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A Legacy Remembered
A Century of Medical Missions
This is the story of medical missions in the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) from 1881 to 1983 on three continents (North America, Asia, and Africa). Working under often primitive conditions and dangerous circumstances, brave spirit-filled medical pioneers established hospitals, clinics, medical schools, and public health facilities. Through their efforts, lepers were healed, the blind regained their sight, and the sick received proper medical care. More importantly, the dedicated men and women spread the gospel message of hope, trained national medical personnel, and uplifted the status of women.
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by Sophie Montgomery Crane
As medical missionaries to the Korea Mission under the auspices of the Executive Committee of Foreign Missions and (after 1949) the Board of World Missions of the PCUS, Paul and Sophie Crane served in Korea from 1947 to 1969. At Chunju (now Chonju), Korea, they established a hospital, medical training program, and nursing school, and helped raise significant funds for a needed expansion of the facility. Paul Crane was particularly interested in two medical conditions that afflicted the Korean people: parasites and leprosy. To combat parasites, Crane launched an education program and traveled the countryside educating people on sanitation and how to properly dispose of food and human waste. Crane’s leprosy patients benefited from his ability as a surgeon. He performed hundreds of reconstructive hand surgeries on patients with deformities as a result of leprosy.
The Cranes returned to the United States in 1969 and resigned from active service in 1970. Paul Crane remained active in medicine, overseas medical assistance projects, and the PCUS and its successor denomination the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). From his election in May 1979 until his resignation in October 1983, he served on the General Assembly Mission Board (GAMB), and was assigned to the Division of International Mission (DIM) to provide guidance and counsel to staff. While serving on the GAMB, he was a member of the 1980 Asia survey trip/DIM and the 1981 China travel team, and visited Japan and Korea in 1982. At the October 1983 meeting of the DIM, Paul and Sophie Crane were recognized for their years of service to the GAMB, as they prepared to undertake new responsibilities for the DIM serving as specialists in mission. From July 1984 through December 1987, Paul and Sophie Crane worked as specialists in mission for the PC(USA) GAMB Division of International Mission in Atlanta, Georgia. During his service with the DIM, Paul Crane visited numerous countries worldwide to learn about, advise, and raise support for medical programs. In 1985, the Cranes traveled to twenty countries in Africa and Asia where they visited Presbyterian medical facilities and hospitals. Their work for the DIM concluded on December 31, 1987, when it ceased to exist as an entity.
The Presbyterian Border Ministry, a ministry on the U.S.-Mexico border, was started in 1984 through a joint venture between the PC(USA) and the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. In December 1986, the Presbyterian Border Ministry Corporation was formed as the ministry’s trustees in charge of fundraising and fiscal oversight. Paul Crane was one of the nine PC(USA) representatives on the corporation’s board, served as secretary until his term ended in late 1987, and was made an honorary staff member of the corporation by the board in April 1988. He continued to help in fundraising projects and interpretation of the Presbyterian Border Ministry when called upon.
Sophie Crane assisted Paul Crane in the research and writing of many of his books. In 1998, she authored her own work, A Legacy Remembered: A Century of Medical Missions, that documents the worldwide medical mission of the PCUS from 1881 to 1983.
The Cranes had five children. Paul Crane died on June 12, 2005 in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Sophie Crane died on May 5, 2013.