Graham & Fiona (Not their real names) talk about why they felt God calling them to healthcare in a Creative Access Nation (CAN).
The standard approach
For many years health care professionals wishing to be involved in cross-cultural mission in Africa have been encouraged to partner with church health care providers in two main areas.
Firstly, to disciple and train African health professionals, and secondly, to work together with the African church as they reach out to unreached peoples through compassionate ministries. Personally, we have had the privilege of serving in the church sector for over 20 years and we continue to endorse its effectiveness.
However, several years ago we began to question whether this is the only model to follow. If we limit ourselves to working through church health providers we limit ourselves essentially to those areas where the church is both relatively strong and established long enough to have a healthcare work. Unsurprisingly, most of the unreached people groups are in areas of Africa where there is no church and no church health care providers. These peoples are mainly in Islamic Creative Access Nations (CANs). Should we therefore leave the task of reaching the unreached to church planters? Does it mean that there is no place for health care professionals in church planting? Should we consider giving up our health professions to pursue church planting activities? However, most of these areas are also the places with the greatest health care needs in Africa. These questions unsettled us and led us to explore opportunities to work in a CAN.
We can therefore proclaim with our actions, our lives and our words that Jesus is Lord.
Just an entry ticket?
So is being a healthcare provider merely an entry ticket to allow us to proclaim the Gospel? Most assuredly not. As health care professionals, we are in a privileged position of sharing peoples’ lives from a position of trust during their most critical life events: birth, illness and death. As we have accepted Christ as Lord of our lives, surely he is Lord of our personal and professional relationships too? Therefore, our job is firstly to ensure that all our relationships reflect Jesus and draw people to him. Furthermore, we have the ability to bless people and communities by serving them, for example by helping to reduce maternal mortality, as we work within the framework of the lordship of Christ – the kingdom perspective. Whether it is with patients, colleagues, neighbours or our own families, Christ-like relationships are the means of allowing the liberating power of the love of God to transform lives and communities. We can therefore proclaim with our actions, our lives and our words that Jesus is Lord.
Serving with integrity
Consider Daniel; by remaining steadfast in his worship and maintaining his ethical integrity as a servant of the Lord within a hostile government, he was used by God both to bless his ‘host’ and make the Lord’s name known.
As we write, we have been in our new location for only four months; our first year here will be spent focusing on language-learning, relationships and exploring opportunities for ministry. We are asking God to show us opportunities where we can serve, love and bless our neighbours and ultimately ‘our’ whole community. We seek to proclaim that Jesus is Lord, to work out where God is already at work and be part of His work of bringing people into relationship with Him.
Pray with us as we seek to build relationships and pursue opportunities for ministry in partnerships that will enable the Lord’s name to be made known and draw people to Him. Pray that Christ-centred churches will be established in these unreached places, through health care professionals doing health care.