Medical Ministry in the Trans-Africa Division

THE recommendation of the 1969 Fall Council "to encourage the development of career employment for Seventh-day Adventist physicians and dentists including appointments as ... clinicians in conference operated clinics" is being implemented in the Trans-Africa Division. . .

-secretary of the health, temperance, and world foods departments of the Trans-Africa Division at the time this article was written

THE recommendation of the 1969 Fall Council "to encourage the development of career employment for Seventh-day Adventist physicians and dentists including appointments as ... clinicians in conference operated clinics" is being implemented in the Trans-Africa Division.

Physicians and dentists are functioning in denominationally owned and directed medical practices. There are five of these at present, with others in the planning stage. Currently, there is a two-physician and one-dentist practice in Blantyre, Malawi; a one-dentist practice in Bulawayo, Rhodesia; a general medical practice in Babanango, Zululand; a one-dentist practice in Maseru, capital of Lesotho; a three-physician (two general and one ophthalmologist) practice in Ficksburg, Orange Free State.

The Ficksburg practice functioned several years before the 1969 Fall Council action. The ophthalmologist, Warren Staples, served for many years in developing what is now the 175-bed mission hospital, Maluti, in the kingdom of Lesotho. The son of a Seventh-day Adventist minister, Dr. Staples is an ordained minister.

As the ethical code of the medical profession generally does not permit a licensed physician to practice for a nonmedical entity— the income above salary to go to a third party—the Ficksburg practice is autonomous in keeping ac counts. After deducting expenses and salaries for the staff, however, the balance is "donated" to the church to be disbursed within limits set by the Trans-Africa Division policy:

The disposal of profits shall be by action of the committee * on the basis of the following priorities: (1) the practice itself, (2) other union medical work, (3) establishing new medical work, and (4) other worthy related projects.

The Ficksburg practice is lucrative. In 1972, the gross income of the ophthalmology department alone was $100,000, with an operating gain of $35,537.66. In distributing the gain, over $9,000 was set aside to capitalize a dental practice in the capital city of Lesotho. (The practice had already financed construction of a fine, representative, dental-cum-medical office there.)

Substantial sums from the practice were allocated to a proposed new church building for a nearby African congregation; for educational bursaries (scholarships) for both African and European students; and for Bethel, a Seventh-day Adventist college for African students in the Transkei.

The practice also largely financed the construction of the very representative Ficksburg Seventh-day Adventist European church, as well as many other worthy projects through the years.

Church officials welcome the financial assistance from medical practices and are even more pleased by the spiritual impact.

Ten years ago there was not one Seventh-day Adventist in Ficksburg. The ultraconservative community with a population of 4,500 was very prejudiced against any new church group and especially against Seventh-day Adventists. Through the years it has been extremely difficult to secure a hearing for the Adventist message in such Afrikaans towns of the "platteland."

Today, as a by-product of the practice, prejudice has largely evaporated, and as a result of the ministry of Pastor-Doctor Staples and his staff, Ficksburg has a European church of more than thirty members and an African church of more than forty, with others preparing for baptism. Dr. Staples has given Bible studies to his patients, distributed literature, held evangelistic meetings, and opened the office on Saturday for church services.

Aside from the intrinsic function of medical missionary work (e.g., to care for the sick), the medical ministry is to dispel prejudice so that God's last warning message will receive a hearing.

"This [medical missionary] work will break down prejudice as nothing else can."— Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 211.

"The presenting of Bible principles by an intelligent physician will have great weight with many people. There is efficiency and power with one who can combine in his influence the work of a physician and of a gospel minister."— Counsels on Health, p. 546.

"He [God] designs that the medical missionary work shall prepare the way for the presentation of the saving truth for this time—the proclamation of the third angel's message. If this design is met, the message will not be eclipsed nor its progress hindered."— Counsels on Health, p. 518.

Dr. Staples, in commenting on the fruitage of his practice, remarked, "There could be one hundred such medical practices in South Africa if only enough dedicated doctors were available." Inspired by his good example and that of other South African physicians in the medical ministry, thirty Adventist youth are preparing for medical careers. Some are planning for service in the Trans-Africa Division mission fields, while others have dedicated their future to denominational, Seventh-day-Adventist practices.

It has become exceedingly difficult to establish new hospitals in this division because of government regulations and finances, but qualified, licensed, physician medical missionaries can practice almost anywhere. Thus the way is still open for preparing people to receive the message of the Lord.


* The committee: A governing committee for each practice is appointed with the following membership: union president—chairman; union treasurer—vice-chairman; medical director of practice—secretary; medical secretary of union; other doctors and dentists in the practice.


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-secretary of the health, temperance, and world foods departments of the Trans-Africa Division at the time this article was written

May 1974

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