Selection of Medical Missionaries

E. Let us correct some wrong impressions in the selection of medical missionaries.

By THEODORE R. FLAIZ, M. D.,* Former Missionary to Southern Asia Division

Consideration of the mobilization of foreign medical workers should look to the seeking out, not of men who can well be spared from the work at home, but of those who have most thoroughly proved their worth in constructive effort in their respective fields. There should be a complete fading out of the conception that the foreign missionary is merely a pious, saintly, impractical, behind-the-times, and occasionally slightly touched individual, quite suited to the peculiar peoples of strange lands, but perhaps too slow and unsophisticated for conference or institutional work in America. The guarding of appointments to the mission field by the commissioning of men only of the highest type, is one of the surest avenues to the strong rehabilitation of our foreign mission program.

An authority on missions among Presbyteri­ans, Dr. Arthur J. Brown, said : "It is a mistake to suppose that any nice and apparently pious youth can become a foreign missionary. . . . The boards do not send the pale enthusiast or the romantic young lady to the foreign field, but the sturdy, practical, and energetic man of affairs, the woman of poise and sense and char­acter."

The early church pointed to its high estimate of responsibility in the foreign field when it selected Paul and Barnabas for this charge. The standards to which we should aim in the training and selection of medical missionaries may be best estimated when we look to the men who have blazed the trail for the modern medical worker in mission lands. Doctor Parker in China, Doctor Scudder in India, Doc­tor Grenfell to our bleak North American shores, and Doctor Livingstone in Africa, with scores of equally devoted followers, have shown the way to the boundless possibilities in this pathway of mission service.

Any discussion of plans for the training of medical missionaries would consistently begin with a thought for the man himself, quite aside from his medical training. While it is a matter of history that some of the biightest lights of mission endeavor were men who were fully prepared for life's work before their attention was seriously turned to the mission problems, it would hardly be possible to fill all the needs of the field without a studied plan of preparing men from early college years for the specific purpose of mission work. It is in fact such a plan that actually functions from the lower school years of our educational system, through middle school and college and on through pro­fessional training.

There is in all these years a constant empha­sis on the great aim of our institutions to train workers for the world field at home and abroad. What teacher, evangelist, administrator, or in­stitutional worker does not remember the Wed­nesday morning Junior meeting of church school days, a meeting in which different fields were studied, the habits and customs of the people, the geography, the commerce, and more particularly the need for a work which could be done only by the Christian missionary? Fre­quently in such early years, plans for a life as a missionary are formulated, which later ma­terialize in useful service in the fields thus studied.

For the most part missionaries chosen from such stock will be at a considerable advantage over those who are picked up at a later stage of their lives and have had no par­ticular thought or burden for such work. The earlier training of the foreign missionary is therefore of significance in regard to the prob­ability of ultimate success. That which has been a part of one's life through childhood and youth is less likely to be lost in later life than that which is acquired after full maturity.

All things being equal, we would therefore be led to conclude that the worker chosen from a Christian school background should have greater chances of success. He should also have greater possibilities of adaptation to the various strange environments to which he will be ex­posed, and with this greater adaptability he will be more likely to become a permanent fixture in the mission field.

As it is not possible to select these candidates in their earlier years and follow them along with guidance throughout their period of de­velopment, our best course is to pick up our candidate at a point where he is approaching his time of appointment to the field. In most cases this will be in his last year of training, or during his intern service. There are perhaps better opportunities of knowing the qualities of these candidates while they are still in school than after they have left and are no longer under the close observation possible in college.

The attitude of the senior student toward the program of missionary training, his attitude toward our organized work, the ministry, the institution in which he studies, and the activi­ties of the church, all give evidence of his fitness or failure as a prospective foreign med­ical missionary.

Pursuant to this plan, study might well be given to some procedure by which, in consul­tation with the medical school, these students would be placed under tentative appointment by the Mission Board, the prospective appointee being kept in constant touch with the board and with the possibilities for his future field of labor. Throughout his intern year and whatever fur­ther training he might undergo, his interest in mission endeavor could well be maintained by constant contact with the board or with the actual mission field.

As with other branches of mission work, the medical missionary should be encouraged to think of his appointment as a lifetime under­taking. The missionary who spends but one period of service in the field has just come to his period of greatest usefulness. Health and family matters permitting, the missionary, med­ical or otherwise, should plan to make the for­eign field the scene of his life's work.

The three fourths of the human race who most need the gospel are receiving but one fourth of its resources and man power. It would therefore appear that the major problem of fulfilling the great commission lies in the foreign field. The military organizations of the nations are sending their best-trained and strongest divisions to the most difficult battle fronts of the world. The very best the church has to offer should be regarded as none too strong to represent the forces of Christ in the lands not yet evangelized.

Thousands of doctors have voluntarily left their practices in response to the call of the Army for medical help. They may return wounded or broken in health. They may never return at all. But this does not deter them from making the sacrifice.

There are matters relative to the worker's personal situation which should be given thought. The doctor who goes to the mission field with the worries of indebtedness will be less likely to stay by permanently. He cannot help being reminded of the classmates at home who may have more than they well know what to do with while he plans and works to save a few dollars each month to apply on his debt. It will not be too surprising if he looks forward to getting into circumstances which will enable him to clear his obligations. Salaries paid to our workers are adequate for comfortable living, but they do not provide extensively for extras. Workers who have family obligations which are likely to make it necessary for them to return home should not be encouraged to go out in foreign service.

A discussion of the qualifications of a doctor for the foreign field necessarily brings up the matter of his professional experience and post­graduate work. The conservative young doc­tor in the homeland relies heavily on consulta­tion in his work and learns much by contacts with fellow physicians. But the young man placed in the mission hospital is expected from the very first to be physician, surgeon, obste­trician. Obviously he is not qualified for this role, and he must of necessity mature along the difficult way of trial and error. This is hardly fair to him, to his patients, or to the mission. If, therefore, the young doctor can have advanced. training, especially in surgery, or a period of experience in active private practice, he will be at a great advantage. The plan recently de­veloped by the Mission Board, by which pros­pective workers are placed under a deferred ap­pointment, facilitates this feature of the worker's qualifications. The young man who is definitely looking to foreign work can by this arrange­ment plan with his future employers for his most effective training and experience.

As applied to the foreign medical work, this principle should lead to selection of those most talented scientifically, those most devoted spirit­ually, and those most successful professionally among all our medical men. The man with a second-rate personality, the man who has been mediocre professionally, the man who has been inactive or noncommittal spiritually, will be no bright, shining light even in the dark corners of the earth. The one who has succeeded in an outstanding way in his practice at home, who because of his talents is needed in the work in the home country, is the man who is needed even more urgently in the foreign field. It is from among such that selections should be made for the strengthening of the work in these most im­portant scenes of Christian endeavor. This should be a challenge to those men who, having succeeded in the home base, can feel that God calls them to scenes of wider usefulness in fields beyond

* Doctor Flaiz is now in private practice at Wapato, Washington. He and his wife are under appointment to return to India as soon as wartime transportation permits.


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By THEODORE R. FLAIZ, M. D.,* Former Missionary to Southern Asia Division

May 1943

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