A Cog in the Engine and a Shared Cup of Tea – Dr Eleasa Sieh

Loving your neighbour one cuppa at a time


From Luke’s Journal May 2023  |  Vol.28 No.2  |  Unity in Diversity 

Image Arian Fdez, Pexels

During the final group reflection time at VISION 2023 (CMDFA’s annual student leadership conference), the metaphor of “being a cog in the engine of God’s kingdom” was used by our current National Chair, Dr Sneha Kirubakaran. Her aim was to encourage both student leaders and mentors to see our individual role as Christian healthcare professionals as part of a Grand Design to build up the body of Christ and grow His kingdom of grace and truth with those we rub shoulders with in our places of study and work.

Being a cog in an engine bears similarities to the Biblical analogy in 1 Corinthians 12 of the human body, with its various and different members, each playing its unique part as part of one whole – diverse roles united in their purpose to build up the body into maturity in Christ (Eph 4:11-13).

One of the remarkable things about both an engine and the human body is that when they work well, we don’t take notice! Similarly, when the body of Christ is working well together, things happen seamlessly, and we can forget the One who designed it all to work in the first place, for our good and for His glory.

Recently I was able to reflect on how I was able to play my part as a cog in the engine through loving our refugee neighbours.

HOST International is a non-faith-based non-profit organisation that works with refugees and host communities to “build hope and inclusion”1 – an endeavour that fits well within a Christian ethic.

“Some in this group were doctors in Afghanistan and were now looking to train to become registered to work as medicos in Australia.”

The CMDFA National Office received an email from the coordinator of a professional mentor project that HOST had set up to support Afghans who were recently evacuated to Australia after the Taliban takeover in 2021. Some in this group were doctors in Afghanistan and were now looking to train to become registered to work as medicos in Australia.

CMDFA members were offered an opportunity to connect with the Afghans with a medical background to offer support and advice for their journey back into the profession. Though HOST is not a faith-based organisation, most of their participants are Muslim and the project coordinator, being a Christian, saw this as a great opportunity for CMDFA members to be a blessing to others.

Here were the first two cogs of the wheel: the HOST project coordinator and the CMDFA National Office sharing this request to the National Board and then onto the membership.

Through HOST, I was put in touch with a young doctor, S, from Afghanistan. We met over Microsoft Teams. I heard that he had been the equivalent of a resident medical officer in Afghanistan before he decided to relocate to Australia in 2021. He had moved to Brisbane with his wife, and while, thankfully, she was able to secure work as a dental assistant, S was currently working at Woolworths. His wish was to be able to work again as a medical doctor, with aspirations of becoming a cardiologist.

“… S was currently working at Woolworths. His wish was to be able to work again as a medical doctor, with aspirations of becoming a cardiologist.”

I was struck by the sincerity and clarity of S’ hope – hope grounded in the reality of studying for the infamous Australian Medical Council (AMC) exams, first written and then oral, and preparing himself mentally through the HOST mentorship program. His manner was deferential but also direct, and I could also sense the presence of anxiety quickening the speed of his questions.

After our first meeting, my mind scrambled to think of how best to help him. Yes, we both shared a migrant story, but I had the privilege of graduating from an Australian medical school. I had never gone through the AMC exam process, and there was little concrete advice I could offer in this journey.

There was also the danger of mentorship slipping through the cracks of my schedule and mind, packed and pulled in all manner of different directions and plans as they often are. It dawned on me that helping S organise a clinical observership at my clinic would be a crucial opportunity for his future medical career prospects.  However, I was at a point in my work where I was feeling overburdened by responsibilities already. I just didn’t feel like I had the mental capacity to have S observe me for two to four weeks.

Here, thankfully, the Spirit reminded me of my role as a cog. The realisation hit me that I would be robbing S of many opportunities if I remained his only mentor. I remembered that I had two other colleagues at my practice who were international medical graduates, one from Iran and the other from Sri Lanka via Russia. Surely it was no random coincidence that we had all started regular work at this clinic within months of each other. I would ask these two colleagues whether they could each have S to sit in for a day of consultations, and diversify S’ learning opportunities, since we each had our particular clinical strengths and interests.

Image Hasan Albari, Pexels

The next day, before I could tell my Iranian colleague about S and to ask for his help to co-mentor him with me, my colleague offered me a cup of Persian tea. Struck by his hospitality, I asked what type of tea it was, and to my surprise, the box included my home country’s name on it, as well as his own! I was humbled by the hospitality, and also tickled to find that the tea linked both of our home countries.

When S came to visit our practice to meet both myself and my colleague, it was this same tea that was offered and shared amongst the three of us as we all met together for the first time. This shared cup of tea became a symbol of the shared bond we all had as fellow image-bearers, and a reminder to me of the common grace of neighbourly love and hospitality as a means of God’s grace.

Here, in this tiny meeting of the nations over a cup of tea, came further affirmation of God’s cogs turning well. It turned out that my Iranian colleague was able to speak the same mother tongue as S – Farsi2. Not only this, but my colleague had also gone through the AMC process himself and was familiar with navigating the possible pathways to registration in order to work as a medical professional as an overseas-trained medical doctor.

Truly, this was a divine appointment. S was able to join our practice for four weeks of clinical observation overall, split between myself and the other two internationally-trained medical graduate GPs in my practice. He also applied for and did a clinical observership at a hospital in Canberra.

Image by the Author

In mid-March, S emailed me urgently asking for a video meeting because he had been offered two job interviews for a General Practice role, the first of which that very afternoon over Zoom. I was able to impart some last-minute advice and encouragement. Ten days later, he emailed me with the good news – he had been offered both jobs that he interviewed for and had decided to accept one near the south coast of New South Wales. A sense of joy and pride buoyed me that day, alongside a hope that matched the sincerity I first saw in his eyes at our first meeting.

Through this short encounter, I was satisfied to have played my small part in showing mercy for a refugee neighbour, while also humbled by the generosity and hospitality of my fellow colleague neighbours. It was also a blessing to be part of the wider CMDFA fellowship that allowed for the connection with an organisation like HOST International and to be offered this opportunity to serve within my time-poor limitations.

In Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), it was the one who showed mercy who was held as the example of a good neighbour. May you be inspired to go and do likewise, doing your part as one cog in the Golden Rule of loving your neighbour. It could even start by offering someone a cup of tea…

Dr Eleasa Sieh
Dr Eleasa Sieh works as a GP in a Brisbane clinic that is aiming to expand its relative diversity of ethnicities for the good of the community it serves in. Lately, she’s been enjoying exchanging recommendations for local Korean eateries with her Thai colleague – her latest favourite dish being naengmyeon (Korean cold noodles).


Would you like to contribute content to Luke’s Journal?  Find out more…


  1. HOST International: https://www.hostint.org
  2. Also referred to as the Persian language, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_language