Short note this time. I’m not a regular follower of Fox News but this story was brought to my attention today while I was scouring news stories. It is a perfect example of the challenge we (Christians trying to understand what “HEALTH” should mean) are facing and the huge hurdle we are trying to get over. After you read the article think about what’s wrong with the thinking of this university? And what has been the problem in the response from this church and their pastor? How do you think the pastor could have made a better and more effective argument for keeping his churches event on the schedule at this “HEALTHcare” facility??? THIS is the heart of the problem in the West is it not?

Abraham Kuyper was a Dutch theologian, politician, journalist and statesman who lived during the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. He was Prime Minister of Netherlands from 1901 to 1905. Kuyper was famous for his understanding that there was no aspect (sphere) of society that was outside the calling of the Church in which it is not too have an interest or influence. One of his most famous quotes was “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, mine!

If we believe this to be the case (and we do here at ZWK – Health for All Nations) then all we do on this earth as it relates to helping people live healthy lives (lives of shalom) is under the sovereignty of Christ. This would include all the resources being used in His name to conduct ministries of health and wholeness. If that is the case then we should do all we can to assure that we are practicing excellence in the stewardship of such resources. In the Christian health services dept this would require of us the best use of the hospital and clinics we have built around the world and would include the best use of the personnel and materials that God provides. (this is of course only a small fraction of what we believe the global Church is called to DO when it comes to health services) But is this what we are actually doing with these resources?

I would have to say that WE DON’T KNOW. We can’t answer this question because we may not be asking the right questions. But with this post I would like to simply focus on calling on the global Church to think more deeply and plan more abundantly to conduct research that critically analyzes what we are doing in the name of “medical missions” around the world and to make those findings known.

I wrote a piece regarding an article by Brian Palmer back in OCT which was based on his article in Slate. Here is what he said in part:

“There are a few legitimate reasons to question the missionary model, starting with the troubling lack of data in missionary medicine. When I write about medical issues, I usually spend hours scouring PubMed, a research publications database from the National Institutes of Health, for data to support my story. You can’t do that with missionary work, because few organizations produce the kind of rigorous, peer-reviewed data that is required in the age of evidence-based medicine. A few years ago in the Lancet, Samuel Loewenberg wrote that there is “no way to calculate the number of missionaries currently operating in Tanzania,” the country he was reporting on. How can we know if they’re effective, or how to improve the health care systems they participate in, if we don’t even know how many missionary doctors there are?”

This quote of course raises all sorts of questions and concerns but a major point that I believe we can all agree on is that there is a mountain of work being done in very difficult places (some where MSF won’t go I suspect) but for which we have no “Best Practices” or journal articles being produced! One of the most exciting ministries we at Health for All Nations are privileged to have birthed is the Christian Journal for Global Health. Two editions have been published (it is free and open access) with the 3rd nearly ready. (upcoming edition on global conflict) We believe momentum is being built up and we look forward to playing our role in claiming this SQUARE INCH of society (researching the Christian Global Health Movement) for Christ. If you are involved in such work and would like to submit an article please do so or if you are linked to this kind of work globally please advocate with your church or missions agency to invest in research that will help us ALL learn how to more effectively use our resources so that Christ is proclaimed among ALL peoples.

When I mentioned to Anne that I had posted a bit of her story on my blog she responded with the following which I use with her permission: (it brought tears to my eyes)

“It was my pleasure to meet you too Michael. Yes, I stand to testify about the goodness of God even in the midst of hard trials and life difficulties. He is God and will always provide a way out. I believe God  expects us to do more than mourning about  our life circumstances some of which are beyond  human making and control like the  illness  that my father, the sole bread winner suffered from which led to a change of story in my family.
 
It is one thing to suffer from  poverty along with all the ills associated with it and give up in life, and   it is another thing  to say  “Yes I am in this right  now but, because I matter:  wonderfully and beautifully made in God’s own image, I can do something to make a difference in my life, family, community, and society despite the hurdles I have to overcome.”
Amen and let this be the attitude that springs forth from pulpits and churches. mike

Our friends at CCIH  have requested we post a piece written by Dr Paul Robinson, a physician and public health expert. As a previously practicing OB/GYN I find Paul’s piece excellent and fully agree with his scriptural interpretations. Family planning is not something the global Church should shy away from. And we must get past equating “Family Planning” with “Planned Parenthood” which is what many in the Church are guilty of. Thousands of women and children are dying each year because many in the Church are unwilling to openly and graciously talk about these issues.

What Does the Bible Say About Family Planning? 

At the heart of the controversy among Christians about family planning are the interpretations of a few passages from the Bible. For some Christians, these passages are non-negotiable divine commands to have as many children as God gives, and at whatever interval a mother can conceive them. To these Christians, determining the number of children or the interval between their births through contraception is against God’s intentions. 

The first reference in the Bible on human procreation is found in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God has given human beings the power and command for increasing our number in the world. However, it does not imply that God intended for this to be done without considering the need for food, space and education. In the next verse, God gave the command for man to eat the fruits of the trees, but does not command to continually eat without considering the effects of our actions. 

Another passage that is often misunderstood is Psalm 127, verses 3-5: “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Some believe since God’s word says children are His gift, we should not prevent conception or plan birth intervals. But there are other gifts from God for which we do not follow this logic. God gives land that produces food, but much planning is involved to achieve the harvest. 

Some argue that God will provide all the resources that children need. I believe God expects us to make decisions according to what He has given us, and not presume upon Him to provide for our needs when we make unreasonable choices. 

Planning the number and interval of births allows couples to avoid having more children than they can support, and a mother’s health is protected when she avoids giving birth within short intervals. These considerations demonstrate care, respect and love for a wife and children. The Bible sternly warns Christians against neglecting the responsibility of taking care of family members: “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1Timothy 5:8) 

Global health practitioners have long observed that increasing the interval between pregnancies and reducing the number of childbirths dramatically decreases the death rates of women, newborns and children. In many low- and middle-income countries these rates are unacceptably high. Contraception enables women to prevent unintended or high-risk pregnancies and reduces the rate of abortions, which account for 13 percent of maternal deaths globally. http://www.ccih.org/FP-Reduces-Abortions.pdf 

Nowhere in the Bible is there explicit or implicit prohibition of contraception. Onan’s example is sometimes used to demonstrate God’s condemnation of contraception. The account of Er and Onan appears in Genesis Chapter 38. Er died leaving his wife without children. His brother Onan married Er’s wife, Tamar, in keeping with the law of that time. But Onan did not want to have children with Tamar because he knew by law the children born to Tamar would not be his, but would belong to his deceased brother. So when Onan had intercourse with Tamar, he practiced a form of contraception known as withdrawal. The passage ends with “What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.” 

Onan did not want to split his inheritance with a child, but he used Tamar for his own sexual pleasure. It was not the use of contraception that was wrong, but it was Onan’s selfishmotivation behind his action that God determined as sinful. 

A misconception among some is that contraceptives routinely work by destroying the life of a living embryo. Although the mechanisms of action of various methods differ and are not always well understood, contraceptives work primarily by preventing the fertilization of the egg by the sperm. Contraception is not the same as abortion and studies show contraception actually lowers abortion rates. 

Preparing to receive the gift of children and give them what they need is a loving and responsible act. By enabling couples to time and space pregnancies in a healthy way, contraception protects mothers and children and enables fathers to be prepared to accept the responsibility that comes with the gift of children.  

 

Dr. Paul Robinson, MPH, MTS, MBBS is a physician and public health professional and member of Christian Connections for International Health, www.ccih.org a network of individuals and organizations committed to promoting global health from a Christian perspective. He currently serves as Public Health Advisor with International Medical Corps (IMC). The author’s views in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of IMC.

I was recently chatting with my friend from SIM, Bob Blees. His organization is on the battlefront dealing with the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. He stated the problem in a way that had never occurred to me before when he said “the problem our friends in Liberia now have is that their “enemy” may now be their own family members. The article below explains. It is told from a first person perspective.

Bob states “These details areshared from first hand accounts from Liberians living with the Ebola crisis on a daily basis.”

I never close the door to my office any more. I am afraid of catching Ebola.   I don’t want anyone to touch my door knob, not knowing if that last person who touched it will be an infected Ebola person.  So I just leave my door open all the time.  I began to fear this several months ago as the Ebola epidemic raged throughout my country of Liberia.  Some days the fear will overcome me and  I will call my wife at home and beg her to not leave the porch and keep the children in the house.

When I leave my office I am always careful to hold my arms close by my side and to not touch the walls or doors in the hallway.  Even the sweat from an infected person can contain enough virus to infect a person coming in contact with it.  In our hot and humid climate, even a damp spot on the painted wall, can remain damp for more than a day after a person passes by.  And because people infected with Ebola are often weak, and unsteady, it is very possible they would bump the walls as they go down the hallway.  So I just keep my hands and arms against my side, not wanting to take a chance of touching the wall.   As I pass by the treasurers off ice I notice a peculiar thing.  The women sitting at their desks handling cash are all wearing rubber gloves.  It was said that someone handling money died of Ebola so all those in our office now take no chances.  They all wear rubber gloves when they work with paper money.

As I step outside I am careful to wash my hands after touching the door to the office.  I walk along the road toward my house and cannot help to notice the foot prints in the dust on the road.  I think to myself, “An Ebola person could have just passed by here, and these very foot prints could be theirs.” The Ebola treatment center is just a short way down the road ahead of me, so the very real possibility exists that someone sick has just passed by.   It gives me the shivers to think this way.

In August I lost 25 members of my extended family in less than one month, to the Ebola disease.  As the disease hit the area of the country where I was born, it ravaged my family.  10 members of the family on my father’s side, and 15 members of the family on my mother’s side all succumbed to the disease in less than one month.  I dreaded to hear the phone ring in those days, as it was always a report of another uncle, aunt or cousin who had died.  I could not go to visit them, could not comfort them, or go to the funeral.  The grief I felt was too much to bear.

Recently I received a phone call from my father.  He was crying on the phone.  He asked me, through his tears, to beg my mother to not go to church anymore until the epidemic is finished.  I had never heard my father cry.  My mother insisted in attending all the prayer meetings at church as her strength is in the Lord, and only He can save our land.  My father begged her saying “We can pray together at home and God will hear us” but she insisted on going to church.  Too many of our friends and family have died.  My father was filled with fear, and begged me to implore my mother as he felt that I was the only one who she would respect now, since he felt he had tried everything.  The sadness I felt at that moment was so heavy.  Every day I fear for my parent’s life.

Now I am getting near  my house.  My wife and children have not gotten sick.  We pray daily that we will all stay well.  With the children we  practice safe and clean habits of hand washing, and keeping distance from others.   My fear is not so much for myself each day, as I know what I, personally need to do to stay safe.  But while I am away at work my wife must go to the market to get food, and the children go to play.  I cannot control where they go and who they touch. I have no way to protect them and feel so helpless.

Now I am at home.  I want to greet my beautiful wife with a hug but that thought that she may have gotten infected gnaws at the back of my mind always.  I want to bounce my kids on my knee, but know that there is always a chance that they may have encountered an Ebola infected person that day, without knowing it.  It is so difficult to put these thoughts completely out of my mind.  I know I need to do this if I want to stay connected and showing love to my family.  But it is really hard to forget the almost daily reports we get of sickness and death from Ebola among friends in the community and family members and friends upcountry.

During the war it was easy to know who the enemy was.  The guys with the guns, and the cutlass were the enemy, and as a family we could huddle together, and pray together and do all we could to stay safe.  Now the “enemy” is the person I love in my own home.  Try as I might, it is so difficult to ignore the nagging thought in the back of my mind, which is there constantly, that I may become infected from touching a member of my own family.  How can I stay spiritually and emotionally connected to those that I love the most, when I live in constant fear that I may become infected with the deadly disease?

The greatest challenge that our Christian family faces today, and all the friends we have in our church, at work, and in our community, is how to remain connected and compassionate with those we love so much.  We all pray daily, constantly, that the Lord will keep our loved ones safe each day.

But still the disease rages.  Yes, there seems to be good news.  It appears that the rate of increase in the infection is reducing in some areas.  But until the number of disease cases for a given week is zero, we must be always on our guard.  The Ebola center down the road from my office says they “only” have 90 occupied beds out of over 260 available.  At any other time in history, since the disease was discovered, to say you are only caring for 90 people who are dying, would be not news for rejoicing but a great tragedy.  Now we see these numbers as an improvement.  How easy it would be to let our guard down now.  We need to pray more than ever that this terrible disease will be eliminated from our country.

Can our families ever feel really comfortable again, hugging, shaking hands, and touching?  I pray that somehow we will all be able to deal with our loss and grief, and once again connect with those we love.  May God bless our country, and remove this terrible disease.

 

 

Luke 8:43-48: AMP (not the energy drink)

The untouchables were a different class of people than we find portrayed in Hollywood productions these days. Rather than 1920’s gangsters who were almost considered heroes’ by many of the time, the untouchable who was the focus of this stunning story in Luke is truly someone who was untouchable and completely disconnected from any sense of community. In the mind of this aging OB/GYN the unfortunate and desperate woman in the scene played out in this story has DUB. Can’t be cervical CA since it’s been going for so many years and cervical CA would have killed her by now. Get the biopsy and treat accordingly. Pretty straight forward.

We all know effective therapies were not available 2000 years ago so this woman’s fate, in her eyes, centered on this man Jesus she had heard rumors about. This great healer who had performed miracles in the community was her last hope.  Because of her “uncleanness” she was completely cut off from all social and cultural relationships. And for how many years! She had been bankrupted by spending what money she had on the physicians and therapies of the day. (Luke I suppose could have been one of them!) She was in no way experiencing the Shalom that God wished for all His people. Her HEALTH was about as bad as it could be.

I would imagine many in Western Africa, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone, are feeling this way as I write this brief meditation. I’m sure many with HIV/AIDS felt that way during the early years of the outbreak (especially from people in the Christian Church) that has claimed the lives of millions. And I’m pretty sure many still feel like outcasts.

But this passage has come to mean more to me than ever before. As I’ve been working on the development of the Health for All Nations and as our group has sought God’s will for what we are to contribute to the discussion of what health and ministries of health and healing should mean for the Church, this story has come to have more meaning than ever. Just imagine what this woman was experiencing as she approached Jesus with the hopes of simply touching the hem of his cloak.

She was in the midst of a crowd. There is no way she made it to such close proximity to Jesus without being jostled around a bit which means she TOUCHED a lot of people on the way in. What would this crowd have to done to her had they known who she was? I’m pretty sure she was trembling with fear thinking of the likelihood that she would be stoned to death for such a blatant break with the traditions of that day. Yet she pressed on. With a steadfast faith that this man had the power to heal her and transform her life she reached out and touched the hem of his cloak! And guess what! She didn’t get away with it. Jesus calls her out. Makes her come forward and be identified. Then she does something I never really gave much thought to before. In Luke’s account she DECLARED in the presence of ALL the people for what reason she had touched Him and how she had been instantly cured. Just think of the boldness in what Luke is telling us. I can almost hear her cracking voice full of emotion (fear, thankfulness, joy all at once) explaining what had just happened to her. And then the most beautiful part of all. The God of the universe recognizes her, confirms her as His DAUGHTER, affirms the level of her faith and that this has made her well. The Greek word used there is sozo, meaning to heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole. And then best of all He tells her “Go into peace.” WHAT GOOD NEWS! The Greek word used there for peace is Eirene, the parallel to the Hebrew word Shalom. She was restored to true health. Restored to her family, her community and to life itself.

This is the ultimate goal of the Christian “healthcare” professional. We must recognize and fulfill our role in restoring people to true health that only comes from knowing Christ.

if any of you have access to Netflix I would highly recommend watching a BBC series entitled “Call the Midwife.” Especially season 2 episode 1 would be a good starting point. If you’re in a hurry go to minute 43:15 and on. 

Most of the points made in our discussion of what “health” is are taken from Dr Dan Fountains monograph “Health, the Bible and the Church,” written while Dan was a missionary in residence at Wheaton College back in the late ’80’s. Dan was famous for saying health could not be defined easily or at all for that matter. But there are elements we can identify as being necessary for living a healthy life of wholeness. The first is the following:

  1. Health means wholeness, with a person’s body, mind, and spirit integrated and coordinated, and able to function creatively in the context of his or her particular community.

Here is where there is growing agreement between those of the secular/humanist faith based groups and those of us who function from a Christian faith perspective. But herein also is a line in the sand of sorts. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Within the “social” side of this equation I would imagine they would feel comfortable placing the “spiritual” side of the person. Many now talk about the “Mind, Body, Spirit” paradigm or the biopsychosocial-spiritual model of health. The Osteopathic medical profession especially likes to promote whole person care in the Mind/Body/Spirit mold. Even my own Allopathic profession is acknowledging the importance of the spiritual side of patients. Our agreement with all this is that we do indeed believe that wholeness or health does involve a spiritual side but for us this is a wholeness that proceeds from a personal and intimate relationship with God through Christ. Yes one can appear to be quite healthy and not believe in Christ as the savior of mankind. But those who refuse to believe in the saving work of Christ on the cross cannot know complete health and wholeness. There will always remain a distance between them and God their creator.

I think this also is where we would part with what has become the predominant opinion of many mainline denominational churches which make up most of the WCC. This uniqueness of Christ and His atoning work has been lost as a cornerstone of their existence. Wholeness in their opinion can be achieved equally in the spiritual realm for persons devoted to the Christian faith, Muslim faith, Hindu faith or any other faith system, including those of the secular/humanist faith. In the name of ecumenism, unity and “peace” many have sacrificed what made the Christian faith unique. Christ and Him crucified and resurrected. So in the end one can live a long, prosperous and “healthy” life but if in the end you have no relationship with the risen savior what good has it done for you?

The latter part of the statement has to do with God making us in His image, unique and gifted to contribute to the advancement of His kingdom on earth. This has been one of the greatest human tragedies throughout our history. A life lived apart from a relationship with our creator can indeed produce some amazing results. But this begs a very difficult question. If we do all in our power (let’s just say we provide access to good affordable healthcare to all by 2020) to accomplish some great goal but in the end most have still not heard and responded to the good news of Jesus the Christ and live eternally separated from God then what good have we really done? This again is a very clear distinction between our faith based work and that of ALL others. We believe that God has indeed created man, we are not just a creature of chance that happened over billions of years. Being created by a loving God we are also called to lives of service. To love Him with all our heart soul mind and strength AND our neighbors as ourselves also includes listening to our God to hear His calling on our lives. The Church, His bride, is made up of many different parts with innumerable gifts that are not being developed fully. This is true especially in the majority world where mere existence often depends on barely scraping out a living each day working fields or at some menial job which pays barely enough to sustain one’s family.

So what are we to do as His bride? I believe our churches need to do much more to help her members discover their God given gifts and calling and do all in our power to help them pursue those callings. Not only in the Church in the US but in the Church global. Could this be an effective “missions” strategy for some churches to pursue? I believe so. Can you imagine resource rich churches partnering with resource poor churches glocally (of course this means local and global combined) to help develop this type of ministry? It would require having assessment tools and then means of supporting those churches to help them help their members to accurately hear God’s calling and then supporting them in their pursuits. This would likely cause us to take a wholistic approach to our work in that we would be forced to assess what tools are or are not available for His people to pursue their calling. Are there schools to help educate them? Will there be jobs for them when they are finished and if not why not and what can we do about it? Now that’s a focus on health and wholeness.

Greetings all. It’s been too long once again since I’ve posted.

Much has been happening for our family not the least of which is that I stepped down from my position at the medical school I was working with. Long story. I am now focusing more of my attention on the Health for All Nations and on developing the Fountain School for Community and Global Health within the Health for All Nations structure.

I had posted the blog below last DEC but forgot that we had shifted the blog to the Health for All Nations site so am re-posting again. The link below will take you to another great posting by Darrow Miller and his team at DNA. You can read it here:

http://darrowmillerandfriends.com/2013/12/03/church-new-way-understand-what-is-real/

It brought to mind a discussion I had some years ago with a friend who works in Honduras. There he has been working on a ministry (excellent and dangerous work I might add) that focuses on exposing and dealing with corruption in the government. By all accounts they have been pretty successful despite the fact that Honduras is considered one of the most violent countries in the world. (San Pedro Sula is considered the most violent city in the world by many)

The question I posed to him was, How critical can we, the Church, be of other institutions when we ourselves are so full of corruption? How much of our focus should be on “transforming” the culture around us (how much energy and thought should be invested on pointing out the flaws of secular entities) when the social indices within our own body are not so very different than those in the culture within which we operate? I am not advocating that Christians neglect following a calling to work in the secular world as a counter-cultural agent for change but I am calling into question the balance of where our energies are placed. I would simply point to one factor that goes largely ignored but which would transform our Church and its simple witness would transform our world. That being men (who call themselves Christian) loving their wives as Christ loves the Church. I have never actually even heard a sermon on this topic. I’m sure others have, at least I hope that is the case. This would be a great starting point for any church to focus on and it is an encouragement I make to all men who count themselves as true followers of Christ. This of course requires that we (Christian men) become invested in relationships with other men where we are truly opening up to our brothers and sharing our struggles and allowing ourselves to be lovingly confronted with tough questions about our personal lives. Can you imagine the impact on our culture if a majority of men in the Church were involved in this type of accountability if it caused us to truly love our wives as Christ loved/loves His bride?

Next we’ll start a series on “Health” and what it is from a Christian worldview.

 

 

 

The emphasis of this posting has to do with the focus of our Christian health ministries. In all the hustle and bustle of STMM’s it is easy to lose sight of the primary reason we are serving in such a capacity. The busy-ness of the week (or whatever short term time frame you are working within) makes it easy to let logistical details overtake the primary focus of serving people. Our western mindset is so often centered on getting things done so that we can make our reports to our supporters that we leave out making a personal connection with those in need.

Language barriers are always a challenge but this simply highlights the importance of working through trusted partnerships (trust that goes both ways) so that the deep spiritual issues that may come to light during a healthcare outreach can be effectively addressed by our local partners.

Our statement 11 then is that if we are truly focusing on people then we will need to make some adjustments in our expectations. We will need to take into account that the time it takes to translate effectively, teaching as we go along will surely make us adjust things such as surgical times and surgical case volumes. One could certainly make the case that a surgeon who is going to do a series of cases that have already been arranged by a local partner may not have to work on a slower schedule at all and some indeed do more cases in a day than they would at home. Leaving the personal touch to the local partner. That may serve to satisfy a severe need to for getting as many cases dealt with as quickly as possible but it really doesn’t satisfy the desire by many to have a genuine connection/relationship with those they are serving.

Here are our recommendations for doing surgery in limited resource settings:

  • Adjust time/task expectations
    • Consider:
      • translation time
      • educational time
      • surgical times
  • LOVE THE PEOPLE WHO YOU ARE WITH
  • Surgical teams can be a great blessing
    • Only perform procedures that you do at home
    • OPlan to do less than you normally do at home
      • Translation
      • Education takes time
    • Share your knowledge with other physicians
      • Example: Cochlear implant project
      • Great chance for surgical CME – sharing new knowledge
  • WHO Surgical Guidelines: http://www.who.int/topics/surgery/en/
  • Emergency Surgical Care
    • http://www.who.int/surgery/publications/imeesc/en/index.html
  • OEmergency Surgical Care in Disaster Situations
    • http://www.who.int/surgery/publications/BestPracticeGuidelinesonESCinDisasters.pdf

Nothing creates fear (for some in the Church) as much as the thought of sharing Christ with non-believers. Add to this the difficulty we have when doing this with “educated” people. But we all don’t need to have the expertise of apologist Ravi Zacharias to be effective witnesses of the kingdom of God. There is a wonderful chapter in “Walking With the Poor” (Myers, 2011) in which Bryant Myers discusses why we MUST witness and then goes on to describe the difference between proclamation evangelism and what is sometimes referred to as lifestyle evangelism.

Our work will always be a witness to something. And according to Jayakumar Christian whatever we put at the center of our development program (in our case health outreaches)  during its lifetime will tend to be what the community worships in the end. (1998, “Reflections On Poverty and Transformation.” Lecture series for the WVI Board of Directors)  The way in which we conduct our health related missions activities is a witness not only to those we are serving but also to those who are observing. By this I mean those who perhaps have given us permission to conduct health care services in needy areas but who are not themselves followers of Christ. Local health ministry officials, hospital administrators, mayors and the list goes on. This would also include “development” workers who are also a witness to our work. For example members of Doctors Without Borders works in many of the most difficult to reach and work regions of the world. And we have good news for them as much as we have good news for those we are directly serving in delivering healthcare in Christs name.

Newbigin (1989, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society pg 132-33)  highlights the fact that in Acts the examples we read of proclaiming the good news came as an opportunity to answer questions raised in the minds of onlookers who were witness to signs and wonders. Peter’s first public statement of the gospel, the healing of the cripple at the temple gate and in the story of Stephen) The proclamation comes not as a planned event but in reaction to questions raised because of the activity of the disciples in the community. Conducting health related ministry work with excellence and with an uncompromising care for each person as a unique individual created in the image of God will be enough to create questions in the minds of those observing our work to ask us what it is that motivates us to do what we are doing. This doesn’t create a setting where we feel inadequate to respond unless we have a theological degree but is the time for witnessing to the good news of the person of Jesus the Christ and what he was able to accomplish on the cross some 2000 years ago.

So when the time comes we must be ready to respond not with eloquent words but truth in love.

I Corinthians 2: 1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the 1 testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you a except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 b I was with you c in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching d were not with persuasive words of 2 human wisdom, e but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the f power of God.