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Richard and Betty Morse

Retired Missionaries to Kenya
"Relieving Physical Sufferings, Sharing Our Savior"
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer, September 2014

“Visit the mission field and find out firsthand what the Lord is doing!”

As one whose short-term trip to Tenwek Hospital in 1965 turned into a lifetime of missionary service in Kenya, Richard and Betty Morse love to encourage people to go and serve the Lord in cross-cultural missions.

Born in Manchester, New Hampshire, Richard grew up attending church but didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus until his third year of medical school at Tufts University School of Medicine (Massachusetts). Prior to that, he graduated from Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts, and received a BA from Harvard University. While at Tufts earning his MD, he attended a Billy Graham Crusade in Boston, and he prayed—and went forward at the altar—to accept Jesus as his Savior. He began attending meetings of the Christian Medical and Dental Association and met doctors who knew missionary physician Paul Carlson, who had recently been martyred in the Congo.

Richard felt God compelling him to visit a mission field in Africa. He chose Tenwek Hospital in Kenya and arrived there for a three-month rotation in 1965. With that visit, he changed his concentration from general surgery to pediatrics because of how many children patients were coming to Tenwek. He became a full-time missionary with World Gospel Mission in 1967 and returned to Kenya, where he and Dr. Ernie Steury were the only full-time physicians for several years.

Betty Hiles was born in Lancaster, Ohio, and was raised in a devoted Christian home. Saved at the age of 7, she completely dedicated her life to the Lord at age 17 and felt a call to missionary service. She graduated from Kentucky Mountain Bible College with a degree in Bible and then earned a BA in elementary education at Asbury University (Kentucky). She taught at an elementary school in Newark, Ohio, for two years to get some practical experience in the classroom. When she was accepted as a missionary with WGM, she was asked to first teach in a denominational school on the Texas/Mexico border. While that was a good experience for Betty, “I was still focused on Africa,” she shared. She began her service in Kenya in 1963, teaching at Kenya Highlands Bible College.

Richard and Betty met in Kenya at the wedding of two other missionary colleagues. A year later, they reconnected stateside at a missionary convention and were married on January 23, 1968. They returned to Kenya to serve together at Tenwek Hospital. Their son, Rick, was born in Kenya and daughter, Joy, was born in the United States. Both are currently serving in missions ministries.

Richard had general medical responsibilities for many years, but as more physicians were added to the staff, he was in charge of pediatric care. Besides patient care, Richard served in leadership at Tenwek Hospital as assistant medical superintendent. During his years in Kenya, he treated patients with everything from malaria and dysentery to cheetah wounds and HIV/AIDS. As part of the management committee, he was involved with the planning of numerous building projects to expand the hospital ministry. But for Richard, the most important thing was giving his patients and their families the hope of life with Jesus Christ.

“It is a real privilege to use my medical skills to relieve physical suffering of patients, while being able to share my Savior with them,” he wrote in a letter to supporters.

While living at Tenwek, Betty was involved in teaching Bible subjects, women’s ministries, teaching the Kipsigis language to new missionaries, serving as the station hostess, “and lots of other things missionary wives do!”

One of Betty’s most memorable experiences came when she was teaching Kipsigis to a new missionary. An elderly Kipsigis man came to help with the missionary’s practice. This man had professed faith in Christ many years before, but he had walked away from the faith. One day, Betty began talking to him about what he would do if this was his last day on earth. His response: “I’d repent.”

“I asked if he wanted to do it today,” Betty said. “He said ‘No, not today.’ But later, he came back one day, and said he’d come to repent. The man who worked in my house was a pastor and came in to help and this man repented. And he continued in faith and loved the Lord. After we retired, we returned two years later and I was anticipating seeing him again. I was so sad to learn that he had passed away the night before we were to visit him, but I knew where he was.”

Betty retired in 2002 after 39 years of service, and Richard retired in 2004 after 37 years of service. They now live in Avon Park, Florida. They have four grandchildren.

Throughout their missionary service and into retirement, Richard and Betty have trusted in God to sustain them and guide them through challenges and joys alike.

“If you keep obeying and trusting, God will bring you to the right place at the right time,” Betty said.

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