Huntington, Ind.— The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) is currently celebrating Christian Higher Education Month. Of the nominees submitted by 107 member institutions, the CCCU chose 21 alumni to honor this year – one for each weekday in October. One such alum is Dr. Ronald P. Baker, a 1968 Huntington College graduate. He will be featured on the CCCU web site on Friday, October 8, 2004, at www.cccu.org/chem.
Nominees were chosen in five fields of expertise: government and law, arts and entertainment, community and society, science and technology, and business. The following profile of Dr. Ronald P. Baker will be featured on the CCCU web site.
“I treat, God heals”
Ron Baker’s childhood memories in Sierra Leone, where his parents were missionaries, will always be marked by one dark moment that changed his life forever. Coming back from a picnic on a river launch too heavily loaded with children, the top of the craft collapsed and threw Baker into the river. It choked his only brother and killed him, along with four other Africans. Ron was almost 10 years old at the time; his brother Norman not quite 8.
“That had a profound influence on my life,” Baker said. “Maybe subconsciously, my brother’s death impacted my decision to become a doctor.”
While Baker didn’t choose to pursue medicine until his junior year at Huntington College (where his father was president), his high school classmates had already predicted what was to come. “When I graduated from high school in Michigan, the class prophesy was, ‘Ron will go back to Africa as a witch doctor,’” Baker recalls. “They weren’t too far off.”
Baker returned to Africa in 1974, along with his wife Jane, who he had met at Huntington. It was the first of 26 years spent ministering to people’s bodies and souls. In a single year, the Mattru Jong Hospital where he worked treated 35,000 outpatients and 3,500 inpatients and performed more than 650 major surgeries. He is careful, however, not to accept credit for any good that comes from his work.
“I don’t heal anybody,” said Baker. “There’s a good saying on the front of a Kenyan mission hospital: ‘We treat, God heals.’ That’s how I feel. I don’t think I’m anybody. It’s all by God’s grace.”
Now, back in Michigan, Baker still seizes opportunities to share his faith while he’s treating patients. “If I’m talking to a patient and sense that they have a spiritual problem, I’ll ask for permission to share the answer I’ve found in Jesus,” Baker said. “I have opportunities to pray with several patients per day, and sometimes if I can make the time, I can share with them how to know the Lord.” If Baker doesn’t have the time in his schedule to present the gospel, he lets a tract do it for him or he sets up a time to have breakfast or lunch with the patient to discuss it further in person. “Quite a few patients have come to know Christ through that,” he said.
Baker’s wife, Jane, is involved in his clinic’s Christian Support Ministry, a group of volunteers available to counsel or pray with patients for free.
Looking back on his career, Baker’s mind travels back to the river in Sierra Leone that took the life of his brother, and that also, 35 years later, provided transportation for him to reach a woman who desperately needed his medical attention. “I never will understand God’s purpose in the death of my brother, but I think it had something to do with using me to help those people there years later,” he said. “Maybe God won’t give you complete answers to why he allowed something to happen, but sometimes he gives you a little piece to say, ‘I know what I’m doing, you can trust me, I’ll take care of you and I’ll use you to bring glory to my name.”
Family Practice Physician, Southwestern Medical Clinic
B.A., Chemistry, Huntington College, 1968
M.D., Indiana University, 1972
1996 Centennial Medallion
1985 Alumnus of the Year Award
2003 Honorary Doctorate Degree
“Medicine is certainly a passion, and I can share the love of Christ and his compassion through that, but I also have a passion to make an eternal impact through mentoring, being an example, coming alongside someone else. Right now I’m hoping to do that with my son and my two sons-in-law.”
Alma mater trivia:
In 1965, Baker and three other Sierra Leoneans started the college soccer team at Huntington. During Baker’s sophomore year, his father, E. DeWitt Baker, became president of Huntington College for what would be a 16-year term.
How a Christian college helped him find his purpose:
“I had been pursuing an education degree, but in my junior year during Christian Life Emphasis Week, I didn’t feel comfortable with that direction. I spent three of four days in prayer that week, asking God for guidance, and ultimately chose to go with a pre-med program during the middle of my junior year.”