"WHEREVER he went—in villages and cities, and out on the farms they laid the sick in the market plazas and streets, and begged him to let them at least touch the fringes of his clothes; and as many as touched him were healed" (Mark 6:56, T.L.B.).* "As always there were the crowds; and as usual he taught them" (chap. 10:1, T.L.B.).
In the 2,000 years since the Great Physician personally healed and taught men, the needs of humanity have not changed. The masses still need healing and teaching. Understanding this, the pioneers of our church launched an extensive medical program with the guidance of inspiration. Seventh-day Adventist physicians have given concerned Christlike attention to the medical needs of the people in scores of countries around the world and have brought stature to the church and honor to the name Christian. Recently, however, a succession of mission hospital closures has raised the question, "Is the right arm withering?" It is hard to believe that God's plan includes a retreat from the medical frontiers of the church. So we must pose the question, "What can be done to heal the right arm?" We are convinced it can be strengthened and its full evangelistic potential realized.
The medical evangelism council of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine Alumni Association feels a responsibility to contribute what we can to the success of the medical work. A series of articles is planned to study the cur rent problems that have appeared to threaten this important part of the good news and to outline some proposed solutions toward which all of us—physicians, pastors, and administrators—can work in a cooperative effort.
Among the needs that alumni serving abroad have perceived are the following:
1. Clearly stated objectives for the medical program in all its aspects and an ongoing evaluation of success in meeting them.
2. A Medical Department organization that has authority to coordinate long-range planning, to assure continuity and consistency in medical mission programs.
3. The development and/or affiliation with local training programs for national workers in medical fields such as health education, nurse practitioners, and dietitions, in addition to physicians and dentists.
4. Emphasis on preventive programs, while continuing appropriate acute clinical-care facilities where practical.
5. More cooperation between medical workers, pastors, and laymen in promoting medical evangelism and integrating all evangelistic efforts.
6. A more efficient recruitment pro gram for medical workers.
7. An administrative and financing structure that recognizes medical work as true evangelism (not necessarily self-supporting).
8. Improved morale among medical workers, which would result, at least in part, when the above needs are met.
9. Recruitment, placement, and continued encouragement of more national workers in medical areas both within and without the institutions of the church.
10. Expert advice and evaluation in the implementation of medical pro grams, including consultation with national departments of health, foundations, and universities, including Loma Linda.
Although this list is not exhaustive, the most urgent areas of concern can probably be grouped in the above ten categories. From a human standpoint, resolution of these needs may appear unattainable. Yet the inspired writings promise wonderful results for our medical work when the guidelines are fol lowed. It would seem that in this critical time for our medical work a restudy of the inspired objectives detailed in such books as The Ministry of Healing and Medical Ministry could be the basis for finding solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems.
There is no question but that our primary purpose is the salvation of men. This was Christ's purpose, and it is to be ours, as is so frequently emphasized by the pen of inspiration. To achieve that all-encompassing purpose requires the full application of the work of the Spirit in our lives and the use of the talents that Christ has given us. When sending out the twelve disciples, Christ gave them explicit instructions on how to deal with the people, how to plan the day's work, and when to abandon a project and move on to other areas. Our Example in medical missionary work felt it important that detailed plans be laid to bring the good news to all men. We can do no less.
Objectives to guide us in reaching the ultimate goal of bringing the news of salvation to all men need to be clearly outlined and frequently reviewed so that our work will be constantly tending in the direction of the goal. Fortunately, we have divine guidance in identifying and understanding these objectives, and we have exhibit A, that of Christ's ministry, to demonstrate their practicality.
The Ministry of Healing, page 17, indicates that Christ came to give men "health and peace and perfection of character." Here is the mandate for us to provide healing for those who are physically ill, emotionally unsettled, and morally corrupt. As is emphasized in so many places, the physically ill, feeling their helplessness, are ready to be led to their understanding of Christ and His power of healing for body and mind, which they would not accept under other circumstances. This man date for caring for the physical diseases of men includes a work for the soul. "The Saviour made each work of healing an occasion for implanting divine principles."—Ibid., p. 20. We need to continue to study and share in this divine approach for reaching men's souls. It is an evangelistic art that must be learned, practiced, and perfected by all of the healing team.
A second objective in our work is found in The Ministry of Healing, page 22. Christ came "that He might meet men where they were" to bring them the good news. Only a small percentage of those sick of mind and body need a hospital. We need to go out in the pathways of life where people are and meet them among their familiar associations, as did Christ. "He accepted their invitations, attended their feasts, made Him self familiar with their interests and occupations, that He might gain access to their hearts, and reveal to them the imperishable riches." —Ibid., pp. 24, 25. If we follow Christ's example, the major emphasis of our healing work will be that of finding individuals where they are and meeting their felt needs. When people understand that we are interested in them as persons rather than as one more body in an institution or organization, they will appreciate that the message brought to them is important and will accept our overtures in the spirit in which they are intended, that of brotherly love.
Third, Christ brought "a lesson appropriate to the time and the circumstances" (ibid., pp. 25, 26). To perceive the most important needs of a person and endeavor to meet them takes time, patience, and much effort. Occasionally the needs are not felt by the individual, and so the effort must begin with what he does understand. It has been a tendency for us to apply a program successful in one area to all other areas. If time and circumstances are carefully considered, our primary thrust might result in a program of infant care and nutrition in Africa, a campaign to reduce sugar intake in the Orient, or the promotion of reduced animal-fat intake in Australasia.
Working from our acute-care hospitals as a base of operations, we can ex tend the influence and effectiveness of medical work for hundreds of miles around if these lessons "appropriate to the time and the circumstances" are applied by skillful medical workers in small towns, villages, and individual homes. This might require a whole new contingent of health educators and nurses working side by side with the physicians.
A periodic review of the objectives of our work and our success in meeting them requires planned methods of evaluation. We are not told much of how Christ evaluated His work and its success. However, from a human stand point He had very little statistical proof of success when He ended His earthly work. (A church roll of twelve minus nine minus three.) The condemnation David received in his attempt to bring a good statistical report is further evidence that heaven is much less interested in statistics than we humans are. Evaluation of the success of our medical programs needs to lie more in the spirit engendered by our work, the gratitude of those served, our rapport with national governments, and the attitudes of the people when they hear the name Christian. This type of evaluation is not easy, and further study of this important area is urgently needed and will be developed on these pages.
Bible texts credited to T.L.B. are from The Living Bible, Paraphrased (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971). Used by permission.