Interview with Dr. Michael von Horsten

In your journey as a medical doctor, you have decided to work internationally

instead of staying home in South Africa and setting up a practice. Why is that?

Ive been working in remote areas around the world since the start of my career as a doctor in 2008. It’s fascinating work. You’re away from the Western medical world and have the chance to really immerse yourself in rural cultures and meet amazing people. I’ve mainly been running clinics and hospitals in Papua New Guinea, but have also been very involved in work in the South Pacific Islands, Vietnam, Malawi, Myanmar, and elsewhere. It definitely broadens your worldview and gives you a rich cultural experience. Plus, the pathology in these remote areas is very interesting.  Since 2015 I have become involved in humanitarian work. It started with relief work after the Nepal earthquake, and spread to setting up refugee clinics in Greece with AdventistHelp, and now setting up an ADRA field hospital in Mosul, Iraq (also in partnership with ASI Europe). It’s been one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve ever had. Once you start work like this it’s hard to stop!

What is it about the volunteer work that seems to call you?

I’m currently volunteering with ADRA here in Iraq, leading the medical team with the setup of the first ADRA field emergency hospital in the Middle East, for the 100,000 residents of Mosul. It’s such an opportunity for service. Seeing the smiling faces of the children in the camps every day and being able to reach out and make a difference in this ravaged community is worth far more to me than anything my paying jobs can offer. That’s what keeps me here.

What are the personal challenges you face there?

Fatigue is a real killer. The work never ends. Also, being in an emotionally intense environment like this, dealing with such a traumatized population, is quite draining. I’ve never seen anything like this. Our patients have experienced being veritably in the face of “hell,” amid political conflict. Hearing their stories is gut-wrenching. Having my brother here, too, has been wonderful. He’s also a doctor doing the same work as I am, and is also really passionate about humanitarian work—along with the many other amazing people I’ve met who are also volunteering and working here.

Tell us a bit about your time in Greece and the ASI project.

Greece was one of the most intense experiences I’ve had in my medical career. The ASI AdventistHelp project started in Lesbos in 2015, and involved the setup of one of the largest field emergency units on the island of Lesbos, right on the beach where most of the refugee boats arrived from Turkey. There were thousands of arrivals daily. From pulling the elderly off sinking boats to resuscitating near-drowned children on seaside restaurant tables, this ongoing project changed us all.

Tell us a bit more about the current ADRA project in Iraq.

I am in northern Iraq with a team from ADRA/AdventistHelp setting up the first ADRA field emergency hospital just east of Mosul, with a capacity of 40 to 50 beds. It will have a full emergency room; an X-ray unit; and male, female, and pediatric wards... a very exciting project that will be serving a massive population of displaced persons who have fled the fighting in Mosul. We hope to be open in the next few weeks. 

What are the current needs for this project, and how is it being funded?

The needs are twofold:  1. We urgently need more medical volunteers: doctors, nurses, paramedics, lab techs, radiographers, psychologists, etc., and we hope that our Adventist professionals will also step up and commit to a period of service in this time of critical need.  2. Funding is critical as well. The costs of an operation like this are high, and right now we don’t have enough funds to complete the infrastructure. But we are going ahead in faith, and starting with what we have. God has really blessed this project, and were confident that everything will fall into place.

Why is it important for our church to be involved in the refugee and disaster

ministries through organizations such as ADRA and ASI, as well as via our

existing medical institutions as they send missionaries and extend their

services into areas of need?

I’m really hoping this project will be a concept that is replicated around the globe where there are needs. I’ve always thought that our church needs a stronger medical-humanitarian relief network. We are, after all, blessed with a large force of medical professionals, and I think we really could do more. We are very happy to be involved with an amazing organization like ADRA, which has made a huge impact on the global humanitarian scene. Work like this breaks down barriers and brings people together like nothing else.

 Just think about this project—an ADRA hospital deep in the 10/40 window!

It’s such a privilege to be setting up here.

There’s talk of starting more hospitals and clinics. The medical opportunities are legion. We just need to develop a simple, sustainable model that works and get involved. Thank you for all the prayers and support we have received! 

Volunteer for service or follow the project’s progress on video and posts via the AdventistHelp Facebook pages:

Visit the ADRA Web site: The Bank Accounts for Donations to this Hospital Project are: Account Owner: ASI EUROPE Bank: Credit Suisse IBAN: CH36 0483 5029 5589 3200 0 BIC: CRESCHZZ20A Payment Reference: Please mark any donations clearly as ADVENTISTHELP Account Name: ADRA (Operating) Account Number: 17533348 Bank: Citibank NA 600 Pennsylvania Ave, SE Washington, DC 20003 ABA# 254070116 Swift: CITIUS33

Dr. Michael von Hörsten
 Volunteer for ADRA/ASI Emergency Field Hospital, Mosul, Iraq.