Value of Medical Missionary Work

From lectures given to the first-year medical stu­dents in the Bible Hygiene course at the College of Medical Evangelists.

By E. H. RISLEY, M.D., Dean, College oMedical Evangelists, Lorna Linda

It is highly desirable that those who engage in missionary endeavor should realize the very great value of combining medical work and regular evangelical work. In 3 John 2 we have a statement as follows : "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest pros­per and be in health, even as thy soul pros­pereth." This verse seems to call for equal activity in both physical and spiritual growth. It would appear, also, that this verse could be looked upon as a basis for a health message that would go hand in hand with spiritual de­velopment.

In studying the life of Jesus, we find that He devoted time to the mental, spiritual, and phys­ical activities of the individuals with whom He associated. In other words, He did teach­ing, preaching, and healing in His contacts with the common people. This is made clear by the following text : "Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their syna­gogues, and preaching the gospel of the king­dom, and healing every sickness and every dis­ease among the people." Matt. 9:35.

We have the same thought brought out in a number of different places in the wr,iting-s of the Spirit of prophecy. For example, in the book "Counsels on Health" the relationship of our health work to the gospel message is given in at least eight different places, the rela­tion being likened to that of the hand to the body. These eight quotations are given in their order as follows :

1. "God has shown that health reform is as closely connected with the third angel's mes­sage as the hand is with the body. There is nowhere to be found so great a cause of phys­ical and moral degeneracy as a neglect of this important subject."—"Counsels on Health," p. 73.

2. "Our sanitariums are the right hand of the gospel, opening doors whereby suffering humanity may be reached with the glad tidings of healing through Christ. In these institutions the sick may be taught to commit their cases to the Great Physician, who will co-operate with their earnest efforts to regain health, bringing to them healing of soul as well as healing of p. 212.

3. "Medical missionary wOrk is the right hand of the gospel. It is necessary to the ad­vancement of the cause of God. As through it men and women are led to see the importance of right habits of living, the saving power of the truth will be made known. Every city is to be entered by workers trained to do medical missionary work. As the right hand of the third angel's message, God's methods of treat­ing disease will open doors for the entrance of present truth."—Id., pp. 219, 220.

4. "This is an element that gives character to the work for this time. The medical mis­sionary work is as the right arm of the third angel's message which must be proclaimed to a fallen world; and physicians, managers, and workers in any line, in acting faithfully their part, are doing the work of the message."— (i.d., p. 331.)

5. "When properly conducted, the health work is an entering wedge, making a way for other truths to reach the heart. When the third angel's message is received in its fullness, health reform will be given its place in the councils of the conference, in the work of the church, in the home, at the table, and in all the household arrangements. Then the right arm will serve and protect the body."—Id., p. 434.

6. "Again and again I have been instructed that the medical missionary work is to bear the same relation to the work of the third an­gel's message that the arm and hand bear to the body. Under the direction of the divine Head they are to work unitedly in preparing the way for the coming of Christ. The right arm of the body of truth is to be constantly active, constantly at work, and God will strengthen it. But it is not to be made the body."—Id., p. 513.

7. "The truth for this time embraces the whole gospel. Rightly presented, it will work in man the very changes that will make evident the power of God's grace upon the heart. It will do a complete work, and develop a com­plete man. Then let no line be drawn between the genuine medical missionary work and the gospel ministry. Let these two blend in giving the invitation, 'Come, for all things are now ready.' Let them be joined in an inseparable union, even as the arm is joined to the body." p. 516.

8. "He sent out His twelve apostles and aft­erward the seventy to preach the word to the people, and He gave them power to heal the sick and to cast out devils in His name. The two lines of work must not be separated. Satan will invent every possible scheme to separate those whom God is seeking to make one. We must not be misled by his devices. The med­ical missionary work is to be connected with the third angel's message, as the hand is con­nected with the body; and the education of students in medical missionary lines is not com­plete unless they are trained to work in con­nection with the church and the ministry."—Id., p. 557.

Strong Link Between Evangelical and Medical

These statements are sufficient to make clear this important association. These quota­tions give a positive and useful place to med­ical missionary endeavor, and should serve to make a very strong link between the evangelical and medical features of the work. It seems very evident from a study of the Spirit of prophecy that the medical school and our schools of nursing, as well as our sanitariums the world around, have been brought into ex­istence to foster this relationship and to make the gospel a more complete whole. In "Coun­sels on Health" Sister White answers a ques­tion asked of her in the early days :

"I have been surprised at being asked by physicians if I did not think it would be more pleasing to God for them to give up their medical practice and enter the ministry. I am prepared to answer such an in­quirer: If you are a Christian and a competent physi­cian, you are qualified to do tenfold more good as a missionary for God than if you were to go forth merely as a preacher of the word. I would advise young men and women to give heed to this matter. Perilous times are before us. The whole world will be involved in perplexity and distress, disease of every kind will be upon the human family, and such ignorance as now prevails concerning the laws of health would result in great suffering and the loss of many lives that might be saved."—Pages 503, 504.

This quotation presents in a very definite way the great value of medical missionary en­deavor, and it seems to indicate that one who has medical training, and who is a thorough-going Christian, is endowed with extraordinary qualities, and thus is exceptionally well trained to do soul-saving work. This again is exem­plified in the life of Jesus, since we are told that He spent more time in healing the sick than He spent in teaching.

"The Saviour of the world devoted more time and labor to healing the afflicted of their maladies than to preaching. His last injunction to His apostles, His representatives upon the earth, was to lay hands on the sick that they might recover. When the Mas­ter shall come, He will commend those who have visited the sick and relieved the necessities of the afflicted."—"Testimonies," Vol. IV, p. 225.

In these days of peril, medical work offers one of the greatest possibilities that we have for successful and continuous work. One is led to believe, by a careful study of the Spirit of prophecy, that the day will come when med­ical work will be the chief avenue by which the proclamation of the gospel will be possible:

"I wish to tell you that soon there will be no work done in ministerial lines but medical missionary work. The work of a minister is to minister. Our ministers are to work on the gospel plan of minister­ing, . . . You will never be ministers after the gospel order till you show a decided interest in medical mis­sionary work, the gospel of healing and blessing and strengthening. . . . It is because of the directions I have received from the Lord that I have the courage to stand among you and speak as I do, notwithstand­ing the way in which you may look at the medical missionary work. I wish to say that the medical mis­sionary work is God's work. The Lord wants every one of His ministers to come into line. Take hold of the medical missionary work, and it will give you access to the people. Their hearts will be touched as you minister to their necessities. As you relieve their sufferings, you will find opportunity to speak to them of the love of Jesus."—"Counsels on Health," p. 533.

These statements from the Spirit of prophecy should not lead us to exalt medical work be­yond that of the gospel ministry, but they surely should help us to see that medical work is one of its greatest assets. There are thou­sands of doctors who practice throughout the country, but there are only a few who have the idea of combining the gospel with the prac­tice of medicine. On the other hand, there are thousands of ministers in the world, but only a few have clearly seen the possibility for the use of medical work as an adjunct to their preaching.

It is my opinion, after observing the grad­uates of the College of Medical Evangelists for several years, that the doctors who make the gospel a very definite part of their work are among the most successful men. Not only are they successful in winning souls to the Lord, but they are also preeminently successful in medical practice. When such a relationship is maintained between the gospel and medical work, the one will be a very definite asset to the other. We as a people ought to be thank­ful for the remarkable instruction that has been given us to make this work a very defi­nite and active part of our denominational endeavor.

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By E. H. RISLEY, M.D., Dean, College oMedical Evangelists, Lorna Linda

June 1941

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