By David Anderson Jr.
Published November 1, 2009
Dr. Ted Beemer has spent most of his life mending broken bones and nursing patients’ wounds at his practice in Sanford. His passion for serving others fueled his career for decades, so it’s understandable that his drive to help the hurting wouldn’t be affected much by his retirement earlier this week. Though he’s all but said goodbye to his comfortable office nestled right across the street from Central Carolina Hospital, Beemer, 59, will continue working to cure the ailments of others; in the future, however, he’ll be putting just as much effort into nurturing hurting souls as he does broken bones.In December, Beemer and his wife Susan will be moving to the Dominican Republic where they will donate their skills for the benefit of children suffering from crippling deformities. The Beemers will be working for Cure International — a non-denominational Christian medical mission founded in 1996 by Dr. Scott Harrison. Like Beemer, Harrison specializes in orthopedic surgery. He founded Cure International after a 1986 trip to Malawi open his eyes to the stark physical and spiritual needs of the world’s poorest people. Cure International now operates hospitals in 12 developing countries, offering world-class care to patients with inhibiting diseases who can’t find relief anywhere else.
In the Dominican Republic’s capital city of Santo Domingo, the organization operates a 40-bed hospital that focuses on treating children with congenital birth defects such as clubfoot and cleft palate. In the United States, common conditions such as these are typically corrected in the first few days of a child’s life, practically removing all traces of the problem before the child is even aware of the deformity.
“The problem with health care in the Dominican Republic is people there, a lot of them can’t get care, so the problems you see have been neglected for years,” Beemer said.
It is not uncommon for poverty-stricken Dominicans born with clubfoot to go a lifetime without ever having the problem addressed. Unable to wear shoes, they spend their days walking the streets on the side of their feet searching for aid.
“That doesn’t happen in America,” Beemer said. “You get a call from a nurse and see a baby that’s a few hours old that has clubbed feet. There they are 10 years old.”
While anyone can walk into a hospital emergency room in the United States and get care for a critical illness, nearly all doctors in the Dominican Republic require upfront payment before they’ll agree to treat even the most urgent needs.
“People without money don’t get care. Period,” Beemer said.
While Cure International’s hospitals do attract people looking for the highest standards of care who are willing to pay for services, no one is ever turned away because of an inability to pay.
In addition to treating patients at the hospital in Santo Domingo, mobile clinics are conducted once a month into isolated rural areas of the country where poor laborers toiling away on sugar cane plantations haven’t heard the gospel of Jesus. Surgical teams are also sent across the border into Haiti, where traditions of Voodoo and other pagan religions are still a major part of people’s daily lives.
“You look around the world and you see so many problems. You can’t fix them all, but you can’t ignore them either,” Beemer said.
As doctors and nurses from Cure International work to meet the physical needs of patients living with these inhibitive conditions, they make it clear that they are in the country providing care because serving others is what God has called them to do. Susan Beemer, a nurse anesthetist who has worked in many of the larger surgical departments across North Carolina, believes her statement of faith is given more credibility by patients who understand the personal sacrifices she is making by moving to the Caribbean.
“You bring the love of Christ through the work that you do, and that’s what we feel like is very important,” Susan said. “We can show people that we are willing to give up the lifestyle that we had and to come here and help you because we believe that that’s what Jesus would want us to do.”
Following God’s Lead
When Ted Beemer opened his Sanford office in 1985, he never dreamed he would agree to move to a developing nation to work on patients for free.
“When I got into the medical field, medical missions were not on my radar screen,” Ted said. “I think I planned to work and retire to some ski resort in Colorado.”
Ted was raised in a Christian home and grew up attending a Baptist church in Greenville, S.C. As a young boy, he was intrigued by the exciting life of Dr. David Livingstone, the legendary 19th century missionary and explorer who left his native Scotland to carry the gospel into uncharted areas of Africa.
“Instead, I grew up to be a teenager,” Ted said. “And I kind of stayed a teenager for 30 years and lived to do whatever pleased me.”
After his medical career was well established, an unusual encounter with a person Ted wasn’t particularly fond of changed the direction of his life. A woman came into his office one day and left the first six volumes of the popular “Left Behind” series in a chair for Ted to read. The books collected dust for months until curiosity finally prompted Ted to open the first novel and begin reading.
When Ray Steele, the main character in the series, visits the church his wife and son had began attending a few years ago, he finds the pastor sitting alone in the sanctuary. The rest of the congregation, including Steele’s family, had been called to heaven during the rapture but the pastor who thought he had figured God out had been left behind with the realization that his own faith experience was a sham.
“That kind of turned me around,” Ted said. “From that one moment onward I was determined to get more involved in church.”
Over the past eight years, Ted has volunteered at local food banks, chaperoned youth mission trips
to West Virginia and Tennessee and accompanied a team from Grace Chapel to the Dominican Republic, where a series of unforeseen circumstances put him in touch with the staff at Cure International.
Although the couple has considered making a longterm commitment to serve overseas, there were always plenty of excuses that kept them tied down to Sanford: they wanted to see their children finish school; their house had been on the market more than five years and hadn’t sold; and who would handle orthopedic cases in Sanford if Beemer’s practice closed?
“Over the past year God has basically taken all of (the excuses) away,” Ted said.
In December the Beemers’ primary residence in Sanford sold after sitting on the market for five and a half years. Their children, 24 and 26, now have independent lives on opposite ends of the country. Nearly all of Ted’s medical obligations have come to an end as he spent the past several months whittling down his practice in Sanford. A beach house that had also been difficult to unload was bought earlier this year. Even the rental home the Beemers had planned to stay in until their departure in December was sold out from under them.
“Both of us are just awed at how God has worked things out just so perfectly for things to fall in place here,” Susan said.
The Beemers’ desire to serve others in the name of Jesus isn’t a last-minute effort to make up for years of chasing worldly success and wealth, it is the natural direction their lives have taken since they turned themselves over to God. After all, Ted pointed out, good works, donations and philosophical ponderings simply aren’t enough to earn a ticket to heaven.
“Salvation is there free for the taking,” he said. “But if you really take it, then you just feel like you should do these things out of God’s love.”
Text and images copyright 2009 by The Sanford Herald/Paxton Media Group.
Used with permission.