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Ernie Steury

Tenwek's Foundations
"We Treat, Jesus Heals"
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer, 2002

Editor’s note: Dr. Ernie Steury passed away several years before WGM began the Heroes of the Faith web series. However, due to Ernie’s extraordinary hand in developing Tenwek Hospital into the highly respected institution it is today, we wanted to honor him at this time. This tribute is adapted from an article published in the July/August 2002 Call to Prayer.

 Dr. Ernest “Ernie” Steury, World Gospel Mission’s first doctor at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, passed away on Thursday, April 4, 2002, in his home in Avon Park, Florida. He was 72.

Ernie and his wife, Sue, were appointed as career missionaries to Kenya in 1956 and arrived in the country in May 1959. For the next 38 years, Ernie served as a doctor, surgeon, superintendent, director, and executive officer at Tenwek Hospital. He also ministered on the field as an evangelist, assistant field director, and acting field director.

For many years, Ernie was the only doctor at Tenwek, which was founded by WGM in 1935. During his years at the hospital, Tenwek progressed from a 140-bed facility to a 240-bed hospital. Currently, Tenwek is the largest Protestant hospital in Kenya. Working under the motto “We Treat, Jesus Heals” the hospital operates healthcare centers, mobile clinics, dispensaries, and nurse’s training programs while ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of more than 100,000 patients a year. It is also a training hospital, educating many Kenyan health professionals in expert medical care. Most importantly, several thousand people find Christ as Savior each year, and many more are impacted through Tenwek’s chaplaincy and compassionate ministries.

Ernie and Sue served with WGM in Kenya until 1997, when they were given a special assignment as international pastors.

Ernie and Sue officially retired as career missionaries in 1998, but they continued to serve as international pastors until Ernie’s death.

Ernie accepted the Lord at a young age and was sanctified at the age of 18. Shortly thereafter, while on his knees having his devotions, Ernie heard the Lord clearly calling him to Africa. After listening to missionaries stress the need for medical missionaries, Ernie again heard the Lord directing him to pursue medical training.

“I never once doubted my calling to the mission field because the Lord made it so vivid to me that evening on my knees,” he stated in his personal testimony. “The devil has often tempted, but Christ has given me complete victory. He has given me the promise in Isaiah 41:13, ‘For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.’”

Ernie was born into a carpenter’s family in Berne, Indiana, on January 3, 1930. He married Jennie Sue Groce on August 20, 1954. Ernie was salutatorian of his high school senior class and earned his BA in biology at Asbury College (Kentucky). He received his MD from Indiana University Medical School, and he completed his medical internship in tropical medicine at Gorgas Hospital, Panama. In 1956, he was ordained by World Gospel Mission.

Ernie was well-loved and highly respected by all who knew him. He was recognized with numerous awards from Asbury College, Christian Medical and Dental Association, World Medical Mission, the Christian Holiness Partnership, the Indiana House of Representatives, and the country of Kenya. He is survived by his wife, Sue, Avon Park, Florida; daughter Cynthia (Daniel) Tolan, WGM missionary on special assignment; son Jonathan (Vera), WGM missionary to Kenya; son Nathan (Elinda), Marathon, Florida; daughter Deborah (Ajit) Joseph, Fort Wayne, Indiana; and 14 grandchildren.

For more on the remarkable life journey of Ernie Steury, read Miracle at Tenwek: the Life of Dr. Ernie Steury, by Gregg Lewis.

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