Mark1 described an incident when Jesus and His disciples made an extremely short “medical mission” trip to the east, by crossing a stormy Sea of Galilee.
During the perilous trip a storm threatened to capsize their boat. It was, however, clear that Jesus wanted to make this trip. Jesus treated just one patient: a naked and demon possessed man, found mutilating himself with stones, and living in a graveyard, isolated from society. This instance was one among others in which Jesus demonstrated the significance of the individual.2
Criticisms of short-term missions are rightly based on cost-benefit ratio and whether it is the traveling team or the host who benefits the most.
Cost-effectiveness is one of our guiding principles, but God’s economy is not the same as ours.
EMAS Canada teams come into situations where the importance of the individual overshadows our focus on helping the many in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. During a trip by the teaching team to India in which Canadian physicians and newly graduated national doctors interacted daily on routinely calm clinical rounds and academic discussions, an emergency arose. A patient arrived on the scene who was acutely in extremis, the effects of poisoning were causing rapid deterioration and vital signs were trending ominously. The Canadian doctor’s emergency room training saved the patient’s life.
Competence, was only one factor. More important it was the recognition of the diagnosis (a condition the Canadians were more familiar with than their local colleagues) that gave the advantage of timely and accurate treatment to this one patient. Dr. Reece did not go all the way to India to save one life, she was sent to teach, and to learn from colleagues who serve in a relatively under resourced community. During the crisis, the participating national physicians learned first-hand how to respond to one more type of acute poisoning. The experience empowered them for future emergencies. The long-term benefit of this short-term mission is incalculable to this one patient.
The clinic under construction in Haiti is a permanent structure which stands for our long-term commitment to the community was built using sand and rocks from the nearby river. We aided the local economy by allowing villagers to sell to us by the wheel barrow or bucket load. We forfeited the efficiency of bulk purchases by the truck loads.
One teenage girl is pleased that we chose to do things that way. Nadine, an ambitious Haitian girl, is also an orphan. Seeing our need for construction material, she crossed the river between the home she shared with her grandmother and the EMAS project site, collected rocks and piled them at the clinic gate.
She sold these rocks to the Gambade Clinic Project and used the money for school books. What she earns by doing this is equivalent to US $16. In her own words:
“I am thankful for the opportunity to sell my rocks and continue in school. I would like to graduate one day as a nurse. I ask God to help me meet my daily needs. I miss my mom very much. I recite my Our Father every night as I go to bed.”
This opportunity to sell rocks and sand is important because it enables the Gambade Team to directly involve the community in the project. Nadine is able to pursue her dream of one day becoming a nurse. We did not set out to help Nadine buy books, we are building a clinic aimed at serving close to 20,000 people. We believe Jesus is pleased that we bought Nadine’s rocks. (See photo)
Our dental team serving in Zimbabwe also provides theological training through annual retreats for 100 local pastors and their spouses. 720 dental patients received care in 2018. The most powerful image from this team is of one eighty-six year old man who fell on his knees in profound gratitude with tears rolling down his face. He thanked God for speaking to him in his native Shona language through the radio bible the team provided. EMAS teams in Zimbabwe and Gambade give out solar powered radios produced by Galcom.
You can invest in any EMAS Canada team here. In seeking to serve the many, we touch individual lives. Jesus Christ takes it personally when we invest in individuals.3
1. Mark 4:34-5:21
2. Luke 19:1-10 & Mark 5:25-34
3. Matthew 25:40
All Scripture references are taken from the New International Version (NIV)
A physician and surgeon in his native Kenya, Peter has a passion for Christ-centred healthcare and has a wealth of experience both hosting and sending short-term mission teams.