A World Medical Mission Post-Resident wins the ultimate victory in Christ after a brave battle with breast cancer
Dr. Sarah Lantz wanted to make it clear to everyone that she knew cancer would not have the final say. Christ does.
Throughout her six-month battle with the disease, Lantz documented the ups and downs with honesty and humor. But in between her accounts of fashionable headwear and savoring a burrito, she communicated a deeper message: that God would sustain her through the difficult journey, and in life and in death she would glorify Him.
On Wednesday, January 13, Lantz went to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She was surrounded by family and friends who had gathered around her bedside at an Indianapolis hospital.
Lantz was 19 months into her service at Mukinge Hospital in Zambia through World Medical Mission’s Post-Residency Program when she developed inexplicable flu-like symptoms. Her return to the U.S. in August for tests revealed a stunning diagnosis.
“One week ago, I was a missionary surgeon in northwest Zambia. Today I am a 34-year-old woman with advanced breast cancer,” she wrote in an August blog post. “The word ‘cancer’ has become very personal.”
“It is hard to know just what to ask God for in circumstances like these,” she pondered in a blog a month later. “Whether I can be bold enough to ask for everything that I want. … Or if I have faith enough to ask for … whatever it is the Lord wants, even if His plans don’t line up with mine. What I want most is to be faithful with whatever He has planned.”
A gifted general surgeon, Lantz graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine and completed her residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. She served as a volunteer with World Medical Mission, the medical arm of Samaritan’s Purse, at hospitals in Honduras and Kenya before applying to the Post-Residency Program in 2013.
Dr. Kent Brantly was also a member of World Medical Mission’s Post-Residency class that year. The two doctors were already acquainted, as both hailed from Indiana and both had graduated from the same medical school.
Brantly contracted Ebola in July 2014—only months after he began serving at ELWA Hospital in Liberia. Having faced and survived his own health crisis, Kent and his wife Amber encouraged Sarah in her struggles. The couple’s last visit was just a week before she died. (You can read Kent’s blog tribute to Sarah here.)
“I think Sarah was a better patient than most doctors. She took her own advice. She lived life until it ended,” Brantly shared in a recent tribute to his friend. “She wrestled with fear and anger and loss, but in the end, she chose faith.”
“A Love and a Concern for People”
Ed Morrow, the director of World Medical Mission, was with Sarah’s family when she died Wednesday afternoon. Lantz had impacted his life too, beyond their connection with Samaritan’s Purse.
When Morrow’s wife was hospitalized with a life-threatening illness, it was Lantz who was by their side through the ordeal.
“That was Sarah—at home and at Mukinge. She had a love and a concern for people,” said Morrow. “Being a doctor wasn’t just a job or a profession to her, but a conviction that God had His hand on her for medical ministry. She had a deep longing for her patients to know her Lord and Savior.”
“Even through this illness, that was Sarah’s desire, that anyone who read her blogs could find hope, strength, and comfort, but most of all that people would know the Savior who was taking her through this difficult and emotional time,” he said.
During the last hours of Lantz’s life on earth, her father and Morrow took turns reading from the Bible in her hospital room. It was the Bible World Medical Mission gave her five years ago when she volunteered on a short-term trip to Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. Lantz had underlined numerous passages from the Psalms and the Gospels.
One verse that inspired her work was Matthew 25:21, part of Jesus’ parable of the talents. The master commends the servant who earned five additional talents from the five talents he had been given. “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (ESV).
“Sarah gave her all,” Morrow said in describing her impact on so many people around the world. “Now she is hearing Jesus say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”