Imagine… people lined up before dawn, waiting for their turn to see a doctor. Some of them standing in line for hours on end. By noon, those able to see the doctor that day have been signed up and the rest are sent away to try again tomorrow. Some have simple problems like a skin disease or ingrown toenail. Some have large hernias or female problems that require surgical correction.
I have participated in several short-term, medical mission trips, and I am always amazed at the amount of people that come for help. I also am amazed by how “simple” some of the “cures” are.
There are millions of people around the world that have medical needs that are not fixable in the area where they live. There may be a lack of doctors in their area or they may not have money or transportation to get to one. Many people suffer pain or disability with no relief in sight. Sometimes this interferes with their ability to make a living and work.
One important type of missionary that requires some training ahead of time is a medical missionary. All different kinds of people can do medical missions. Some are full-time missionaries and some do short-term mission trips:
- Doctors (surgeons, pediatricians, family doctors, ob/gyn, ophthalmologists, plastic surgeons, etc)
- Physician’s Assistants
- Nurse Practitioners
- Medical assistants
- Physical therapists
Many of these people have spent years in training to learn how to diagnose and treat patients well. Medical missions can also use people without training, though. Many people can be trained to weigh and measure a person and take a blood pressure. This can be vital for checking a patient in.
In my opinion, for a medical mission trip to be the most successful it can be, it needs to have two main components:
- A team of people, some of whom are not medical. People are needed to manage people in line or waiting to see the doctor, entertain children, fix food for the medical team, clean the operating room, organize supplies, and count medications in the pharmacy.
- A local missionary or local church as a partner. Healing and fixing medical problems is very rewarding, but unless it is combined with telling the people about how Jesus can be their Savior it is missing the most important part of missions.
There are many medical mission organizations, but not all of them have a goal of telling others about Jesus. You can go to the following websites to read more about some that do:
- Samaritan’s Purse
- World Medical Mission (with Samaritan’s Purse)
- Christian Medical and Dental Associations
Want ideas for how to get your kids involved?
- Get out the toy medical kit and help them play doctor or nurse with their stuffed animals or dolls. Let them “doctor” you. Pretend you live somewhere where there are no doctors.
- Read stories (age appropriate) from missionary blogs or websites about doctors and medical professionals overseas.
- Find some books to read about medical missionaries. Check out: Ida Scudder, David Livingstone, or On Call (for older kids). Here are some images to help you as you search. (This is not an exhaustive list…there are many more books available as well.)
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