The Book of Hebrews refers to “a great cloud of witnesses”, faithful servants who have gone before us and who can offer inspiration and direction. The fact is, however, that the quiet and faithful service of these saints is often carried out far from the spotlight. And as a result, we might miss them even when they are in our midst.
As a case in point, the other day I was chatting with one of my former students, Laura Russell. For several years now, Laura has served as a missionary in Argentina and she is presently back in Canada visiting her supporters. Among those supporters is a 92-year old lady named Helen Huston.
Here’s the thing about Helen. While she has supported Laura for years, Laura only recently discovered that Helen is actually Doctor Helen Huston as she received her doctorate in medicine from the University of Alberta in 1951. From there, she devoted 39 years to working with the people of India and Nepal. For several years, she oversaw a 15-bed hospital in Kathmandu. And for more than 30 years, she worked in a small village called Amp Pipal, nestled deep in the mountains 140 kilometers north of Kathmandu. For many years, Dr. Huston was the only western medical person working in the region. In the 1960s she oversaw the building of the first hospital in Amp Pipal.
Dr. Huston returned to Canada in 1992 under the demands of mandatory retirement, but her heart remained with the people of Nepal. The impact of her work has been widely recognized. In 1980, Dr. Huston was awarded a lifetime membership in the Nepal Medical Association, the first foreigner to receive the honor. In 1984 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from her Alma mater. In 1991, she was the first person to receive the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation Award for Humanitarian Services, presented by Sir Edmund himself. And she was named to the Order of Canada in 1994. (Note: All the information for this article is drawn from an article on the website for the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.)
These days, Dr. Huston enjoys a quiet life in assisted living. But her heart remains with mission and service. And so, out of her modest retirement savings, she supports Laura’s ministry with a monthly $10 donation.
If you were to meet Dr. Huston in person, you would consider her a kind and joyous elderly lady. All the while, you might never realize you were speaking to one of the great humanitarians of the twentieth century. And one suspects that that is just the way Dr. Huston would like it.
To learn more about Dr. Huston, you can read the book A Heart for Nepal: The Dr. Helen Huston Story.