In 1954, Virginia Kauffman — a native of Southern California — became the first woman doctor to serve under the auspices of Brethren in Christ World Missions.
For more than twenty years, Dr. Virginia (as she was affectionately known) and a team of nurses worked tirelessly on behalf of the Zimbabwean people. For many years, she served as doctor at the Mtshabezi Mission Hospital; later, she accepted an assignment at Phumula Mission, about 100 miles to the east.
More than thirty years after Dr. Virginia returned from the mission field, writer Joan Graff Clucas set the missionary’s story to paper in We All Love Dr. Virginia, an illustrated children’s book. From that story comes today’s Photo Friday installment.
Though she served as doctor at Mtshabezi Hospital, Dr. Virginia also engaged in more conventional missionary work — including the religious instruction of young children. As Clucas shares:
Occasionally, Dr. Kauffman set up her flannelgraph board near the hospital in order to spread the Word of God. It was for one of these sessions, as she was preparing to talk to a group that included children, that she spotted a large, dark snake in a nearby tree. Fearing it would drop down and harm her people, Virginia ran into the hospital to get her gun, which she kept in a locked cupboard. Then she shot the snake in the head. She posed for a picture to the delight of all who had seen this amazing feat.
To read the rest of Dr. Virginia’s story, see Clucas, We All Love Dr. Virginia: The Story of a Brethren in Christ Missionary to Africa (Grantham, Pa.: Brethren in Christ Historical Society, 2008). Dr. Virginia also wrote a brief autobiography in My Story, My Song: Life Stories of Brethren in Christ Missionaries, ed. E. Morris Sider (Nappanee, Ind.: Evangel Press, 1989), 278-284.