Presenting the Gospel Through Medical Ministry

Presenting the Gospel Through Medical Ministry

As we come into increasingly troubled and uncertain times and as tragedy on a large scale becomes the world's way of life, the person qualified to minister to suffer­ing, in tenderness and Christian love, will in a special sense be walking in the foot­steps of the Great Physician.

Secretary, Medical Department. General Conference

IN A TIME when it appears that the very pillars of Christian civilization are top­pling about us, the church to­day is coming to recognize that there are for the Chris­tian church two possible ways ahead. One is the possible imminent return of our Lord to end the increasing measure of confusion that is overtaking the world.

The second recognizes that if the Lord does not come very soon, the church is in a most difficult situation, with world pop­ulation increasing more than 30 million a year and non-Christian or anti-Christian influences gaining ground much more rap­idly than is the Christian movement.

Commenting on this very tendency, the editor of Christianity Today observed in his editorial in the August 1, 1960, issue—

If history's next major event is not the Lord's return, which believers in every generation hope-folly anticipate, then the Church's vast task be­comes more awesome than ever. Not only the ex­ploding world population but mankind's woefully misplaced loyalties as well confront the missionary venture. Godless communism lunges for global con­quest. Pagan religions are on the march. Moham­medanism in fact now claims to have in Africa alone more missionaries than Protestantism has in all the world. Buddhists are expanding and adapt­ing their program, setting Buddhist doctrines to Christian hymnody (for example, "Buddha loves me this I know''). By systematic revision the Hindu sacred writings are being made intelligible to the masses. Already building bigger shrines, Shintoism in the next decade hopes to restore emperor wor­ship to Japan. Roman Catholicism, with all its aberrations, is maneuvering again to speak for a reunited Christendom. The cults, Jehovah's Wit­nesses and Mormonism are surging ahead with new life.

Challenged by such forces the Christian church of today does xvell to draw from her arsenal every weapon, every instrumen­tality that may contribute to the hastening of the coming of our Lord.

From Gospel Workers, pages 360, 361, we read:

Medical missionary evangelistic work should be carried forward in a most prudent and thorough manner. The solemn, sacred work of saving souls is to advance in a way that is modest, and yet ele­vated. Where are the working forces? . . .

Medical missionary evangelists will be able to do excellent pioneer work. The work of the minister should blend fully with that of the medical mis­sionary evangelist. The Christian physician should regard his work as exalted as that of the ministry. He bears a double responsibility; for in him are combined the qualifications of both physician and gospel minister. His is a grand, a sacred, and a very necessary work.

The physician and the minister should realize that they are engaged in the same work. They should labor in perfect harmonv. They should counsel together. By their unity they will bear wit­ness that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world to save all who will believe in Him as their personal Saviour.

Physicians whose professional abilities are above those of the ordinary doctor should engage in the service of God in the large cities. They should seek to reach the higher classes.

Surely if there ever was a time when the people of God needed to employ every in­strumentality at their hand for carrying forward their work, that time is right now. Uncounted millions face the turmoil of to­day's changing world xvithout the assur­ance, the peace of mind, or the hope pos­sessed by the Christian. As Christ sought out the unfortunate of His time, and by personal interest and interview brought hope and courage into their lives, we who follow in Christ's steps can do no better than follow His example. Jesus met people right where they were, as they were, in their need, and opened up to them the truths of His kingdom.

In The Ministry of Healing, page 158, we read:

All around us are afflicted souls. Here and there, everywhere, we may find them. Let us search out these suffering ones, and speak a word in season to comfort their hearts. Let us ever be channels through which shall flow the refreshing waters of compassion.

In such a manner Christ approached those He found to be in need. Of His ex­perience in this regard we also read:

It is of little use to try to reform others by at­tacking what we may regard as wrong habits. Such effort often results in more harm than good.— Ibid., p. 156.

In His talk with the Samaritan woman, instead of discouraging her at Jacob's well, Christ presented something better. "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water" (John 4:10). He turned the conversation to the treasure He had to bestow, offering the woman something better than she pos­sessed, even living water, the joy and the hope of the gospel. We also must offer men something better than that which they pos­sess, even the "peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7).

This is the privilege of every Christian medical worker. The physician, the nurse, the dentist, the technical worker, the die­titian—all are brought into a close per­sonal relationship with people who are un­dergoing physical suffering. How are we employing these opportunities to bring to the people a knowledge of the truth for these times?

From some of our active medical men and women we have received reports and observations as to the most effective use of the medical contact for presenting the gos­pel story.

James F. Barnard, M.D., of Bakersfield, California, states: "There are several things that I would like to mention in re­sponse to your letter. First is the desirabil­ity of having nothing but our own litera­ture, and that carefully chosen, in the of­fice. This includes both the examining room and the waiting room. We have had several patients who have asked where of also, when one sees a patient reading an article, it presents the best opening wedge in the wrorld to make some comment relative to world conditions from the Bib­lical standpoint and to follow up the inter­est. Second, I also make good use of sub­scriptions. To those who are interested I send Signs of the Times. For more than a year now I have made a practice of send­ing a one-year subscription to each of my major surgical patients. I sit down and write them each a letter, telling them that I am sending them a year's subscription to a health magazine and hope they will find in it a guide to better health and life. I have had several very favorable comments.

"Third, each year when a dollar book is put on sale we in the office buy seventy-five to a hundred of them, and use them to loan out. I rarely give a book away, for the patient, feeling that it is his, may dis­card it. However, if I loan it to him, he seems to have a little more feeling of re­sponsibility about taking good care of it. I do not always expect to see them returned, but I feel that the patient is more likely to take care of it and read it.

"Fourth, we also keep on hand enrollment blanks for the Voice of Prophecy and Faith for Today courses, and during dis­cussion of Biblical subjects mention that these courses are extremely interesting. Many folks have been signed up in this way, and only the records of heaven will show the ultimate outcome.

"If we would but study and look for op­portunities for extending the gospel, we would find many more. I often feel that we should study and ponder deeply the ex­perience of Christ with the woman at the well in Samaria. If we but had His ability to turn the conversation to heavenly things, no matter what direction the pa­tients attempt to go, how many more we would win."

Ira E. Bailey, M.D., of our Adventist hos­pital in Asuncion, Paraguay, one of the most conservative Roman Catholic areas in South America, reports something of his experience in using his medical con­tacts for representing the gospel. "We find that the approach to each patient seems to be different. We have observed that si­lent witnessing is quite effective in this area. We have only our own magazines in four languages in the waiting room— Spanish, English, Portuguese, and German.

"What impresses the patient is the per­sonal interest, the attention, and the ded­ication to duty. We, of course, take advan­tage of specific opportunities to talk di­rectly about religion, and we like to use the book God Speaks to Modern Man for our English patients. For several years we have known casually an American rancher and his Paraguayan wife. They never cared to talk about religion to us, nor to any of our mutual friends. Recently, he was very ill and came close to death. He was in our hospital three weeks. He told me that he had been tremendously im­pressed by our organization and by our workers. He said, 'They are not just em­ployees: they are dedicated workers right down to the peon del patio. I have never seen people work with such dedication as do your people.' In a note of appreciation his wife said her prayers were answered and that she had made a donation to the clinic. Some of our friends have told us that they have been talking about religion. I have given them the book God Speaks to Modern Man. We are happy to say that our work seems to be increasing steadily, and we look forward to expansion."

Henry E. A. Andren, M.D., is one of our leading psychiatrists. "Personal evangelism in a physician's office may vary widely from one case to another, I have found. A gen­uine interest in the patient usually is re­sponded to in time, and opportune mo­ments present themselves for opening ave­nues toward contemplation of gospel things.

"One patient, a physician, was genuinely-interested in hearing my personal philos­ophy about conditions in the world. This led the way to a frank discussion of the Lord's second coming and an opportunity to give him the book God Speaks to Mod­ern Man. Since then he frequently makes trips to the local Book and Bible House. He spent an hour in the waiting room reading interesting articles after our last interview.

"Another patient expressed relief in knowing I was a firm believer in the Bible and in the moral code. She had come to believe that all psychiatrists were agnostic or atheistic. In this, as in countless other cases, I have found bibliotherapy a most useful tool. I give nondoctrinal books at first, such as Love Unlimited, Highways to Heaven, Prophecy Speaks. In some cases I make a gift of the book, and in others I make it a loan. Some older Morning Watch books have been very useful.

"My waiting room has the usual Seventh-day Adventist journals Our Times, Signs of the Times, Life and Health, Listen, and Smoke Signals. It is refreshing to hear the numerous questions these provoke. Al­though of a category to suggest preponder­ance of anxiety, the patient rarely becomes fearful from the content.

"We have found it wise to screen the religious periodicals, however, and be rather selective with a few special items. In my field we see the relatives of patients perhaps more so than in other fields, and they need special help. Mental illness in the family often baffles and discourages. We direct them to our TV and radio pro­grams. One housewife, before she knew I was a Seventh-day Adventist, said sponta­neously, 'We thought we would try It Is Written.'

"All in all, the physician's role becomes a supporting one, and that of a contact worker. Among my associates are Bible in­structors and ministers who are taking or have taken advanced work in psychology and sociology. There is an infinite amount of collaboration with pastors and chaplains, and we welcome opportunity to meet with church workers of other faiths. Much prej­udice is broken down, and this year it has been my privilege to be chairman of the local Associates of the Academy of Religion and Mental Health, with numerous oppor­tunities to speak a word in season to mul-tidisciplined groups. It has been most stim­ulating."

Arthur Grauman, M.D., a surgeon in Seattle, Washington, is active in church matters, is interested in the various mis­sionary activities of the church, and uses his medical approach to present the mes­sage. We quote from his letter:

"Due not alone to training in a religious home and in Adventist schools but also to training as a reasonably objective and ob­serving physician, I feel that religion has definite therapeutic value. As a result it is not unusual for me to list on a prescription pad certain chapters of the Bible for my patients to read. I will often use my desk copy of the Bible, and from it copy some verse which I ask my patient to carry around with him and read two or three times a day. It is tried and is therapeutic. I confess I am not much given to emphasis on doctrines peculiar to our denomination, but I do think that the requirements of God, as expressed in Micah 6:8—'to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk hum­bly with thy God'—perhaps present the basic points of my starting religious activity with my patients.

"Our waiting room and the various treat­ment rooms have in them publications from our denominational presses. Occasionally when I see a patient reading one of these publications I urge him to take it home and finish it. We also use the Signs of the Times and especially These Times, and send them through the mail to inter­ested patients."

The doctor then adds: "Since you are an old friend, I would like to say that there seems to be a 'missing link' which, if found, would perhaps render our services as phy­sicians more effectual. You see, I feel that I should invite my patients to my church, but immediately there comes to my mind Sabbath services that give distorted em­phasis to the use of lipstick, rings, and meat, as well as other peculiar topics, and which have displaced the sermon mate­rial Paul said was more important, such as righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost; I find emphasis on mint, anise, and cummin, and not on the weightier mat­ters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith.

"I find also noisy and uncontrolled chil­dren combined with endless commotion. Should we ever see the day when we cast away our provincialism and look upon the worship service as an opportunity to share a great piece of heart with those who do not have it, I am sure doctors will rejoice."

Marion Barnard, M.D., is active in his missionary endeavors through his office and his church. He reports: "We feel that plac­ing only our own literature, including our small doctrinal books, in the waiting room is a good move, as it stimulates interest for patient reading. The patient who comes to the examining room not wanting to leave his.book in the waiting room is interested in it, and it gives one the clue for further investigation. We feel that giving The De­sire of Ages to people who are about to make a journey to the Holy Land, as a gift from you to be carried and read while they are in the Holy Land, is a good gesture. It is a gesture that has brought favorable com­ment from our patients. We have also used copies of The Desire of Ages as Christmas gifts for patients who have been with us a long time. We feel that personal Bible studies by physicians are extremely impor­tant, both from the standpoint of winning souls and of benefiting the physician.

"We feel that the whole staff and their attitude enter into a successful gospel giv­ing, for no one can give the gospel to a patient who has been treated discourteously or rudely by a member of the staff.

"P.S. If these ideas could be indexed and used as material in a course given to med­ical students, to orient them in gospel giv­ing before they leave school, I believe it would be effective."

Lawrence E. C. Joers, M.D., reports from Ardmore, Oklahoma. He is active in church work and for many years was an officer in the Navy. We quote from his let­ter: "Some time ago the chief announcer for the local radio station was one of my hospital patients. In conversation I men­tioned the health program that my wife and I had broadcast over radio while practicing in Tacoma, Washington. He became very much interested and wanted all the details. He even listened to an old tape of one of the programs, and this increased his inter­est. He at once urged us to produce a pro­gram as a public service and without charge to us.

"After numerous requests from this man we began a series of fifteen-minute broad­casts every Sunday morning. The program title is 'Learning to Live.' Each program begins with a theme song. The tapes are made in our home with Mrs. Joers playing the organ and singing. I prepare the script ahead of time and Robert Trimble, admin­istrator of our Ardmore Sanitarium and Hospital, acts as announcer. He comes in on the theme song to explain about the free health correspondence course we offer to our listeners. We send them series one, General Health and Hygiene Lessons. A very short prayer is offered before we in­vite those interested to send in health ques­tions of a general nature. These are answered on an early program. An appropri­ate song adds variety.

"After the song I give an eight- or nine-minute health talk; the announcer again invites listeners to join the health corre­spondence course. He does this with our theme song in the background to conclude the fifteen-minute program.

"As the student nears the completion of the health course he is reminded that God requires that our lives be well balanced. This should include the physical, mental, and spiritual sides of life, so we suggest that he enroll in the Bible correspondence course that we have available. Our program has produced some interesting and favor­able comments. After presenting the first-aid program, the station requested us to present our program twice each week; so beginning again with program number one, 'Learning to Live,' we went on the air Wednesday evenings in addition to Sun­day mornings. Because we believe that the medical work is the right arm and our health message an entering wedge, we are expecting God to water the seeds we are sowing over the air."

Frank Damazo, M.D., is a surgeon and busy church worker in Frederick, Mary­land. He writes: "An abundant supply of all types of missionary literature is avail­able in the waiting room of my office. A rack is also available with an additional supply for anyone interested in taking more literature to their home. I carefully observe persons who read any of these jour­nals or manifest an additional interest in matters discussed therein. Many religious discussions have resulted from this interest. These have been carried on with the use of additional literature kept within my per­sonal file, and particularly with the use of books. To date the most useful one has been God Speaks to Modern Man. Registration cards for the various Bible courses are likewise available and have been used on occasions. I can categorically state that the more attractive the magazine, the more it is read by the patients while waiting. In my experience Life and Health and Lis­ten have been the most provocative for fur­ther discussion."

Robson Newbold, M.D., is medical direc­tor of the Ngoma Mission Hospital in Ruanda-Urundi, Central Africa. We quote from him: "Here at Ngoma Hospital we have urged our workers to make use of their opportunities to speak to patients about spiritual matters. This is carried out by many of our men and women nurses in addition to the regular morning worship.

Sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes in the evening, I see our men studying the Bible with the sick, encouraging them, praying for them.

"During 1959 there were 240 of these pa­tients who made decisions for Christ while they were in the hospital. This year we de­cided to hold an effort in the hills only one hour's walk from the mission. This was done by Chaplain Jacobo and Nurse Es-dras with the help of all the workers whose hearts were made willing. These workers assisted the leaders in visiting the homes, giving health talks, telling Bible stories, and singing for the meetings. After six weeks we were happy to have eighty con­verts. Now our workers have pledged their own money to build a church if the new converts will supply the labor. The inter­est of our men has continued long past the close of the effort."

Nathan L. Beebe, M.D., is one of our senior medical men in Colorado, and is one of our stalwart active church workers. We quote from him: "I am happy indeed to report on our medical missionary en­deavors as carried on from our office here in Fort Collins. First, we have a rack in which we keep current numbers of the Signs, Life and Health, Listen, Liberty, and Smoke Signals. There is a sign on top of this rack—'Take One.' We use at least a dozen of each magazine in a month's time.

"We use 50 to 100 of our special dollar-edition books a year, handing them out to those who show special interest. The Youth's Instructor and Our Little Friend are provided for some of our younger pa­tients. We take out subscriptions each month for Life and Health for ten current patients, this subscription to be followed at the end of the year by a year's subscrip­tion to the Signs of the Times.

"We use many of our books such as What Jesus Said and God Speaks to Mod­ern Man when we feel that the patient is ripe to receive them. I try to have every member of my staff working for at least one specific person, either by Bible studies or some other means, and to keep them actively on the prayer list. I invite them to our meetings and send them special num­bers of our magazines. We routinely have prayer with all our surgical cases and those who are seriously ill, where it seems that good judgment indicates it will be in order.

"I am sure that any medical worker who will follow some program like this con­sistently is sure to see results in due time.

Surely the medical work does become the entering wedge and the right arm of the message."

In these reports we have a cross section of the attitudes and approaches currently used in presenting the truth to patients through medical ministry. This is far from a complete report. We urge others who can add to these statements to do so.

As we come into increasingly troubled and uncertain times and as tragedy on a large scale becomes the world's way of life, the person qualified to minister to suffer­ing, in tenderness and Christian love, will in a special sense be walking in the foot­steps of the Great Physician.

 


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Secretary, Medical Department. General Conference

February 1961

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