After an all too long break we are again starting up our Zeal With Knowledge blog post. Our family just made a change in location from Guatemala to a location just south of Raleigh/Durham, NC where I (mike) am working to develop a dept of medical missions and global health at a soon to open medical school at Campbell U. Stay tuned.

Today we turn out attention to statement # 5. Obey the rules with the following points:

We will obey all of the host country rules and laws, to the glory of God. (as long as it does not compromise our Christian witness)

  • Obtaining permission to practice
  • No bribery
  • No sneaking health materials into the country
  • Obtain malpractice insurance

The first of our points is clearly a biblical principle based on Romans 13:1-

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

As painful as this may be to think about, considering the high levels of corruption in many places in greatest need, it is not a biblical mandate that we can just ignore. We would do well to remind ourselves of the situation Paul was living in when he wrote this letter. The Roman government of the time was not a model of democracy and equal rights and was going to become much more aggressive in its persecution of the followers of the “Way,” I have to wonder if this could be one factor for which we (resource rich folks who have a zeal to do good) we have not had a greater affect on bettering the health of those in underdeveloped countries. During my 11 years serving in Guatemala I almost never encountered visiting STMM’s team whose healthcare professionals had acquired permission to examine and treat ill people in clinics. There are some who visit and play by the rules but I heard of very few who did so. And the process is quite easy and can be managed by the local partner with whom one has developed a long term strategic partnership. Nearly all nations have standards by which they function regarding who will be given permission to practice medicine within their boarders. All who engage in STMM’s in other countries should obtain the necessary permission and follow the rules of the law.

Secondly we can see no good reason to tolerate bribery as a part of our Christian healthcare ministry outreach. This topic is dealt with very nicely in this “Best Practice paper. Some may claim that bribery is just a normal part of how things get done and that it’s just part of the culture. And you may even hear that we (westerners) shouldn’t try to impose our beliefs and values on other cultures. But bribery is not consistent with the honesty and accountability mandated by God’s word. When we hear these arguments our approach should be to point out that these are not “western” values but biblical values and then together with our local partners we can see by an examination of scriptures that it is not to be tolerated in our Christian efforts to bring health and healing to hurting people.

The third point today is that we should not be taking with us into other countries materials which are illegal. This included nearly or already expired medications. This is discussed in these Best Practices papers. Expired meds, Experimental meds, and Medication use. On top of the discussions related to medications we would also do well not to attempt to take into another country any equipment which may legally be subject to an importation tax. Again this goes back to our argument related to conforming to the rules of law which apply to each particular country. One group tried to important 500 pairs of used glasses into Guatemala and were found out and asked to pay a $2/pair import tax! If this group had done its due diligence with a local partner regarding the importation of such items this could have been avoided.

Finally we highly recommend obtaining malpratice insurance for work done in another country. Dr Peter Yorgin addresses this issue in this Best Practice paper.

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