he wanted to go. Somewhere in the year’s schooling, he realized he actually liked it—and, eventually, with the help of his mother and uncle, he was able to go onto medical school in training to be a doctor!
Going through medical school, meeting the love of his life, surviving the war—each took their place in Paul Brand’s life, until he got to the place where not only was he a qualified doctor, but he was also a surgeon. Then, in a whirlwind of events, Paul found himself serving in India…and from there, he had his first real contact with leprosy and the devastation it brings on patients. Was there anything he could do about the dreaded disease? What had God called him to spend his life doing, anyway?
One of the most interesting parts of Paul Brand: Helping Hands, for me, was considering the stigma associated with leprosy in so many people’s minds—from Bible times up until now. Apparently attitudes have gotten somewhat better over more recent years, but even just fifty years ago there was a lot of fear and disgust that went along with any conversation about the disease. It was also interesting to hear exactly how leprosy attacked the body, and what effects it had—not just in destroying feeling and disfiguring people’s faces, hands, and feet, but also how it affected the way they walked and other things you wouldn’t normally think are connected. Paul’s fight for people with the disease was very admirable, as he worked tirelessly to discover answers and push those in higher positions to do their best to help those who were suffering.
If you’re wanting an interesting overview of this missionary’s life and work, this book would be a great choice. I feel like I know a lot more about him and the disease now, and I’m thankful for that. It’s encouraging to hear about others who chose to take the more difficult routes for the greater good of mankind, and how that paid off in the end.
WARNING: In chapter two, leprosy patients, guinea worms (disgusting!), and a man with a terrible infection are all mentioned. Leprosy patients and some of the things that happened to them as a result of leprosy (losing fingers and toes, getting badly cut, etc.) are sprinkled throughout the book.
Read Aloud—Ages 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults