What do you do when you desperately need medical help, but you cannot afford it? In Albania, the parents of Markelio were faced with that terrible predicament. Nine-year-old Markelio had been diagnosed with a very serious heart problem, so the missionaries who introduced Markelio's parents to Christ wrote Dr. Demosthenis Katsarkas, Director of AMG's St. Luke's Hospital in Thessaloniki, Greece. They told him about Markelio's congenital heart defect and asked for medical advice. Should they take Markelio to the United States for the needed operation, and if so, what would be the cost of the procedure?
Dr. Katsarkas told them that the likely cost in the US would be around $100,000 and that St. Luke's could perform the needed operation at a cost of around 15,000 euros. A few weeks passed, when Dr. Katsarkas heard nothing more from the missionaries, he called them back asking about Markelio. The missionaries told Dr. Katsarkas that they had no way to raise the amount of money needed for the operation.
But Markelio was experiencing greater difficulties because of his heart condition, and Dr. Katsarkas encouraged them to bring Markelio to St. Luke's despite the lack of funds. He promised St. Luke's would cover the cost. Indeed, Markelio was brought to St. Luke's and the operation took place. The heart doctors offered their service for free, and St. Luke's covered the rest of the expenses. The operation was successful and Markelio is doing wonderfully well.
He wrote a really sweet card to Dr. Katsarkas, saying, "The world would be a much better place if all doctors were like you. Thank you so much for everything you have done. Fear and illness becomes trust and recovery with doctors like you." [Note, the family was eventually able to raise about a third of the cost, and sent that money to St. Luke's a few weeks after Markelio had the surgery.]
St. Luke's is the product of the vision of a national doctor and has been used by God to share His love with hundreds of thousands of people in the region. Through all these efforts, the local church has been strengthened and the Gospel has advanced in the region.