Albert was a man who was born in Germany in 1875. By the age of 30 he had acquired his academic degrees (bachelors and then PhD in philosophy). He was a trained and gifted organist (his father had trained him while growing up) , he had published several pieces of his writings, and he had become a pastor of a local church. Yet, he was not content.
He had told himself that by the age of thirty he would begin serving humanity, yet he didn’t know what he would do with that goal. That is, not until he came across a publication speaking about the impoverished Africans who lacked healthcare. The article spoke of the deplorable conditions Africans lived in. That’s when Albert knew his calling.
His Calling, Medical School
He returned to school yet again, this time to acquire a medical degree. Once he had graduated from the University of Strasbourg and raised enough monies to travel to Gabon, Africa with his new wife, Helene. They left Europe in 1913.
Upon arrival at Lambarene, Gabon he and his wife were met with hundreds of Africans who were waiting for their arrival so they could receive needed medical care. Albert had thought that he and his wife would have time to set up a medical clinic before they began seeing patients, but the Gabonese people had different ideas.
Despite their weariness from traveling they immediately began seeing patients. Over the next several years they were able to set up a clinic building, and proper housing for themselves.
Clinic Work in Lambarene, Gabon
They would see patients for ten hours a day and then work for 6 hrs a day building needed structures for the clinic. Then WWI broke out.
They were in Gabon, a French colony, yet they were German citizens. The French did not take kindly to them due to their citizenry. Eventually they ended up in a prison camp. Once the war was over, Albert had to return to Europe to retrieve his wife and daughter who had been released from prison and sent back to Europe. He was also dead broke.
Back in Europe
For the next six years, initially through a friend of his, he was able to do numerous speaking engagements, have organ concerts and continue with his writings. Finally in 1924, traveling alone and leaving his wife and daughter in Europe he returned to Gabon. He found the medical clinic shattered, everything was broken or torn down from the war.
Helen stayed back in Europe due to her chronic respiratory condition. She had tuberculosis when she was 10 and then again recently. She would never return to Gabon again due to her health.
Working Among the Gabonese Again
Over the next 3 years in Gabon, Albert got the clinic set back up, he was able (with the help of the locals) get two hospitals built. As the work progressed word of what he was doing spread and donations started coming in. Along with the donations also came trained healthcare workers.
When WWII broke out his medical clinic/hospital was left relatively unscathed. He had a reputation among the Africans that he was the one white man they could trust. All of the previous white Europeans who had come to Africa had come with wrong motives and hence the Africans didn’t look kindly upon them. With Albert, their view of ‘white European’ dramatically changed.
Nobel Peace Prize
Word of his work continued to spread and in 1952 this led to his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. The money he was awarded was put into his Gabon clinic/hospital.
He traveled back to Europe in 1957, upon hearing of the death of his wife. He brought her remains back with him to Lambarene, Gabon where he buried her. Eight years later he died at the age of 90 and was buried next to her.
The clinic he left behind treats 10,000 patients a year. The hospital has room for 600 inpatients. The hospital is fully staffed, and has a pharmacy, xray facilities, surgical suites and OB delivery rooms.
The Gabonese knew that they would receive excellent and needed medical care at Lambarene. This is the legacy of Albert Schweitzer.
Questions to Ponder
Now, ask yourself some questions. Despite having it all, advanced degrees, a wonderful gift of music, living among the elite of Europe and not having a care in the world would you have left it all behind to follow what you believed was God’s purpose for your life? God has a call on everyone’s life, have you been able to find yours?
Another question. Do you live your life with Christ at the forefront of it, or are you one who just pretends to be a believer but in actuality is not.
Last question. You know what Albert Schweitzer’s legacy is. What will be your legacy? What are you doing today to make your legacy what God wants it to be?