Born JULY 17, 1914
Missionary surgeon Paul Brand became a miracle worker to thousands of lepers in India. God used Dr. Brand to unlock the mysteries of how leprosy does and doesn’t work. Through reconstructive surgery (on about 3,000 patients) he made deformed hands usable again. He also performed surgeries that improved the look and use of noses and feet.
Paul was raised in a dangerous environment. His parents served as missionaries in southwest India. During the day Paul and his younger sister Connie respectfully shared their outdoor playground with scorpions and snakes. At night they could hear panthers and cheetahs screaming in pursuit of their prey.
When Paul was nine, his parents took their two children to England to begin a formal education. It took awhile to get the jungle out of the boy. The love for India however, never left Paul. Five years into his introduction to civilization, word came that his father had died of malaria. Paul eventually felt the call back to India.
After a year of missionary training, he studied at London’s University College Medical School. Then World War Two began. Germany’s nightly blitz of London brought broken bodies in need of repair to Paul and the other surgical students.
In 1943, Paul married fellow student Margaret Berry. They dedicated them-selves as God’s servants to bringing physical healing to others. A telegram from India set Paul’s mission for life into motion. The world’s leading authority on leprosy offered him a teaching position at the Christian Medical College Hospital in Vellore, India. He returned to the country of his birth in 1946. There he operated, taught and learned.
One day while touring a leprosy sanatorium, Paul, the orthopedic surgeon, examined a patient’s hand. Although the hand had deformed into a leper’s claw, the muscles in it were strong. Paul began asking questions and searching for answers.Lepers were society’s cast-offs, separated from healthy human beings to quietly die from what was deemed a terminal illness. Dr. Brand saw them as God’s creation, deserving normal dignity. The results of his research began shattering centuries-old concepts about lepers and the disease that defined them. Dr. Brand’s extensive study of those with the disease uncovered the limitations of the bacteria that caused leprosy (aka Hansen’s Disease, named for the doctor who first identified the bacteria). Paul learned that the disease did not eat away a person’s fingers and toes as was commonly believed.
He came to realize that sufferers lost their extremities due to the bacteria attacking and deadening their nerve endings. The nerves stopped sending warning signals to the affected hands and feet, so individuals lost the ability to detect pain. Sufferers failed to feel the slightest injury. Over time, every unnoticed laceration, burn and fracture took its toll.
THE HAND OF GODWhile combating old public fears about leprosy (It’s actually not easily transferred. Up to 95% of adults are not susceptible when casually exposed), Paul pioneered reconstructive surgery on patients’ hands. Over and over, the operation God had granted him wisdom to perform proved successful.But patients returned, complaining. They told of being rejected in the workplace. Some feared them when they saw their scars from the disease. Others refused to continue supporting them as beggars when they noticed their improved health. Paul built a job retraining center for the patients.In the mid-1960s, Paul relocated to the United States. Having established a new norm for helping lepers and having trained others to carry on the work in India, he moved to Carville, Louisiana. There, he headed a leprosy research program at the only leprosy facility in the United States.
FOR THOSE MOSTLY WELL
It was at Carville that Philip Yancey met Dr. Brand. Philip was doing research for his first book, Where Is God When It Hurts? They later authored three books together. In the books (listed below), Paul uses his knowledge of the human body to unveil truths about God and Christianity. Philip has written about Paul in other venues since his death on July 8, 2003.
Paul’s mother remained in India another four and a half decades after her husband’s death, reaching those living on the mountain ranges near the Kolli range. For her story and that of Paul’s wife, Dr. Margaret Brand, see the book list below.
LET ME KNOW: How has Paul’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.
- Yancey, Philip. “Paul Brand.” In Chosen Vessels, edited by Charles Turner, 21-39. Ann Arbor Michigan: Vine Books, 1985.
- Wilson, Dorothy Clarke. Ten Fingers for God. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965.
Learn more about Paul Brand’s life from the following resources————-
Books by Paul Brand-
- Brand, Paul and Philip Yancey. The Forever Feast. Vine Books, 1993.
- Brand, Paul and Philip Yancey. The Gift Nobody Wants. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993.
- Brand, Paul and Philip Yancey. In His Image. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.
- Brand, Paul and Philip Yancey. Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.
Books about Paul Brand’s family members-
(The first two are about his mother, Evelyn. The third title is about his wife)
- Wilson, Dorothy Clarke. Climb Every Mountain. Christian Herald Books, 1976.
- Wilson, Dorothy Clarke. Granny Brand. London, England: Hodder and Stoughton, 1976.
- Jost, James L. Vision for God: The Story of Margaret Brand. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House, 2006.
- From Day of Discovery- http://www.dod.org/Products/The-Gift-of-Pain–Dr-Paul-Brand__DOD1983.aspx.
- “Prof. Paul W. Brand on Leprosy, Diabetes, Wounds, and a Life of Service.mp4” youtube video, 37:50. Posted by ToeandFlow on May 16, 2011-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30piDE5iIVw&feature=related.