Friday, May 20, 2011

A Lifetime Of Service to Others

Emma Freisinger,  an Austrian nurse who came to Korea in 1961 to work with Hansen patients, was the subject of an article in the Catholic Peace Weekly.

Her intention was to work after graduating from nursing school for a period of two years, as a volunteer in Africa, return home, marry and raise a family but after hearing a talk by a foreign missioner from Korea, and hearing about the plight of those suffering from Hansen's disease, she decided to go to Korea. The two years turned into a lifetime, living with those who have been diagnosed with leprosy, a disease that we now know can be cured and is not infectious.

After working here for five years, she returned to Austria for a vacation, received the blessing of her parents, and returned to  Korea. This past month she celebrated her 80th birthday; more than 500 patients she had treated came from all over to celebrate with her. She mentioned to the interviewer that she felt like a mother to her patients. (The word Emma, in fact, sounds similar to the word mother in Korean.)

The work was very difficult in the early years for lack of medicines and food, but they managed--God, she said, was always there. During her many years in Korea, she has served over 7000 patients, and, after resigning as director of the hospital she opened for skin diseases, she went to China to start a volunteer program. And whenever the need arises, she  travels to 28 areas to help those who suffered from Hansen's disease.

She was asked how she talks to God. "Even if I lose all,  I ask that I do not lose my faith. Even if I am sick and  have nothing to eat, I do not want to lose my faith. Because faith gives me  what I need to live. When I see people without belief, I feel sorry for them for that is all that is necessary for happiness."  She went on to say: "If I live for myself  I can find temporary joy but I will not have eternal joy. Work that is done in God's name remains forever.

Her name in Korean means one who has received many blessings. She has selected her grave site and is happy. She has lived for God's glory and hopes that this will continue, she said, ending the interview with a chuckle.

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